Canned Applause on SNL?
October 29, 2006
A strange thing happened this weekend on 'Saturday Night Live.' As host Hugh Laurie began his opening monologue -- and after the applause from his introduction had died down -- a second, quieter track of seemingly canned cheers and applause continued as Laurie spoke, only to abruptly fade out several seconds later.
Yes, it's subtle. And yes, like you, my first instinct was to write it off as simply a clumsy audio mix of the actual live audience. But if you listen to it carefully, there's something about the timing and ferocity of those last four or five seconds of applause that just seems off. UPDATE: The fact that NBC removed the suspect audio from the west coast feed of the show seems to back up our suspicions (Defamer has just posted a clip of the same sequence as it was broadcast in LA).
And while it's not unusual for pre-recorded television shows to "sweeten" the applause or laughter recorded from a live studio audience, it would seem a most disingenuous move for 'SNL.' In fact, in distancing himself from the Ashlee Simpson lip-syncing incident two years ago, 'SNL' creator Lorne Michaels told '60 Minutes' that had he known she'd planned to lip sync, he would have said stopped her, saying that pre-recorded audio goes against the show's essence of being live.
So is 'SNL' sweetening its live audio? And if so, can we assume this includes laughter, in addition to applause?
Canned applause over the opening credits has been an SNL staple for decades. They also use it over the closing credits (easy to spot - on the audience shots no one is applauding, yet you hear applause).
I'm not aware of them "sweetening" audience response during the show except for one episode that was taped very late at night and a lot of the live audience had gone home (the night of Game 6 of the 86 Mets/Red Sox Series which ran unexpectedly long). That show did not air live, but did air a week later giving them time to sweeten it.
Posted by: roy | October 30, 2006 at 10:22 AM
They have several separate audio feeds that can be put on the air. One is from the audience and that one was turned down.
Posted by: Buzz | October 30, 2006 at 10:23 AM
This isn't the first time they've used canned applause. They've been doing it all season long.
Posted by: mar | October 30, 2006 at 02:42 PM
Now that SNL sucks they need canned laughter.
Posted by: Marcus | October 30, 2006 at 04:22 PM
It seems to me that the audience might have been still clapping after they were supposed to stop, so they faded out the mics in the audience section so Laurie could start his monologue.
I guess the canned-applause theory is possible, but I don't see why they'd use it at the start, when everyone is going to be applauding like crazy anyway. If they were going to do something like that, canned laughter during the sketches would make more sense.
Posted by: Andrew Lenahan | October 30, 2006 at 04:36 PM
What laughter? I barely hear anyone laughing on that show anymore.
Posted by: Corey | October 30, 2006 at 04:40 PM
I blame Bush.
Posted by: Kerry Cares | October 30, 2006 at 04:56 PM
I can't even get an erection anymore, let alone laughs or applause.
Posted by: Lorne Michaels | October 30, 2006 at 05:03 PM
Any way we could get a clip of Beck where the band is playing the table setting? If you know what I mean, the song Clap Hands. I can't find The SNL version anywhere, that was great!
Posted by: SeNiLe911 | October 30, 2006 at 05:34 PM
NOW that SNL sucks? They've sucked for years!
Posted by: Sashazur | October 30, 2006 at 05:45 PM
While I wouldn't be surprised if SNL is doing this, the audio effects could also be from poor mixing of the audience mics. If the feed from the audience mics was suddenly dropped, allowed to go a few more seconds, then faded entirely, you could get this same effect.
No conspiracy here - most of the applause is still genuine, unlike most sitcoms.
Posted by: Scott | October 30, 2006 at 06:06 PM
Saturday Night Live: three lies for the price of one.
Posted by: Theropod | October 30, 2006 at 06:06 PM
I noticed the SAME thing on Sat! Luckily I had it DVRed, so I reviewed it over & over. This was canned laughter; no doubt in my mind. How pathetic.
The ONLY two good things about that show were Borat (even though he was doing the same material he's been doing to promote his movie) and Beck (especially that second number).
SNL has been declining slowly for a few years, but this year there is a SIGNIFICANTLY larger drop in quality.
Posted by: Chris W | October 30, 2006 at 06:42 PM
That's 100% canned. He obviously doesn't even hear it, he talks over it smoothly. And as they turn it down, it's clear that the "crowd" is still going full-tilt. How sad. Sounds like a new plot for Studio 60.
