Friends or Modern Family, which comedy genre do you like?

Published: March 24, 2015

lately with the advent of amazing shows like Modern Family and 30 Rock, the monopoly of live audience sitcoms has been damaged. PHOTOs: IMDB

Before I start, let me first explain the two genres of comedy shows.

There is the single-camera setup, which has no ‘laugh track’, similar to a regularly shot TV drama. And then there is the multi-camera setup, which is shot in front of a live audience and does have a ‘laugh track’, often contributed by the audience in front of whom it is filmed.

However, as times are changing, more and more networks are shifting to extravagant yet easier ways of shooting comedies. And who can blame them? After all, when you have to shoot in front of an audience, you risk a lot. The cost and time needed to continuously reorganise the set as per the script-demands, with the added issue of the joke not being ‘funny’ enough for an audience, could damage the morale of the producers and actors.

Actor William Shatner aka Captain Kirk, complained about not getting adequate responses from the audience continuously on his show $#*! My Dad Says. The producers used to run up to him all the time to work on the joke again until the audience finally laughed. Imagine Captain Kirk having trouble pleasing his audience!

Also, with the advent of amazing shows like Modern Family and 30 Rock, the monopoly of live audience sitcoms has been damaged. The monopoly that started in the late 1980s and remained till the early 2000s, thanks to shows like Seinfeld and Friends, is now somewhat suffering.

Here are the awards shared between your single-camera setup comedies (without a laugh track) versus multi-camera setup comedies (with a laugh track) between the years 2000 and 2014.  I have taken data from the two awards that matter most in television: the Golden Globes and the Emmys.

*LT stands for ‘laugh track’ or multi-camera setup shows. No LT means ‘no laugh track’ or single-camera setups. **GLEE is not necessarily a comedy but the award category says musicals and comedy.

The single-camera setup shows have enjoyed their overwhelming success. In fact, when it comes to the Golden Globes, the multi-camera setup genre has not won a single award.

But is it fair to judge a show based on just a couple of awards?

No. Not at all.

In fact, I for one enjoy the laugh-track loaded sitcoms a lot more. The way the audience changes its expressions and laughs at a good joke is always enjoyable. But the multi-camera setup still packs a punch with its – albeit few – good sitcoms.

So what should you go for?

Well, it depends. If you want to enjoy great acting combined with amazing locations and a great cast, then the single-camera setup without a laugh track is the thing for you. Shows like VeepEpisodesBrooklyn Nine-Nine and of course, the king of comedy lately, Modern Family, will definitely fulfil your appetite.

However, if you have had a dull day and want to laugh like anything (because jokes of multi-camera are funnier) or are short of time, a multi-camera setup with a laugh track is the thing for you. My preference of such shows would be The Big Bang TheoryTwo and a Half MenMelissa and Joey and please, if you haven’t watched it already, you have to watch Friends before all of these shows to really get a taste of a multi-camera show with a laugh track.

Adnan Anwar

Adnan Anwar

An ACCA student studying at SKANS School of Accountancy, Lahore. He is a TV show enthusiast and plan on making a live audience sitcom in Pakistan. He tweets @adnan_anwar1 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khalid

    Obviously laugh track for me, too many memorable shows were made on that format; Seinfeld, FRIENDS, That 70s Show, Two and A Half Men, HIMYM. However shows can still be funny without a laugh track; The Office and Arrested Development are prine examples of this. But definitely laugh track, the other format is usually suited to dry humor rather than LOL funny.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    without laugh track, you should watch blackadder and the like. With laugh track, you can watch almost everything elseRecommend

  • Hala Syed

    i hate laugh tracks on shows, they are so distracting. plus i enjoy comedy in context more than random jokes. so a sitcom with a story actually feels more funny to meRecommend

  • citizen

    Modern family all the way !Recommend

  • islooboy

    My fav two and a half menRecommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    I really couldn’t care less how many awards a comedy wins. All I care is if I find it funny or not.

    ….and I’d rather stick my genitals in a blender than watch Friends.Recommend

  • Nzaar

    Question; what does number of cameras have to do with the show having (or not having) a laugh track?Recommend

  • boco

    Parks and Recreation all the way! Miss Pawnee!Recommend

  • Adnan Anwar

    In a single-camera environment the cameras are portable. Each scene is shot from different points by ONE camera. For example if there is a scene of two people sitting and talking it would be shot at least three times from three different angles by ONE camera only. First by taking entire scene in picture, then by closing in on PERSON A only and then by taking close up of PERSON B. Later as per requirement the three shots would be merged depending on how production team wants the scene to look like.

    In a multiple-camera setup, many cameras are installed. In context of above mentioned example there would be at least THREE cameras set. One would focus on entire scene. One would be a close up of PERSON A another focusing only on PERSON B. This way time is saved and scene is captured in one complete shot.

    Now because scene is being shot only once in multiple-camera setup the audience can be added here. Thus contributing to the laugh track that is needed. Thus, you will find multiple-camera setup comedies having a LAUGH TRACK. As single-cameras are shot many times requiring more time and effort the audience is unavailable thus no LAUGH TRACK. I mean it would be awkward shooting the same scene THREE to sometimes FIVE times in front of the same audience.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    That can be………arranged. I hope you are not partial to one specific brand of blender. Will the Tom Dickson do?Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    I’d even go for the fake ‘Moulimex’ blenders that work for 30 seconds and then burst into flames.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius


  • Crystal Angel

    Nice Post Adnan! You have explain two genre of comedy in a good way. i like both whenever i miss any program which i like most then come to for all latest episodes of comedy shows like comedy nights with kapil, hasb e haal, hum sub umeed se hain and many others. you can also watch all these programs in your leisure time online at same site for free of cost.Recommend