Name: Canned crowds.
Age: HAHAHAHAHA, HAHAHAHAHA!
No, not a joke, I just want to know how long the subject of this pass notes has been around. [Loud crowd jeering] “You’re not singing, you’re not singing, you’re not singing any more …”
I know! Just asking how old … “We are the Army, the Barmy Army!”
OK, you’re obviously doing something meta and clever, but it’s really annoying. Can we do it properly now? Age: Well, a laughter track was commonly added to sitcoms from the 1950s onwards, earlier still on the radio. Not to be confused with studio laughter, which is when a show is filmed in front of actual living people and their noises are included.
But they don’t do that so much now, do they? True, TV audiences are now considered so sophisticated that they can actually decide for themselves whether something is funny. This Country would not be improved with a laughter track.
All very interesting, but pass notes isn’t usually concerned with cultural history is it? Correct, it is a column with its finger on the beating pulse of news. There is a current canned audience story …
Football! True, since the restart, television viewers have been treated to the fake roar of a crowd. To make it less weirdly silent, and more like a pre-Covid-19 match.
It doesn’t though. It just sounds like Fifa 20. That may be because the football spectator noise has been provided by video game developer EA Sports, which makes Fifa.
Hang on though – Barmy Army, that’s not football is it? Correct. But now cricket is getting involved as well. England and West Indies, which won’t have a crowd at the Test matches starting on Wednesday at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, will at least have the noise of a crowd. Plus music.
What, actually in the stadium? That’s right. “Some noise around would be great,” says the tourists’ fast bowler Kemar Roach. “It will be strange for us playing in England, where there is always a lot of crowd noise and atmosphere.” And TV viewers will get the audio from the stump microphones as usual, though they can be switched off to avoid sledging filth sliding into family living rooms.
In this new audience-free world, perhaps we’ll see a return to canned laughter in sitcoms? Let’s hope not. They could just play to an audience of potted plants.
Why would they do that? It’s what an opera house is doing in Barcelona. A string quartet has been playing to an audience entirely made up of plants, to highlight the situation.
Do say: “And anyway, the can opener’s gone missing, sadly.”
Don’t say: “HAHAHAHAHAHA.”