Life Needs a Laughtrack

While reading Nancy Cohen’s blog post “Cut That Wimpy Dialogue!,” I thought about how much smoother and more interesting dialogue in books is in comparison to normal conversation. In real life, we stutter and stammer, repeat words, interrupt each other, talk while another is still speaking, and we tell long drawn out stories that go nowhere. Such idiosyncracies would bore us to tears if we read them in a book, but we’re used to them in real life, perhaps because we’re more interested in our connection to the people we are talking to than the actual words we are using, or perhaps we are more forgiving because we know none of us can rewrite our spontanous speech to make it vigorous and decisive as we do in our books.

I used to be more congnizant of what I was saying. I would hear the wrong words as they came out of my mouth, and I tried to correct them before they hit the air, but that just made me sound like a stammering fool. Now that I don’t listen to myself as much, I talk smoothly without stammers, but still, my conversation is normal. In other words, if my life were a book, most of my words would be edited out.

Since most conversations in real life are less than scintillating (since most of life itself is less than scintillating) maybe what we need are laughtracks. Laughtracks — especially loud and raucus laughtracks — are prevalent in television comedies that have little humor and less wit, but the laughtrack gets your adrenaline going and makes you think you are watching something special. Or at least makes you think you have some connection to the story, which makes you feel less foolish for watching the silly show. Inane comments on a comedy without a laughtrack leave us cold. So why shouldn’t we each come with our own private laughtrack? If we say something that falls flat, canned laughter floats around us and our listeners, making us seem brilliant and witty. And if what we said was really inane, the laughtrack would rise to a crescendo, drowning out the echo of our words still hanging in the air, making it impossible for anyone to remember them.

On the other hand, the constant sound of raucus laughter could get on our nerves. Maybe it’s best to leave things the way they are, and save our wit and wisdom for writing where we can edit the words until they are so perfect there would be no need of a laughtrack for distraction.

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2 Responses to “Life Needs a Laughtrack”

  1. Nancy J. Cohen Says:

    I hate laughtracks. Probably that’s why I never watch sit coms. They seem so false. And yes, dialogue in real life is full of qualifiers, some times on purpose. Like, maybe when we’re talking to our husbands or boyfriends and we don’t want to sound so forceful, we might instead begin a sentence with “I’m thinking about how we might….” Also, often what we say on the outside doesn’t jive with our inner thoughts. We might say, “I suppose so,” when we really think “I know so”, but women are trained not to come across as pushy.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      A lot of men hate those qualifiers — they say they want women to be straightforward and just come right out and say what they want rather than work up to it as in your example: “I’m thinking about how we might….” but if you don’t use the qualifiers, they feel as if women are being too pushy. Once you get the hang of it, writing dialogue is a lot easier than real life conversation — so much less to worry about.


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