'Seinfeld Used Real Laughs and Canned Laughs — Was it Filmed in Front of a Live Audience?

“One of the fun things of a sitcom is feeling like you're in an audience even though you're home, watching it by yourself.”

Brandon Charles - Author

Mar. 1 2024, Published 2:25 p.m. ET

Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David on the 'Seinfeld' set during the taping of the last episodes 1998
Source: Getty Images

If you watched Seinfeld in its initial NBC run or binged it along with most of the world over the last few years, you may have noticed some laughs seem real and some laughs seem canned. Both are true.

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One of the most successful sitcoms of all time, Seinfeld was and is one of the best examples of a three-camera sitcom. But was it filmed like most three-camera sitcoms? Was Seinfeld filmed in front of a live audience?

Jerry and Kramer in the "The Chicken Roaster" episode of 'Seinfeld.'
Source: NBC
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Comedy is best in front of an audience.

In a Reddit AMA in 2014, Jerry was asked, “How do you feel about laugh tracks on sitcoms?” The answer explains why some laughs sound genuine and some laughs sound like laughtracks.

“This was something we struggled with quite often on Seinfeld,” Jerry wrote. “Because we had real laughs on the scenes that were shot in front of an audience, but then we would shoot other scenes that were not in front of the audience (which didn't have any laughs) and then it felt like a bit of a mismatch, so we tried to compromise and put in a subtle laugh track.”

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Source: YouTube

So yes and no. Most of Seinfeld was filmed in front of a live audience at CBS Studio Center in Studio City. “I think that one of the fun things of a sitcom is feeling like you're in an audience even though you're home, watching it by yourself,” Jerry continued. “I have to say I like some sitcoms with them and some without. Depends on the show.”

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One commenter added on to Jerry’s answer with, “My all time favorite is in the puffy shirt episode when you can hear a woman in the audience shriek out "OH MY GOD!"

Jerry, ever the astute observer of comedy, responded with, “That's funny.”

In 2020 Esquire ran a slideshow of behind-the-scenes Seinfeld photos, one of which is a shot of Jerry warming up the studio audience before a taping.

Source: YouTube
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You can literally see the audience in the first scene of the first episode of ‘Seinfeld’

While a laugh track was occasionally employed, you see an audience in the first scene of the first episode of Seinfeld and you can hear an audience in the first act of almost every episode in the first 7 seasons. Seinfeld famously opened and closed with Jerry performing standup in front of an audience. According to ScreenRant, Jerry stopped performing standup on the show once Larry David stepped away. Jerry needed the time previously devoted to the material on the stage to material on the page.

Wondering why Jerry performed standup in the final episode? Larry David had returned to close out the show, giving Jerry enough time to write material to perform in jail. The jail in the TV show, not real life.

You can stream every episode of ‘Seinfeld’ on Netflix.

Though off the air for more than 25 years, Seinfeld remains one of the most popular shows to stream on Netflix. All nine seasons of the NBC sitcom are available. According to the December 2023 What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report, Season 6 is the most popular (the season with “The Race”), closely followed by Season 4 (the season with “The Contest”).

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