Having spent this semester cloistered in the relative luxury of the campus TV Studio and having just read a chapter in Television Production Handbook on Field Production (2), I finally realize just how spoiled we are by the sameness and reliability of our studio shoots. We walk into class, turn the equipment on, assume our assigned positions for the day, prepare the video and audio equipment for recording and off we go on our newest video adventure.
As far back as the “I Love Lucy” days, spurts of canned laughter or “Laugh Tracks” have been used to “sweeten” audience reaction to comic presentations. While every viewer who ever watched a sit com and every artist who ever created one all say they hate canned laughter, the addition of laugh tracks in all forms of comedy, when done well, usually enhances the funniness of any script or performance. Laughter is, after all, contagious.
While I was pursuing a theater career, I did quite a bit of directing. No matter what kind of theater I worked in—NYC or regional, professional or amateur—one thing seemed universally true throughout: If anything goes wrong, bad performances, ill-fitting costumes, ugly sets, power outages, even if the guy on the pin rail falls asleep and misses a fly cue, the blame will always be attributed to the director.
Back in Studio Production class, when asked for final project ideas, I suggested a comedy skit, one akin to SNL’s Weekend Update. Upon receiving the go-ahead from my professor, I embarked on an epic journey that took me from a vague idea reflecting a worst case scenario future, to a written script, to a story board, then to a full-class video production of my little five-minute skit.
While serving as Floor Manager during one of our weakly productions, I was asked by the director to tell the talent to wind up the Q & A session we were filming. Not knowing the correct hand signal for “wind it up,” or even that there are prescribed hand signals for just about any broadcast eventuality, I stood and gave the Talent the only signal I could think of—a slow draw of finger across throat. Fortunately, the Talent made the right choice, to wind up the interview with the appropriate “thank you for being here today” to his guest and a “see you next week” to his audience. This was a savvy and miraculous choice on the Talent’s part as I had given him the signal to cut the scene abruptly.
When I performed in bands, I remember standing on stage sputtering, “Check, check, check” into a microphone as if that would actually help the sound engineer set the appropriate volume level—as if my repeating that one word”check” in my relaxed speaking voice could possibly approximate the frequency variations of my vocalization in a soaring rock ballad.
Type the word “wipes” into a search engine and you will bring up a page full of cleaning products: everything from surface disinfection to disposable washcloths. There are gym wipes for sanitizing gym equipment, hospital wipes, baby wipes, make-up wipes and something called “dude wipes” that I did not investigate for fear of being deluged with ads promoting same.