The Sun is attempting to drum up another Top Gear controversy, claiming that new host Chris Evans’ is embroiled in a scandal after producers inserted canned laughter to cover up “awkward silences from bored audience members.” The claims come after a few scenes in Series 23 Episode 1, where it was particularly obvious that recordings of people laughing had been dubbed over the top of the audio track when the 500-strong crowd failed to laugh at jokes by Evans an Matt LeBlanc.
One example of the fake laughter came when LeBlanc made a joke about Top Gear and Lawrence of Arabia, saying: “I don’t know about you but I often lie awake in bed thinking when they approach Top Gear to remake Lawrence of Arabia, which they will, which car are we going to replace the camel with?” Despite a large laughing sound effect, the 14 audience members standing behind LeBlanc remained straight faced.
During filming, Evans even had to plead with the crowd as they refused to laugh, telling them: “If you find things vaguely funny or you think they were supposed to be funny please laugh. Now audience members who attended the filming have slammed the production – after noticing that laughter tracks had been used to cover-up all the “awkward silences”. One guest in attendance said: “There were so many long, awkward silences. But when I watched the show back I just couldn’t believe how much laughter they had added in. The episode made it sound as though we were in fits of hysterics throughout the recording but that is far from the truth. After seeing Chris and Matt do hundreds of takes and spiel out horrendous jokes for four hours straight we were all bored out of our minds — not in stitches like they made it seem in Sunday’s show.”
But what you might not realise after reading that, is the addition of dubbed in laughter on Top Gear is actually nothing new. Back in 2006, Jeremy Clarkson penned an article on the making of Top Gear, where he gave an amusing overview of what it takes to throw an episode of Top Gear together. Below is a paragraph from the article which you might find interesting:
Currently, there are 190,000 people on the waiting list for tickets to see Top Gear. And with space for only 500 a week, it would take 19 years to accommodate them all. So we know it’s a big deal and have a tea break, so Richard, James and I can stand around having our pictures taken on people’s telephones. This baffles James a lot, partly because he doesn’t understand camera phones, but mostly because he can’t work out why anyone might want the picture of someone who’s spent most of the day having a crap. But I love Wednesdays and the buzz of a studio, standing there wondering why no one’s laughing at your jokes and speculating on how big the laugh will be when it’s dubbed on afterwards. – Jeremy Clarkson
So dubbed laughter has always been present in Top Gear – but the snakes at The Sun won’t tell you that. They’ll have you believe that it is all Chris Evans’ fault for being a crap presenter, and that Clarkson, Hammond and May never once fluffed their lines and always had the studio audience on the floor in fits of laughter during every single episode. Despite there being hundreds of scenes showing straight faced audience members standing behind the trio, apparently laughing.
So surprise surprise, the ‘canned laughter scandal’ isn’t actually a scandal at all.