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Laugh Tracks

April 24, 2009

From Earl Pomerantz:

Iconic comedian George Burns was the co-star The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, which aired on TV in the fifties after a successful run on radio. Like most sitcoms of its day, Burns and Allen was filmed single-camera, like a movie. A single camera films the same scene again and again from different angles and with different compositions – “establishing” shots (establishing the location of the scene), close-ups, “two-shots” (two actors in the shot), etc. Then they move on to the next scene and repeat the process, until they’ve completed filming the entire episode.

[While other shows opted for a live audience or laugh track] George Burns used a different approach (possibly because his co-star wife, Gracie, was extremely shy). Burns filmed Burns and Allen without an audience. But he invited an audience in afterwards, to view the finished product, having their live laughs recorded while they watched the show. In this way, Burns could deliver flesh-and-blood laughter, having tested his comedy in front of actual human beings.

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