The real reason bad sitcoms add laugh tracks

The Big Bang Theory.
The Big Bang Theory. Photo credit: CBS

Laugh tracks make 'dad jokes' funnier, UK research has found.

Scientists had 50 people listen to awful jokes, sometimes with laugh tracks of the kind you hear on sitcoms like Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and sometimes without.

"Read aloud by a professional comedian, the jokes were intentionally groan-worthy 'dad jokes'," the University College London researchers said in a statement.

They found laugh tracks made people rate the jokes as funnier, especially if the canned laughter was "spontaneous".

Half those who took part in the study were on the autism spectrum, who can sometimes struggle to understand and respond to social cues. 

"It was somewhat unexpected and therefore intriguing to find that the effect of laughter was the same for neurotypical and autistic participants," the researchers said. "It suggests that everyone is likely influenced by laughter, whether they realise it or not."

Another surprising find was that autistic people rated the groan-worthy jokes higher overall. The scientists said that's probably because they're "more open to the jokes, while the neurotypical adults were more aware they were uncool".

The research was published Tuesday (NZ time) in journal Cell Press.

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