Why do many television shows use canned laughter?
The answer is simple.
Audiences find comedies with added laughter funnier than comedies without it.
Seems crazy, right? I mean, I think, the tape-over nearly adds a cheapness to the audio of it.
But it turns out that people want to follow the crowd, if even on a subconscious level.
Joke Punchline > Others Laugh > We Laugh
I identify with political party X – and most of X believe Y – this makes it easier for me to go along with Y too.
This is the same thing:
I am a funny person – others are laughing at this – I should laugh too.
Understand: Many of our behavior patterns are simply on auto.
What could it be about canned laughter that is so attractive to television executives? Why would these shrewd and tested businessmen champion a practice that their potential watchers find disagreeable and their most creative talents find personally insulting? The answer is at once simple and intriguing: They know what the research says. Experiments have found that the use of canned merriment causes an audience to laugh longer and more often when humorous material is presented and to rate the material as funnier. In addition, some evidence indicates that canned laughter is most effective for poor jokes.
-Robert Cialdini, Influence