A laugh track occurs naturally when a crowd of people get a good bellylaugh from seeing someone put in a perilous position on a railway track, and then a tape of their laughter is used as the background sound of a radio or television show.
Laugh tracks are most commonly found in old television comedies (,) (like Mr. Ed). They greatly add to the show, because one finds oneself laughing in conjunction with the people laughing. Not only that, but honestly, we all like to laugh at people making idiots of themselves.
Invented by a bogus corporation run by Bing Crosby, the laugh track was first used in situation comedies of the 1950s, and has annoyed semi-sentinent people ever since. It is the main clue that you are watching a very bad, extremely low grade comedy which relys on the healthy sense of humor of people laughing at other people in danger of being run down by trains in order to get even a hint of a slight chuckle from their own viewers.
How is the laugh track obtained?
Microphones are put at key locations near railway tracks where people usually gather to watch other people in danger. When the laughing starts, the sound is captured on tape.
For example, in 1956 there was this one time at rubber-band camp when seven campers challenged each other to stand on the tracks and not jump off as a train neared. A crowd of campers and townies gathered within seconds, a microphone was immediately hooked up by an enterprising entrepreneur, the train engineer and the guy shoveling the coal greedily rubbed their hands together in anticipation, and, whooh, magic happened. As the steam engine came barreling down the tracks, and the doomed campers stood their ground, the laughs kept growing and growing to such epic proportions that the resulting laugh track was used on television classics for decades. Shows such as MASH, Hogan's Heroes, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, The Amazing Race, Carnivale, Judge Judy and hundreds of others have used this now famous laugh track. From the accidental deaths of seven awkward, unathletic and not very bright rubber-band campers, thousands of hours of enjoyment have been shared with the world.
Do people get paid to participate in making the laugh track?
No, of course not. All train tracks are in the open air, so the rule is "Let the laugher beware". The people laughing are all passerbys, and not hired professionals. And the people they laugh at don't survive and seldom have spouses or loved ones, so they never profit from the taping. Looking at it from the vantage point of he-who-gains, the only person making any money from a laugh track is the audio paparazzi recording the event.
Can I play?
Sure! There must be tons of railway tracks near your home. Just go there, do what comes naturally, and either do something stupid on the tracks or laugh at someone else doing the stupid. More often than not a Hollywood talent scout will be recording the action, as they are literally everywhere and are always on the lookout for the next big score. Good luck!
HA HA heehee heehee HAHA HAHAHA HEEhee ha ha hee (cough)