The Power of Contagious Laughter

Provine’s passage about about contagious laughter really made me think about just how powerfully contagious laughter can be. We’ve all experienced times where a group of friends can’t stop laughing as the simple sound and sight of someone laughing triggers a chain reaction of laughter. But the power of laughter goes beyond just a small group of friends and can even be effective when there is no other person around. This reading tells stories about how entire schools or communities broke out into laughter simply because of the contagious effect. What really stuck with me about this passage was the discussion of how laugh tracks are used to invoke a sense of group laughter when used over television shows. This reminded me of an interesting comment I saw on Reddit saying that the only reason people laugh at “The Big Bang Theory” is because there is a very heavy use of laugh track. Having watched a few episodes of the show and thinking it was decently funny I thought that there was no way this was true. The commenter, however,  posted a video with a scene where the laugh track was edited out.

Watching this segment was incredibly uncomfortable for me without a laugh track as I felt unsure of what was a joke or what should be funny. This made me think about whether the laugh track was too powerful and made unfunny things funny. Do you think using a laugh track is making comedy worse because it can make us laugh at anything? Is comedy better off without laugh tracks or does it help recreate the feel of being with an audience and is helpful for certain mediums of comedy?

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