1.09.2012

The Key to A Successful Sitcom: Make 'Em Laugh

It's a no-brainer that a funny tv show will survive and thrive on the air.  The elements of a funny tv show are still what they've always been; a talented cast, good writers and effective marketing.  Without those, you will not get a good laugh out of the audience.  But one subtle thing that many executives are inserting in their audiences to bring out the laughs is the professional laugher.

Joel Warner writes about this little known technique to get an edge with audiences by making them laugh with a secret ringer in the midst.  Why would they do this?
The humor stakes are so high around here that live-audience sitcoms are turning to laughter ringers, folks so good at guffawing they're planted the audience and get everyone else cackling at the right moment.
Unsurprisingly, there is an agency with a lock on the professional laugher business too.
To find those ringers, TV execs turn to Central Casting, the staffing company that's been LA's go-to place for extras and stand-ins since 1925. That's where we are right now, at Central Casting's giant warehouse-sized headquarters in Burbank, ready to meet with the woman who started it all: Lisette St. Claire.
To prove her folks are right for the job, St. Claire picks up her phone and dials one of her go-to laughers, one of the Group A hotshots. "Give me a laugh," she says, and puts him on speakerphone. Never mind it's 7:30 in the morning, that the man on the other end has just been woken up. A dramatic, spontaneous cackling erupts from the phone, causing the early-bird crew working around us in the casting office to look up and smile, and a few chuckle themselves.


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