I have watched How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and there are these laughs from audiences. Are these shows recorded with live audiences watching?

4 Answers 4


It depends on the show. Some still are, but lots just use sound effects (called laugh tracks) to replicate the style of the older style of shows that are/were done live.

The best bet for determining it for a particular show is to try and find tickets to the show. If you can't find tickets or people talking about tickets, it probably isn't filmed live. It does tend to be more prevalent with BBC shows, but there are still some US shows that have live audiences, though I'm not sure how many sitcoms and comedy shows specifically do.

  • Good clue on checking for tickets +1 for you. Also, laugh tracks can be called 'canned laughter', here's a little history from wiki, seems like this started in the 1940s:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laugh_track
    – filzilla
    Aug 1, 2013 at 18:17

They usually have stadium seating inside for a couple hundred people, with a bunch of microphones pointed at you. They have a comedian warm you up between takes to get everyone in the mood, play silly games etc. The sets are prebuilt for each show and they film most but not all scenes live, usually taking a few takes. The writing team is on standby and they change some jokes as they go if they don't get a big enough laugh form the live audience.


Often ones that are will mention some time during the opening/closing "filmed before a live audience" - I believe Big Bang Theory does.


It's really hard to be funny without an audience. Audiences are brought in to help with that, and are also recorded for the laughter that occurs. However, the end product you see on TV is heavily edited. Timing is adjusted for better comedic effect.

This isn't a hard rule though. Think of a show such as 30 Rock. It has no audience (except when they do their live shows).

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