Posted by: TS7 | October 30, 2006 at 06:46 PM
It has to be canned laughter cuz I dont laugh more then 3 times per episode.
Posted by: wwfmike | October 30, 2006 at 07:24 PM
It sounds to me like a combination of the live audio feed and the delayed audio feed. You can hear the same distinctive audience sounds. Given that all 'live' television runs on a delay (Thank you Janet Jackson), it wouldn't surprise me if someone nudged the wrong fader on the mixing board.
Posted by: Leviathant | October 30, 2006 at 08:32 PM
The extra applause was due to doppelgangers.
Posted by: Future Me | October 30, 2006 at 08:54 PM
wwfmike is right. I think it's the delay thingee. Or not.
SNL used to be funny. Now it's just a reality show that no one watches...
Posted by: mightyjuice | October 30, 2006 at 08:55 PM
or that might be leviathant. No matter.
Posted by: mightyjuice | October 30, 2006 at 08:58 PM
There were at least two other big technical screwups in the first 30 minutes of the show (Borat intro, premature Fox graphic) - So, who knows? It could have been the delay getting potted up accidentally, or some attempt at sweetening that somebody messed up. For whatever reason, somebody messed up.
But, it doesn't matter, because the whole show is messed up.
I hadn't watched an entire SNL in almost 10 years. The last time was when Seinfeld hosted so that was, what, '98? I watched the Hugh Laurie ep only because he was on, and it was so, so bad. The writers should be ashamed of themselves. That's what they get paid to do. They get paid a lot more than regular people at regular jobs, and it's like they don't even try.
You'd think with competition from the net, they would at least try a little. I could have laughed more and had a better time if I'd spent those 90 minutes on Youtube watching clips people made at their houses on their cameraphones. At least those have endings.
And, they're a lot shorter.
Posted by: Dave | October 30, 2006 at 10:07 PM
At the exact moment that the show goes on the air there is "sweetening." Right before the first sketch you will hear a little 'heh heh' audience twitter. But, I suggest that it's too good to be the real audience.
Posted by: Jack Brackitt | October 30, 2006 at 10:15 PM
SNL has sucked BIG cocks for YEARS.
If you still watch, you're secretly gay.
If you think it's funny, you're gay - period.
If you care about my comments - you're retarded.
Either way, Lorne Michaels and his WASP-y drones, and YOU, the Nazi-youth audience, have stopped being relevant for over 20 years... and, of course, fuck you if you still care about this subject - or my comments.
Posted by: Johnny Chicago | October 30, 2006 at 10:35 PM
Wow -- I smell Nobel in your future.
You have way too much free time on your hands.
Posted by: Whatever | October 30, 2006 at 11:37 PM
Dumbest fucking assumption EVER. The FAKE sound you're hearing is the REAL audience; however, what makes it fake sounding is the fact that the directors and producers cut off the audience mic's abruptly to ensure the host's voice could be heard. They are limited on time so they can fit in commercials....so they have to limit audience ambience to only a certain extent. That's all this is. For you to question it only makes you an idiot. No offense..I don't hardly watch TV anymore. But it's still blatantly obvious to me!
Posted by: Schooler | October 31, 2006 at 04:25 AM
Does anybody actually watch SNL anymore? Seriously, I can't believe anybody watches SNL on TV, let alone goes through the nuisance of actually attending a show in person. They use canned laughter because the studio is empty, right?
On a side note, who the hell pays for advertising during a show with no audience?
Posted by: Nobody | October 31, 2006 at 04:58 AM
It's amazing that show is still on the air. It hasn't been funny for over 20 years. Whole sketches will go by without but a few chuckles from the audience. One actor/actress usually carries the entire show, anyway, until they head off to Hollywood.
Posted by: Sparkinator | October 31, 2006 at 05:04 AM
That was the best SNL in the last five years.
No, It's not as funny as it used to be but with the internet entertaining more and more people, with bits more extreme and/or over the top, it is understandable.
It's like looking for an a post in a comments forum that is exceptionally smart and funny, most are just self important UNFUNNY craptrap, like Jack Brackitt and others.
Posted by: burst vigoda | October 31, 2006 at 05:49 AM
Corey said it all. It's all Bush's fault. Everything and anything that goes wrong is his fault. And don't forget it.
