In the late 1950s, sitcoms started using laugh tracks and they’re still used in many comedy shows today. But did you know that laughing is contagious? According to a study by Live Science, when you see or hear someone else laughing your brain automatically responds and makes you smile and/or laugh.
This then begs the question: are sitcoms actually funny? Or do we just laugh as an automatic response to hearing the laugh track? Let’s look at Seinfeld – one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.
The series ran for nine seasons from 1989 to 1998 and cemented Jerry Seinfeld – who prior to the show was a successful stand-up comedian – as a comedy legend.
Seinfeld recorded most scenes in front of live-studio audiences and in those scenes, the audiences’ laughs and reactions were used on the show – which kind of proves that many Seinfeld scenes were genuinely funny because the audience laughed without being prompted to.
However, Jerry Seinfeld confirmed on a Reddit AMA thread, that some scenes were not filmed in front of an audience and those did have a “subtle laugh track” added to them; although he admitted it was a tough decision to do so.
“This was something we struggled with quite often on Seinfeld. Because we had real laughs on the scenes that were shot in front of an audience, but then we would shoot other scenes that were not in front of the audience (which didn’t have any laughs) and then it felt like a bit of a mismatch, so we tried to compromise and put in a subtle laugh track.”
One of the most famous episodes of Seinfeld is The Soup Nazi – an episode revolving around a chef who has very strict rules on how to order his soup and if customers don’t play along, he refuses them their order and shouts, “No soup for you!”
The episode is universally considered hilarious, but one Youtube user, Copperpot5, has edited out the laugh track from a few scenes in The Soup Nazi. Without the laugh track, the first couple of scenes are a tad awkward and aren’t belly-laugh-funny; they’re just mildly humorous.
However, when Jerry pretends not to know his girlfriend just for soup and when Elaine teases the Soup Nazi that she’s gotten ahold of all his recipes, I genuinely laughed; meaning Seinfeld holds up, even without a laugh track.
Of course, this is just my opinion, and humour is subjective, so you can make up your own mind by watching Copperpot5’s The Soup Nazi edit below: