Simpsons Alumni Update: Yeardley Smith

The voice of Lisa showed up in a recent episode of People Will Watch Anything (a/k/a The Big Bang Theory).  She was playing a clerk in an unemployment office of some kind.  If you want to get an idea of how it went down without actually subjecting yourself to the horror of watching it, Entertainment Weekly has you covered:

But did we really need the scene between Sheldon and Yeardley Smith (a.k.a. the voice of Lisa Simpson) in the employment office as he looked for a menial job to help goad his brain into decoding his problem? For one, it boiled down to yet another Sheldon-cluelessly-drives-someone-crazy scene, a trope that’s maintaining a rapidly diminishing half-life. For another, the best moment in the scene — Smith “checking” her computer to satisfy Sheldon’s desire for a job best described as Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Building Slave — had already been done much better in the “Computer Says No” sketch on BBC America’s Little Britain.

I realize that teevee is mostly just dumb entertainment and that a guy who habitually watches twenty year old cartoon episodes he’s seen dozens of times before has little to no right to criticize anyone else’s dumb entertainment.  But I refuse to cede ground to anything that has a laughtrack.  Laughtracks are to laughter what someone shooting a pistol at your feet is to dancing. 

Through a marvelous coincidence I recently came across a video of this exact program without its Pavlovian crutch.  Behold the brutal emptiness that is The Big Bang Theory Without a Laughtrack (via):

Anyway, I’m glad Smith was able to pick up a check.  Other than that I eagerly anticipate the demise of this show and its entire genre. 

3 Responses to “Simpsons Alumni Update: Yeardley Smith”

  1. 1 Cassidy
    4 February 2010 at 1:57 pm

    “But I refuse to cede ground to anything that has a laughtrack. Laughtracks are to laughter what someone shooting a pistol at your feet is to dancing. ”

    I think that may hold true for the majority of shows (especially current shows) but I’d still say that’s ridiculously unfair generalization. “Yes, [Prime] Minister” had a studio audience (‘laughtrack’) and it was one of the most nuanced, intelligent, and funniest comedies ever – on either side of the pond. Ditto Fawlty Towers, our own Newsradio, not to mention most successful sketch comedy series (KITH, SCTV, Monty Python, SNL, etc, etc, etc) Sometimes a particular brand of show works better with a studio audience, other times it’s more suited to a single-camera (or for animated shows, “virtual camera”) format.

    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      4 February 2010 at 2:44 pm

      I stand by my generalization but only because a studio audience is not the same thing as a laughtrack. When a joke dies on SNL, Kids in the Hall, or in one of the old Monty Python routines there’s silence. Or a smattering of laughs that’s almost as damning. The same is true of non-sketch shows that have a live audience. If a group of humans, no matter how well primed, find something funny I don’t really have a problem with it.

      A “laughtrack” is when the studio audience is either replaced or augmented by recorded laughter and that is something I cannot stand. They’re basically ordering you to laugh.

  2. 3 LeRoy G.
    10 February 2010 at 6:39 pm

    It’s unfortunate that pretty much every current sitcom has relied on the laughtrack. Fortunately, one of my favorite sitcoms (animated or not) besides The Simpsons, The Office, doesn’t rely on it, though that show’s in a bit of funk.

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