The Audience is part of the Show


What happens when an audience doesn’t laugh? Invite them back!

WHY do we have an audience in the television studio? The short answer is that we consider them as part of the show. Their laughter, applause and reaction is as important as the plot itself.

To emphasise my point let me tell you the story of a very ‘dull and undemonstrative’ audience I once had when producing an Arthur Askey comedy series.

For the first programme in the series we had a studio audience of about ninety people.

Productions Controller

Immediately the show was over, Arthur came to me, a very worried man. “Why did we get no atmosphere Bill?” he said. “I don’t know” I replied “the script was funny enough — let’s ask them.” So, although nearly all of the people were on their way out, a ‘phone call to the front door stopped them and brought them back to the studio. I talked to them and asked why they hadn’t laughed — didn’t they think the show was funny — why? They had liked the show well enough, they told me, but they were so intrigued with the way a television show went together, the movement of cameras and booms, sets being changed, artists taking up their positions in other parts of the studio to where action was taking place, ready for the next part of the show, that they had no time or thought to laugh because their mind was not fully on being an audience — as it were.

A typical Lunch Box ‘Open House’ audience.

I told them that we had been disappointed and that at home the viewer also might not have liked the show as well as he might if there had been more laughter, and they understood then how much we of the show needed our audience to be a part of that show, as necessary an ingredient as a camera or an artist or a writer — or dare I say it — a producer. So I struck a bargain with them, and asked if they would be our audience for the rest of the series, and come every week for the remaining five weeks — and they did — and a wonderful audience they were.

About this author

Bill Ward (1916-1999) was Productions Controller at ATV

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