The invention of laughter: Charley Douglass and the laff box

Charley Douglass was first guy who could make anyone laugh at the push of a button. The sound engineer invented the laff box and the laugh track technique, which was quickly adopted by television in the 1960s and named “sweetening.” The laff box was a typewriter-like machine that could produce a specific type and sequence of laughter needed for a particular situation. It operated like an organ, with Douglass using the keyboard to select the style, gender, and age of the laugh needed while using the foot pedal to control the length of the track.

Today we can see the inner mechanisms of the box, but at its birth, it was called “the most sought after but well-concealed box in the world,” as Kottke notes. No one but Douglass and his…

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