Posted by: Azwurth | October 31, 2006 at 05:49 AM
Do you ever notice that everybody at one time liked SNL and then later says "its no longer funny". It started with the Belushi/Akroyd era, they left and then those watchers said it was no longer funny. Then the next crop of people came along and thought the Julie Louis Dryfuss era was funny - then not. Fast forward to the Will Farrel crowd. Now that he is not on those people say its no longer funny.
However, Chevy Chase was never funny. At all.
Posted by: Dan Akroyd | October 31, 2006 at 05:50 AM
..or Kerry Cares..whoever said it, Bush is to blame. Now, go out there you faithful Democrats and whine, blame, and criticize all day.
Posted by: Azwurth | October 31, 2006 at 05:53 AM
Check it out!
Posted by: Will | October 31, 2006 at 09:24 AM
I noticed the canned laughter when Borat was on. Check it out - the laughs are so fake.
Posted by: Mark | October 31, 2006 at 10:02 AM
Whether they are doing it or not, it is clear you know absolutely nothing about audio tracks. Becuase what you are showing is not even CLOSE to be proof of anything.
Posted by: JK87 | October 31, 2006 at 12:40 PM
The lowering of the mics is a more suitable answer. Besides, the audiences are told to clap and cheer, its not like they are genuinely, incredibly excited about the host. So its not like everything was genuine before. They aren't using canned laughter though. I think MadTV does though.
Posted by: Andrew | October 31, 2006 at 03:53 PM
who cares if it was canned or not? the audio guy screwed up and it sounds like crap. the end.
Posted by: stephanie | October 31, 2006 at 04:03 PM
What's TV?? Isn't that where reality shows and Fox news comes from?
Posted by: guy | October 31, 2006 at 05:08 PM
I'm an audio mixer in Los Angeles, and yes, that's definitely canned whoops and hollers from a sweetener's audio box, and a very poor fade out of it indeed, it has no natural tail, just the fader move down killing the audio. Pretty bad. It's actually the norm for most shows to have a "laugh guy" as they're called, but it is sad that SNL resorts to using one. I would have hoped they were above that. I'd like to see the actual audio folks on SNL chime in here... care to take that challenge?
Posted by: Mark J. | October 31, 2006 at 07:33 PM
If it was real applause, it would have been picked up by the host's microphone. And it wasn't.
Posted by: wAS | October 31, 2006 at 10:41 PM
How about the fact that nobody really cares? I don't watch SNL to admire the audio fade-ins and outs, I watch it to hopefully get a laugh (which haven't been coming lately). You know how many screw-ups there are during normal, million dollar movies, whether it is a crew member visible, or a set piece is messed up, there are going to be mistakes. The fact that this poor fade-out of a canned and/or real applause is somewhat relevant to your lives is kind of sad. Now lets all just hopefully enjoy watching the next SNL (whenever they actually show new episodes and whenever they are actually funny). *sigh*
Posted by: Matt M. | November 01, 2006 at 01:13 AM
What a knucklehead party this is.
Posted by: Sean | November 01, 2006 at 02:52 PM
Canned laughter has been used since the beginning of television and virtually every show, whether they use a live audience or not, has used some form of artifical laughter and/or applause track. "I Love Lucy" reportedly used this technique of "sweetening", too. It isn't always about punching up a joke that fell flat, but sometimes it can be used to fill in an audio drop or flaw. What I don't understand is why do producers feel like they have to be ashamed about it? It is simply a sound effect, just like a doorbell....
Posted by: lobvek | November 02, 2006 at 08:29 AM
i don't care about the fake appluase hugh was fantastic
Posted by: bethany | November 08, 2006 at 04:12 PM
Interestingly, they repeated this episode on November 25 and, at least on the East Coast, the conspicuous applause track was still there.
Posted by: Andrew Preston | November 26, 2006 at 12:01 PM
well it's better than MAD TV. that's all that matters
Posted by: lexi | January 08, 2007 at 05:16 PM
It's pretty sad that someone has to pick apart a few seconds of canned applause. I guess the writer of this crap is just jealous of Hugh, because he is so talented. Enough said.
Posted by: Hugh Laurie fan | March 18, 2007 at 07:20 AM