Thursday, September 17, 2009

Laughing Sheep

Let's start today's happy little blog with a short quiz. I realize that it is back to school time, but I promise you that this is but a trifling coincidence. Now, back to my important and scientific quiz. What sound does a sheep make? .... Good. My guess is that all you scored quite highly on the sheep-o-meter. In fact, you all seemed to have aced this test. Perfect score. How predictable. How sad. As for me, I still have a mind of my own, thank you very much. I do not need people thinking for me and telling me what to say and how to feel and, well, when to laugh. My beef today is with the television laugh track. This "system" was invented by one Charley Douglass who felt that live audiences could not be relied upon to laugh at the correct moment. Actually the original notion was to make folks at home feel like they were in the presence of others. I guess it was a social service so that the home viewer did not feel so all alone. It initially helped to prevent people at home from watching television programming during the civil war in their "long johns" if you catch my drift. Eventually network executives got their greasy little hands on the device (insert evil, maniacal laughter here). They decided to use this innocent device, initially dubbed the "sweetener", to make their bland, cookie-cutter shows seem more humorous than they actually were. The herd of sheep watching the programs bought the plot hook, line, and mutton chop. In fact, in laboratory testing, the same television program viewed by two different sample audiences, one version without the laugh track and one with the laugh track, was found to be 32% funnier with the canned laughter included. If this statistic is accurate, and who can tell because I just made it up, then it is clear that people are indeed reeking of bovinity. The thing that I can't understand is this. If the laugh track shenanigans are added to make you feel like you are watching the program live in the studio, how come there was a laugh track added to my classic Scooby Doo cartoons? I repeat, I am not a sheep. I will decide when to laugh, to guffaw, to slap my knee, to grab my ribs, and to fall on the floor wincing and writhing in pain and confusion.