90s sitcoms are littered with laugh tracks that punctuate forced humour. Listening to the live Friends (1994) audience regurgitate laughter feels like time-travelling on the bus of bad taste.

Genuine laughter releases the taut string of tension wrung by humour, like a comfortable dog exhaling at your feet. But when artificial laughter releases no tension, the laughter is nervous.

Recognising nervous laughter means you cringe, not giggle, when Sheldon's geeky conviction on Big Bang Theory is at odds with your internal compass. The laugh track pulls you aside at 4am like a Nigerian dealer on Long Street and hopefully enquires, "Why aren't you LOLing?" And in a sharp moment of angst you stifle the discomfort with forced laughter of your own.

Are laugh tracks life support for unfunny sitcoms, or do they actually suck the humor out of average scenes? Either way, uncomfortable silence is funnier than forced laughter.