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FOUND! Original Audience Response Duplicator (TV's Laugh Box)

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posted on Dec, 19 2013 @ 08:56 AM
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I'm sure many ATSers here remember the old sitcoms from 60's-70's that had the audience laugh track. I knew that it was a recording of some sort, but I didn't know exactly how it worked. Check this out.

This was apparently found in storage. It’s official name was “The Audience Response Duplicator” and the psychology behind it was that if people sitting at home heard what sounded like a live audience laughing, they in turn would laugh along.

To the dismay of many comedians, if not for this machine signaling TV viewers to respond, their jokes would never have gotten a genuine laugh.

This device only came along during the TV era and even then was only used for shows that weren’t shot in front of a live studio audience. For those shows, the audience was signaled to respond by a man holding up large cards that read “Laugh” or “Applause” thereby making the audience a part of the show.

The machine itself appears to contain a number of audio tapes constantly running past playback heads. Depressing a type-writer key allowed one of the tapes to be played. Naturally it took a skilled operator to know when to push the appropriate key as well as which sort of response was desired: Short chuckle, long laugh, groan, applause, etc. The operator could also control the length and fade of the sound with a pedal.




The Laff-box was created by Charles Douglass, a sound engineer for CBS studios in the early 1950's, to enhance the audience response for both RADIO and TELEVISION programs. Early on ,Mr. Douglass saw the need for sound enhancement to make jokes and other lines more affective in recorded productions. He started with taping shows like The Red Skelton Show, and any other laugh tracks he could use. The box seemingly ahead of its time with technology and ingenuity. Is about the size of todays standard dishwasher, with wheels for easy transport and numerous tapes with a keyboard that he used to select certain sounds and laughs. With a foot pedal he could control the length and increase or fade out of the tape recorded laughter. Mr. Douglass's ledger shows this being used on many early TV, comedy, variety and game shows. To name a few; The Red Skelton Show, Father Knows Best, Millionaire, Showtime, My Friend Irma, Life with Father, Pride of the Family, That's My Boy, Earn Your Vacation, Meet the Family, Joan Blondell Show, Kay Milland Show, So This is Hollywood, Eddie Canton Show..and Grammy's and Oscars Shows. This historical media sound box is confirmed and well documented with the hand-drawn sketches of his plans and drawings for his invention ,along with many recordings/tapes from early shows, pictures and even a very neat and precise ledger book listing shows, dates and what was charged for its use, in Mr. Douglass's personal handwriting. This production technology is still in use today. This original machine by Mr. Douglass, along with the tapes, original sketches and documents are for sale. A great item for studio, producers, television memorabilia collectors or museum. Soon to be featured on the PBS TV program, Antiques Roadshow. (SEE The Antiques Roadshow SAN DIEGO SHOW AIR DATES-Jan 31-Feb 2011) May be listing on ebay auction soon. Serious Inqiries please contact for further information.


Very cool piece of television history. I wish I had the money to bid on this. I bet it goes for some big, big bucks.

Side note: I would love to have one of these at a White House press meeting.




posted on Dec, 19 2013 @ 09:05 AM
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reply to post by jtrenthacker
 

Good find. I like the audience laugh-track at the start of the "Eric Andre" show when Hannibal, his co-host, comes out. They change it up every episode.



posted on Dec, 19 2013 @ 09:34 AM
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Interesting find. Is it just me, or is there something a little creepy about it?



posted on Dec, 19 2013 @ 08:51 PM
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graceunderpressure
Interesting find. Is it just me, or is there something a little creepy about it?


I know what you mean. Like a box of lost souls just screaming to get out.



posted on Dec, 22 2013 @ 02:56 AM
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Extremely cool bit of media history.

I've watched shows where these were used, and for that time period, these were really a god-send for numerous shows and programs.




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