Could laugh tracks be used to influence how we perceive things outside of the comedic realm?

Canned laughter, as discussed in Provine’s piece, is something I have opposed because I find it ridiculous that the television producers essentially signal when to laugh and try to make us believe their jokes are automatically funny, without giving us the chance to judge for ourselves. I don’t like its implementation because it gives a false sense of community as well as a false sense of contagious laughter. Laughter thus ceases to be something that we experience autonomously and genuinely, and it instead becomes something feigned once we obtain permission and validation from comedy shows for when to laugh. But… it still made me wonder: in what cases can canned laughter actually be beneficial for the viewers?

This led me to think about how we can create political humor that is not mutually exclusive with non-partisan humor… I was wondering this because of how we had spoken in class about the divide that satirical humor can cause (like in SNL, for instance, in which Trump supporters view SNL’s skits as more of a reason to side with Trump because they feel as though he were being harshly attacked by the parodying of his mannerisms and speech). The closest semblance I came to non-partisan (at least, seemingly non-partisan), political humor was in the usage of actual events as humor – but I differentiate this from satire in which comedians only draw from real issues or events. What I mean by using actual events as humor is presenting recent events that can be seen as funny in/of themselves and accompanying them with a laugh track. The idea of Trump as president- before 2015- was something that could have been viewed as surreal humor, and in a time when what was then surreal has now become our new reality, how about we implement this real-life “surreality” as humor and simply add laugh tracks (but without a John Oliver or other outside actor providing commentary)? I think that, in this case, laugh tracks might be a tool for suggesting how Trump’s policies are ridiculous and how he cannot be taken seriously as a leader. I wonder how laugh tracks in Trump’s press conferences, for example, would affect people’s reactions and their interpretations of his actions.  Although devious, the laugh tracks could be a means of making people see his policies for how they are- preposterous and ridiculous.

A big problem I do see with this idea, however, that mustn’t be ignored is that this idea could simply end up trivializing and belittling what Trump is saying in a way that what he says ends up being seen as a mere joke when, in reality, his actions aren’t part of some comedy routine- they are not mere instances of simple surreal humor. His actions are indeed a part of our reality, and they have grave consequences. Also, it might end up making us subconsciously paint him in a good light by unintentionally associating our laughter and the pleasure we derive from it as something begotten from Trump. Nonetheless, I am curious to know what people think of this “laugh track warfare.”

Now for something completely different, a bit from “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” a British sketch comedy show from the late 80’s and early 90’s that many of you might not be familiar with. I’m having trouble classifying the types of comedy used in the two clips. The first seems like it could be simply irony because of how it defies our expectation of how an ordinary skit would play out. The second clip seems to be a satire of the tendency of some pompous scholars to demonstrate such flamboyant intellectualism.


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