Monday, 17 August 2009

Laughter in a Can

I am ok with canned condensed milk, canned peaches, canned tomatoes, canned soup. What is really getting to me is canned laughter. I avoided it at the supermarket last week even though it was on a three for two special. Just didn't want those giggles grinning up at me on my shelf.

I read on a noticeboard some guy saying that he didn't really like the canned laughter on a show, but then he didn't find shows without a laugh track funny. Now, I'm not sure whether that meant that the laugh track made them funny or whether he had looked around at the shows on offer without laugh tracks and none of them had been funny so far to him.

Anyhow, I'm generally not a laugh track person, and I'm really going off them. There have been some cool comedies with laugh tracks, and they were in vogue at certain periods so some of those older funny comedies really worked. It seems that actors really actually knew how to work with the laugh track then and didn't look like they were hanging around waiting for the joke. I watched a lot of The Golden Girls last year, and Fawlty Towers, which always make me life, and the laughter didn't intrude but seemed to be scripted and acted in beat with the track. Seinfeld also works well with the laughter from the audience.

On the other hand, I really prefer most comedies now that let you laugh when you want to and don't cue when to laugh. Like The Simpsons and Futurama, Scrubs and The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

I was introduced to an American sitcom recently called The Big Bang Theory, and it must be voted having the worst laugh track ever. I don't particularly like this show but it might be more palatable if it didn't have such an intrusive track and it's made me hate canned laughter even more. Some say it's studio audience and they are just laughing themselves and it's just because the show is hilarious, if so, I say the audience is being tickled or has the worst taste ever.

That, or there is something going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. Maybe they are getting to watch Seinfeld.

Some people will say I just don't get the geeky humour of The Big Bang Theory. Fair enough. Everyone has their taste.

But really, the show will open and there are two guys sitting in a cafe and one will say something like, "Have you seen my microscope?" or "Now, there's this idea about time travel ..." or something similar and right after that one line which is delivered in a very ordinary way, the whole audience will go hysterical and crack up and the laughter will go for ages. Am I missing something? What was so darned witty about that?

Someone told me that the canned humour makes you want to laugh, but if someone keeps laughing hysterically at boring and unfunny bits in a piece, it makes you irritated and less likely to laugh at the actually funny bits. Well, that's what it does for me.

As for the rest of The Big Bang Theory, it has quite a following, but I'm not that into it. The premise is a couple of very stereotypical nerds who live across the hall from a non-nerdy girl and the nerds don't do very well socially. There's a lot of geek humour, and people go on about how the geek humour is so great, but it's not very clever, in that it's geek humour aimed at making fun of geeks to people who aren't geeks - which isn't very innovative. There are a few jokes that involve a bit of science but the main ones revolve around many things that the average non-geek knows about, and also enjoys making fun of geeks for - basic science, jokes about time travel, Dungeons and Dragons and Star Trek and stuff. I dropped all science studies in 11th grade and I get it.

They also need to lose the little segue which involoves seeing the Earth from outerspace with a funny whizzing sound - it interrupts continuity and makes it look like a skit show and just looks like they are trying to push more and more "Hey, this is a scence-y geek show!" WE KNOW!

It also uses all the basic geek stereotypes - geeks dress badly, talk in funny voices, are socially awkward and have trouble getting laid. But they desperately would love to. It's a little bit like the movie Weird Science - the geek sees the gorgeous girl, his hormones go crazy but he just can't figure out how a normal guy manages to get the girl. Oh to be the normal guy!

It's a pity from my point of view that no one ever paints a geek as either quite able to use his own geeky skills to get what he wants - even socially, or not getting a girl but not giving a shit. Damn you all, why do I care about women? I have my hobby telescope.

Of course that wouldn't be that funny to anyone to actually have a well-adjusted geek now would it - especially a well-adjusted geek and some socially inept jocks?

Now, there's this theory about canned laughter ...



R.H. said...

I hate canned laughter, but laughter itself is infectious they say, and it's probably true. I used to go out with an Italian woman who hardly spoke a word of English, but the sight of people laughing (especially old men) set her off with a sudden shriek, which got me started as well, I couldn't help it. She was lots of fun.

Maria said...

I wonder if they should have canned sobbing in sad movies, and canned gasps in horror movies and canned bits where people say "those were the days" in old movies" and stuff like that. It might all be infectious!

JahTeh said...

I'm with you on the canned laughter. I tried watching those show but couldn't stand being told what was and was not funny.