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The Laugh of Comedy

A funny thing happened the other day in my class. I have an assignment where I ask students to list their top 10 favorite TV shows as well as their top 3 least favorite shows. Usually there is some disparity between their answers (my wife and I don’t agree on the “best” shows, so how can I expect high school students to find common ground), but one student’s reasoning is what threw me. He hated a particular sitcom because of the “laugh track.”

The “laugh track,” this “canned laughter,” this sound effect of other people laughing, has been a staple of sitcoms for a long time.

Back in the 1950s it was a relatively new idea, but since then it has been used time and time again. This student didn’t like the idea that someone else was deciding when his laughter was appropriate.

One of the great things about comedy is that it is so subjective. Ever since Charlie Chaplin’s “Tramp” character, Buster Keaton’s physical comedy, etc. there have been people who loved to laugh at the antics or misfortune of these characters. People gathered together to experience this situational comedy … and to laugh together.

Comedy AND laughter are very much a communal experience. It is not uncommon for good friends to gather together and laugh at seemingly insignificant and “unfunny” things.

With the Concordia Comedy Festival on April 20 at the Cinema Center, I have challenged students in my advanced video classes to write, film, and edit a short film that is genuinely funny. No inside jokes that only a junior at Concordia Lutheran High School would understand, no laughter based solely on crass or inappropriate language, but something that the masses would find amusing and would be willing laugh at/with.

Sure, maybe it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Perhaps there will be people who think it is not funny. But, if you are sitting next to someone who decides to let out a “guffaw” of a laugh, why not join in with them, whether you are "told" to or not?"

So, come out to our Comedy Festival at 7 p.m. on April 20 at the Cinema Center and check out the great laughs from our students — no laugh track needed.

Learn more about our Comedy Festival and submit your own video at

Aaron Spencer,
Media Arts Teacher