Freelance Writer : Terrain Parks : Creative Direction

Unpublished 2012 – Canning Laughter : “We Encourage You to Feel Free”

We Encourage You to Feel Free : Canning Laughter.

By Ben Wannamaker

864 Words

(Paraphrased and mishandled.)

Good evening vocally diverse and visually segmented ladies and gentlemen! We’d like to thank you for accepting the money we gave you to be entertained by us tonight. We hope that you enjoy yourselves during the recording, but truly, we already know that you’ll have a pleasant time because we’ve cleverly installed flashing machines that will tell you when and how to do so, quite visibly, there, above your heads.

Now we know that “live audiences are tense, nervous and rarely laugh on cue anyway,” (according to Paul Iverson, The Advent Of The Laugh Track, 1994) so the scene you’ve been prior scripted to run on …  wait, I’m getting ahead of some of you, aren’t I. I’m assuming that you all remember how you got here and where you actually are. How easily we forget! Can I get a show of hands? Who doesn’t know where they are or how they got to the seat that they’re presently… presently… sitting in? Of course, we don’t mind refreshing your memory. It’s our pleasure.

Now if those who do know could sit, sit… and stay sitting patiently while we bring everyone up to speed, we’ll quickly be paying you to watch us say that we’re grateful for allowing us one more moment because really: whose head doesn’t need a helpful jog every now and then, right?

*applause sign flashes and the audience applaud in affirmative accordance.*

Great, our thoughts exactly.

You are presently in Rankin-Bass’s (eventually to be eaten by Warner Brothers) Laff-Box laughter recording studio. It’s the fall of 1950. Each one of you will soon be immortalized for the next decade. Canned for ten years as you have agreed, at your own discretion, because it’s you who is in control: to accept the money that we gave you to be entertained by us tonight and simultaneously… provide your own: relaxed chuckle, enthusiastically unhindered yet obedient acknowledgment of current humor, whichever. Whichever intentionally engineered response of delight you feel fits the moment before you. Sing it out! No louder than anyone else please, nothing that will throw off the performers natural rhythm.  But remember, however you’re paid to choose to respond: The choice is yours! So have fun!

And yes. We know that there are so-called ‘purists’ and ‘Europeans’ who scoff at the idea of sweetening a scene to this extent – adding a dash of icing to some understated North American humor that, let’s be honest, your  everyday idiots, your everywhere irrational, masses upon masses of North Americans swarming around outside, could never and will never ‘get’.

Such well placed and subtle comedic nuances that we incorporate into such shows as ‘Hogan’s Heroes’, ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’, ‘The Munsters’ and even ‘The Jetsons’ require the Rankin-Bass signature laugh track for people to even know that they’re actually comedies. Our public: your friends and neighbours, are just that negligent. So highbrow are the shows on our network – that I’m positive we can ALL see the motive for the valiant import we showcase – in wanting the crystal clearest communication with a wholly inept audience on the other side of the screen with the very cash you’re getting paid with).  So folks, neighbors, friends, together, here today, that’s exactly what we’re going to do: provide communication and connect with your family, friends and neighbours.

Sounds Good?

*applause sign flashes and the audience applaud in affirmative accordance.*

And if you perform accurately today and enjoy the money that you accepted to be entertained by us tonight, we encourage you to feel free, in 3650 days from now (mark the day on your calendar, keep it in your wallet, tie a string on your finger; whatever you need to do to remember…) we encourage you to feel free to come back to the very same seat you’re in at the moment: and fill the sound-segmented-classification of the voice of someone who will be ten years older than the person you are today.

You are ready to start now.  I mean, who’s ready to get this show on the road?!

*applause sign flashes and the audience responds on que. They get recorded and therefore etch in a decade of suggestions for how emotions and ques in society are ‘to be’ responded to (for viewers to abide by for generations and generations and generations to come.)

-So has there been a eulogy for free emotion?

Because some were edited out during post production, some responded all too lifelessly during the recording session that’s been parodied here.  Many of the paid public seemed tired after long hours of long days of factory work. They came from communities of people stripped of the chance to understand the world on their own terms. Some session facilitators at Rankin / Bass heard that very thing in the audiences voices and it  did nick there consciousness however. A silent minority despised the idea of canning and force-feeding the public human emotional response because after all, they were humans, in public, who had their own emotions and the facilities to respond with. Why the guiding?

The real question is: how long has the now vocal majority been victim of a short-sighted authority’s epidemic suggestion(s) about ways the viewing public was supposed to behave? Is it since gossip began? Since obeying scriptures and the Gutenberg press – or earlier? How long after ideas became something that we learned anchored us to one another, did we correspondingly learn to capitalize on each others gullibility and vulnerability as herd animals, to whom ‘attachment’ and this ’ anchoring’ is very tangible; the ways that we ‘require’ one another is very much a part of our biological makeup.

How long can you prey on the biological make up of the public – in order to take their money –   tailoring social ques to create lifestyles that different consumers will evolve into – before it becomes some kind of non-consensual indoctrination?

You fooled them: “just a little sweetening”.

Nobody noticed.

Rest In Peace.


One response

  1. David McCarthy

    Hi, I notice you cite a source in here that I’ve been trying to find but can’t come across anywhere: Paul Iverson, “The Advent of the Laugh Track,” 1994. Would you please tell me how you got your hands on this? Or even, was it published in some kind of conference proceedings, journal, magazine, or something of that nature. The source is apparently really useful, because I can see it cited all over the place, but I’m just not having any luck actually finding it. Thank you so much for looking into it!

    April 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm

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