Forced Laughter

It comes up every once in a while … you have visitors coming to town and you don’t know what to do with them. Especially when they’re on a budget.

bla-microphone.jpgOne of the cheap things to do, one of the “only in LA things” that we have to offer is being an audience member for a TV show. There are a variety of these – game shows, sitcoms, talk shows, late night talk shows and they all offer different experiences.

The sitcom experience is pretty much the one that’s exclusive to LA. I’ve only been to one taping of a sitcom, it was back when I first moved to LA … the Roseanne show, during the time when Roseanne and Tom were not getting along so the atmosphere onstage and off was rather tense.

But what’s most remarkable about the experience is how the audience is actually part of the show. It’s no secret that the live audience is there to provide immediacy of feedback and there’s a reason that comedies are taped before a live audience – it makes it funnier. And when I say it makes it funnier, I mean, stuff that isn’t funny becomes funny because the audience laughs at it. You’ve probably experienced this before, you see a movie at the theater and it’s a fantastic experience because you’re laughing along with other people and communally enjoying yourself. Then you rent it and watch it with someone who hasn’t seen it and they don’t think it’s funny and suddenly it’s not that funny. It’s not the small picture that did it, it’s the peer pressure.

When participating in the taping of a show, you become complicit with the director, actors and writers’ desire to make it as funny as possible. You laugh. And you laugh for the next take. And the next one. And then you go home and take a shower.

I bring all this up because someone suggested a link and I think that it summarizes the experience pretty well. Check out a couple of posts from Scribbles from LA:
What It’s Like to See a Sitcom Taping
Brace Yourselves: TV Isn’t as Funny as You Think

While my experience at Roseanne wasn’t bad, they didn’t need many retakes and the episode was kinda funny, I certainly prefer viewing the final product and I leave the immediate feedback to other folks who want to be part of the meat grinder.

Anyone have any interesting stories to share from seeing show tapings?

(photo by monosodium via morguefile)

3 Replies to “Forced Laughter”

  1. A friend of mine got her big break with a part on the sitcom “My Sister Sam” in 1989 and I went to see it taped in some soundstage separate from the main Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. There was nothing too remarkable or memorable about the experience from up in the stands (other than I made sure to laugh real loud at my friend’s lines and reactions), but it was only a few weeks later that the show’s co-star Rebecca Schaeffer was murdered outside her apartment — all the more upsetting for my friend because her show never aired.

  2. I had a horrible experience when I took some visiting friends to a taping of “Two Guys, A Girl, And A Pizza Place,” that went beyond how horrible the show was. Maybe it was needing to be there over two hours before the taping began, or that we were crammed together on a long bench along with countless strangers, or the lack of airconditioning, or that they didn’t allow anyone to use the restroom, or that they tried to block us from leaving after sitting there for two and a half hours and they’d barely gotten the first shot… ugh. I think this was karmic since I also worked the other side of audience management for a few years with a certain music network…

    Alas, I’ve been to a few tapings for Real Time with Bill Maher and always enjoyed it. Quick and painless.

  3. I went to a taping of According to Jim which ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back in a struggling relationship I was having at the time.

    I will never forgive sitcoms :P

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