So, this video circulated over the weekend, in which a scene from popular CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is removed of its laughter, leaving us with what appears to be a straightforward attempt by one man to hit on another man for the purposes of the man-on-man sexytimes. Ready, set, roll it!
Ahem. Now. OK. Pretty much everyone I saw who commented, posted, reblogged and retweeted about this had many chuckles about it and said, ooh, boy, this show really does need a laugh track, doesn't it? Except. Only. That's not exactly the truth. Read the fine print on the YouTube description. This editor removed the "audience laughter." Heck. Don't click there. Click here: This is where you get tickets to be part of the live studio audience to watch a taping of The Big Bang Theory. So what. Actually, what this really means is that the actors were holding for the audience laughs, which were there because people found this exchange to be funny. Although taking the laughs out, you begin to see behind the curtain and can imagine the actors reading these lines in rehearsal, and the writers penning this exchange, and how much confidence they have to have in this one particular actor, Jim Parsons (Sheldon), can sell his lines in a way that the audience knows that he's not quite aware of what he's really saying. Sure, it may not seem like much, without any context. It's all about the context.
But it does point out a key distinction between multi-camera live audience sitcoms and single-camera taped sitcoms (such as 30 Rock) that don't wait for the laughs and keep on talking, or those that pause with awkward confidence (such as The Office, Parks and Recreation) and trust you'll be laughing along at home.
Now if they're doing this scene above on tape, without an audience, and filling it in with a laugh track…that would be a weird experience. Which is how they used to do it in the olden times of TV! Ah, progress.