i’m not sure what era the tv sitcom laugh track truly belongs to. But one thing is certain, it also needs to die.
Laugh tracks make me think about representation . . .which happened to cross my mind while watching Friends, or as one of my dear friends likes to call it “that show about white people.” I was sitting in my 2nd floor apt in lonelyville Carlisle, PA while in residence at Dickinson College. I used to constantly have the TV on while at home in order to ignore the sounds of what I’m fairly certain was a meth lab on the first floor.
I was teaching my ass off but loving one particular course where a group of students were engaged in a half studio/half lecture course in contemporary dance studies. Our final unit was on hyperreality, and Krumping and David LaChapelle’s Rize. The students were eager to sink their teeth into the material, and continued to work to find language to something that was almost inherently ingrained in their consciousness — a world in which representation outweighed reality. i for one can remember hearing someone describe the first time something “happened” on Facebook and not really getting how an event could occur on what I thought was a message board. But they are about 10 years younger than me, so participating in the representation of their world via The Spacebook, as my grandmother calls it, has been in their lives since they were probably “allowed” to have an account. In essence, Disney world, theme parks, animation — these constructions of *reality* were , in a way, unrecognizable as “constructions.” They accepted them as one aspect of their contemporary lives as 18-21 year olds in 2012. Of course they acknowledged that these things were *fake* but struggled to examine them as an emblem of an era of which they knew no different.
So the Facebook as a hyperreal metaphor was not getting much traction. i needed to find a way to abstract the idea as an object that they could separate from themselves. Otherwise we would continue to spin our wheels in conversation about the ways the dance movements of Krumping represented a reality of South Central LA but not in a solely pantomimic way. That the simulation of the stripper dance was not solely about being sexy but about the freedom to playfully and ferociously represent. That through the enaction of reality, an alternate reality could emerge. “More real than the real.”
So as i sat there above the (probable) meth lab and listened to Joey ask Monica if she had a pillow that was more “snuggely” (#firstworldproblems) and the laugh track kicked in — it dawned on me. The crossover to hyper reality in sitcom land is The Office. Duh. A TV show about a TV show. A pretend documentary. A TV show in which the actors play non-actors who acknowledge they represent non-actors and speak directly to the camera.
No laugh track.
They totally got it.