In reading the Sitcom Reader chapter about the conventions and innovations of classic 80s sitcoms like The Bill Cosby Show, and through rewatching several episodes of The Office this weekend, I found this clip (it’s only two minutes and you should seriously watch it, especially if you love The Office and have run out of things to watch that pertain to it, like me).
(Still from above-mentioned clip)
It is amazing to me how the 40 seconds of an actual opening scene of The Office feels completely different with a laugh track! The opening scene before the each episode’s familiar theme are some of my favorite moments in the series (such as this one, where Jim pranks Dwight early one morning while some of the office is staying in a hotel in Tallahassee), and I’ve seen this Christmas one tons of times before. And yet, with only the addition of a laugh track, it seemed like a completely new show.
When you watch classic 80s sitcoms like The Cosby Show, Cheers, Family Ties, etc., how much of your personal laughter do you think is invited by the sound of the studio audience’s laughter? It’s like when you go to the movies with a group of people versus one other person or going alone (which if you haven’t done, I highly recommend – it’s actually pretty awesome) – you sometimes feel a natural pressure to laugh because the people around you are. When sitcoms without laugh tracks, like The Office, came out, do you think there’s a higher standard in the comedic writing to invite laughter from audiences at home instead of at a studio? I know some people who cannot stand to watch The Office because they are uncomfortable watching other people be uncomfortable, as the show (so beautifully, in my opinion) does quite often; it seems as though there would not be an opportunity for ambiguity like that in studio sitcoms in the 80s.