There are a lot of reasons why TV sitcoms have stopped using laugh tracks over the years, even if some of them still rely on the canned laughter that so many abhor at this point, but one of them is because it’s kind of like spam for the ears, a way to tell people that something IS funny, rather than to allow them to figure this out for themselves. A lot of folks have been in the position where they don’t know whether to laugh or not since a joke might not have earned the desired reaction right after the punchline or a few seconds later when people caught on. This is a death knell to some shows since the long, drawn-out silence can be an indication that the comedy has gone too far for some people or it just wasn’t as funny as the writers thought it might be. But if someone laughs, then another person joins in, there’s a chance that people might actually laugh and decide to conform to the idea even if they don’t happen to think that it’s particularly funny. The laugh track made this possible since those watching from home were more inclined to pick up on the idea that something was supposed to be humorous if they heard someone else laughing, even if it was canned laughter that eventually became a very outdated concept that a lot of people refused to use any longer.
Seriously, a joke that’s not funny to a lot of people might be hilarious to another person, but forcing the laughter is hardly ever a good idea since it comes dangerously close to telling people how they need to think and that their idea of comedy is wrong and/or skewed to a degree that the showrunner and writers don’t agree with. Since humor is such a subjective thing anyway, trying to get people to laugh simply because it’s expected and hoped for is a bad idea all around considering that it robs the viewer of at least a small amount of free will that so many people actually value. Laughter is important when telling a joke since it has a great deal to do with timing and it does strengthen the morale of a cast that is attempting to entertain an audience, but at the same time, a laugh track is a bit of an inconvenience at times since it requires moments without dialogue and also requires the correct timing since if it’s released too soon or too late then it makes little to no sense. Obviously, this is something that can be controlled with clever editing, but genuine laughs from a live audience are far better, as are the reactions of those watching a show from home since their laughter should come naturally and not be forced simply to conform to the laugh track.
Cringe comedy has done quite a bit to make the laugh track an antiquated tool that’s no longer needed since the type of comedy that has been prevalent for years now, a couple of decades, in fact, has made it possible for people to react without needing to be prompted by a gale of laughter that’s been passed around for far too long. The laugh track is something that’s actually been parodied more than once in the past and has become kind of a running joke in and of itself since, like many things in show business, it once had a very well-respected place and was necessary, but is now less than useful and not really something that many shows decide to use unless it’s being utilized for a bit of fun and to parody the need for it. Breaking the fourth wall in various shows and movies has been where this tool has come in handy from time to time since it’s managed to still be valuable but in a much more self-deprecating manner. Seriously, the laugh track has no real practical use other than to make fun of itself at this time since trying to force the laughter of the viewers has been found to be kind of a bad idea since it’s almost like peer pressure, if a person doesn’t laugh then they’re the odd one out, and a lot of people don’t want that position, and will therefore succumb to pressure and just go along with the rest of the group.
The day of the laugh track has kind of come and gone, but using it in a comical manner is still something that can be entertaining. But trying to use it as a means of getting people to laugh has changed in a big way since the laff box first came out. One has to wonder if the inventor of the laff box ever thought that the tables would be turned in such a manner.