I Love Lucy: CBS Reused the Show’s Laughter

Without a doubt, I Love Lucy was one of the most iconic early television shows. From Lucy’s red-headed shenanigans to Rick’s accent-filled temper, the CBS hit show defined a decade and quickly cemented itself as a piece of cinematic Americana. In fact, according to Nielsen, the series’ top episode, “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” even outperformed President Eisenhower’s swearing-in as president and Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.

I love Lucy wasn’t just popular, however, it was also groundbreaking for a number of reasons. It was the first time that an interracial marriage was shown on screen and featured one of the first instances of a real-life pregnancy being written into a television show (Mary Kay and Johnny may have done it first, but it’s hard to verify since most of that obscure series has been destroyed). But it was also the show that popularized the multi-camera method technique, which became -- and still is -- the industry standard for sitcoms.

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Another interesting fact about I Love Lucy was that it didn’t use a laugh track. At that time, it was standard practice for comedy television to use a separate laugh track and lay that over top of the audio from filming. I Love Lucy, however, was filmed in front of a live studio audience and had a microphone in place to pick up the audience’s real-time, natural laughter. Some people thought that the practice made filming unpredictable because audiences often laughed at the wrong time, but Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball insisted that it gave their show a more natural feel.

While the practice of using a laugh track has gone in and out of style over the years, I Love Lucy was clearly successful with its real-time laughter. In fact, it was so successful that CBS was rumored to have made laugh tracks from the show and reused them for years in some of its other television programs.

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In a 1983 interview on Letterman, Arnaz confirmed the rumors of CBS reusing I Love Lucy’s laughter. He said that while filming any television show, there are regulars in the members, and over time, he could identify certain people’s laughs as he was filming. For instance, he identified assistant Director Jim Paisley as being easy to recognize. However, according to Arnaz, Lucy’s mother, DeDe Ball, was at every filming, and her laugh was unmistakable.

Clearly, he and Lucille Ball were on to something when they used a live audience because America couldn’t -- and still can’t -- get enough of I Love Lucy. So, having heard those iconic laughs in other programs for years, Arnaz joked that I Love Lucy’s seemingly got the last laugh over CBS by helping lift its newer shows up by donating laughter.

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Blake Hawkins (395 Articles Published)

Blake Hawkins has written TV and movie features and recaps for CBR since March of 2021. He writes about everything from NCIS to Stranger Things to The Walking Dead and everything in between. Mostly, though, he most enjoys writing about Star Wars. In fact, as recent graduate of Greensboro College's honors program, Blake wrote his thesis on Star Wars and its religious connections. He now lives with his family in Lynchburg VA and is an avid outdoorsman. Feel free to contact him by email at [email protected], or find him on Facebook.

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