Ah, canned laughter. For many, it’s nauseating background noise that comes part and parcel with most daytime TV shows and re-runs, but for me, it offers a level of childhood comfort and apparently, it actually makes jokes funnier.
According to a study conducted by Professor Sophie Scott from University College London, “adding laughter to a joke increases the humour value, no matter how funny or unfunny the joke is.”
Dads, we’re looking at you.
During the study, researchers asked 72 volunteers to rate how funny they found 40 jokes accompanied by no laughter, short canned laughter, and short real-life laughter. Believe me when I tell you, these jokes were intentionally awful. For example, one of them was: “What’s orange and sounds like a parrot?” (answer: a carrot…ba-dum tish!)
Turns out all groups of people gave higher “funniness ratings” to jokes paired with canned laughter than with no laughter at all.
“Historically, TV and radio programmes were always recorded in front of a live studio audience: this allowed those watching and listening to feel part of the performance,” Professor Scott told The Independent.
“However, as audience reaction was natural, certain ‘comedy’ programmes which weren’t overtly funny wouldn’t get a long laugh, so TV and radio producers increasingly added canned laughter to prompt an audience reaction.”
Ultimately, the study found that spontaneous laughter got the highest “funniness rating,” but there is now proof that canned laughter still gets a giggle. So next time you find your ribs tickled by a cringeworthy scene in The Big Bang Theory, don’t feel too guilty.