Did ‘Seinfeld’ Have a Laugh Track or a Live Audience?
Seinfeld is headed to Netflix later this summer. The sitcom is widely regarded as one of the best TV shows of all time–if not the single greatest. Every episode was packed with laughs. If you’ve ever watched one, and most of the free world has, you’ve likely heard the laughter in the background of every scene. It has led some to wonder: does Seinfeld have a laugh track or was it recorded in front of a live audience?
The legacy of ‘Seinfeld’
Many people view Seinfeld as the greatest TV series of all time, and certainly the best sitcom. Even those who don’t acknowledge it as the best comedy ever have to recognize its place among the greats.
What made the show’s comedy so effective was that it merged the writing style of both Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, not to mention a litany of other talented writers who worked on the show.
The cast also made the show great. The performances of main cast members of Michael Richards, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, and Jason Alexander informed the development of their characters almost as much as the writing staff.
In short, the series never skimped on the laughs delivered to the audience. But was the laughter you heard on the show real or canned?
What Jerry Seinfeld said about ‘Seinfeld’ having a laugh track and live audience
According to one of the co-creators (Seinfeld himself) on a Reddit AMA, Seinfeld had both a laugh track and a live audience. Much of the show was filmed in front of a live audience. Some scenes weren’t able to be filmed in front of a crowd, however, and those scenes featured a laugh track.
Seinfeld said it was a tough decision for the show’s creative team as to whether to include the added laughter of an audience versus not having any:
“This was something we struggled with quite often on Seinfeld. Because we had real laughs on the scenes that were shot in front of an audience, but then we would shoot other scenes that were not in front of the audience (which didn’t have any laughs) and then it felt like a bit of a mismatch, so we tried to compromise and put in a subtle laugh track.”
Some may view the addition of a laugh track as compensating for lack of funny material, but that was never an issue on Seinfeld. Seinfeld said he believed that on this show in particular, it added to the communal experience of watching it:
“I think that one of the fun things of a sitcom is feeling like you’re in an audience even though you’re home, watching it by yourself. I have to say I like some sitcoms with them and some without. Depends on the show.”
Forget the laugh track on Seinfeld, sometimes the cast (especially Jerry) laughed
Of course, the crowd members weren’t the only people laughing on the set of Seinfeld. Seinfeld went on to say that one of the biggest challenges for him acting on the show was not laughing at other members of the talented cast. One fan asked him about one episode in which he looks ready to laugh in the final cut, and Seinfeld admitted he had:
“…if you think Kramer is funny on TV, imagine his real face six inches from your nose, how funny that is. You can’t imagine. It’s impossible not to laugh. So I would.”
Seinfeld did have a laugh track for some scenes, but that isn’t because it wasn’t funny—it was just to make the show’s auditory feel more consistent with other scenes that had a live audience. Judging by Seinfeld’s reaction to many of the actors on the show, it was obviously quite funny.