The Science of Laughing

In this assignment, you will watch a TV show you’ve seen before. Your goal is not to be entertained, but to focus on one way that television tries to keep you entertained without you thinking about it. Answer the questions by using the letters and numbers below. Include those letters and numbers, so it’s easier to grade. Watch an episode of a TV situation comedy you grew up with that was aimed at your age group – Saved By the Bell, Moesha, Full House, Drake and Josh, That’s So Raven, Boy Meets World, etc.  FRIENDS is not acceptable. You need to choose a program that is aimed for children, not young adults) as a targeted audience. Write down the show you watched, episode name, Season and Episode number, and when you watched it as a kid, and when you watched it (including TV network or Web site) for this assignment. Every time you hear the “laugh track” (a real audience or a soundtrack of artificial laughter), you must physically laugh aloud with it. Moreover, every time you hear an audience “aaah” or “boo” or “hiss” or other sound would not have been “heard” by the characters in the show, you also must make that noise. Keep a running tab of the number of times you laughed, booed, awwwed, etc. Tell me that number. Tell me how many times you had to laugh because it was part of the assignment, not because what you heard or saw was funny enough to make you laugh. Write about the experience: How did you feel as you watched it? How aware were you of the laugh track then (and now)? Did you feel manipulated? Why or why not? How “good” would the show be without that track? How have your feelings about the show changed over time? (Do you feel the same way about that show when you watched it for this assignment, compared to how you felt when you saw it as a child?) How does this exercise relate to what we’ve talked about related to media effects? What else do you want to tell me about your experience with this exercise?

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