Friends was an incredibly popular show when it aired and its popularity has continued with there even being a bidding war over who would be able to stream it! Of course no show will ever be a favorite with everyone and there are many people who claim that not only is Friends not a good show but that they added all of the laughs in to make it more funny than the dialog actually was.
Was the 1994 sit-com, Friends truly shot in front of a live audience? A lot of us are used to hearing laugh tracks being used on sit-coms, and many people do not expect Friends to be any different. But is that really the case with Friends? If you're one of those wondering about that, here is your answer.
Friends took a long while to shoot every season, and each episode typically took up to 6 hours of filming. This included many takes for single scenes and 20 minutes to change the set between each scene. In spite of all of that, this show was still filmed before a live audience that had up to 300 fans who, obviously, were willing to sit through it all and watch the behind the scenes filming of the show. These fans are who you hear laughing on the show and it is not a recorded laugh track or anything like that. So, yes, Friends is done in front of a live audience.
However, not every single episode of the show was filmed in front of a live audience. The Cliffhanger with Ross's Wedding, which was on the finale of season 4, was shot without a live audience. The final episodes of each season were generally shot without the live audience to prevent the entire plot for the finale from getting leaked.
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Why did Friends use a live audience?
The creators of the sit-com chose to film it in front of a live audience because they considered it the best way to get immediate feedback. For them, it was a way to know if the material was truly funny and worked for a real audience. Hearing the audience laugh at every funny scene was a way to make sure that the story actually does resonate with potential viewers. This could have also meant that the viewers in the audience would be excited enough to laugh and not be bored with the dialog.
Filming in front of a live audience was a way of getting immediate feedback on how good or not the show was. If the reaction of the live audience was positive and fit the mood that the scene was going for, then the reaction of TV viewers would likely be the same.
Was the laughter on the Friends sit-com recorded?
Most of the laughter you hear on the Friends show is actually real. One of the reasons it was filmed in front of a live audience was to help get real reactions from real people. A larger percentage of the show has laughter from real people and not recorded laughter. Only the cliffhanger scenes and the final episodes which were not shot in front of a live audience have track laughter included on them.
How was the live audience involved in the show?
Watching the show, you can actually hear the laughter of the audience. And the laughter you hear is actually real, not some recorded and replayed laughter. You can tell that the laughter is real because it actually lasts and isn’t the same over and over again. When a scene is funny, the laughter lasts a bit longer compared to when the scene is not as funny. Hearing the audience laugh can easily pass for a cue for the viewers to laugh too so some people assume that the laughter is fake when in fact it is not.
Also, when Monica's and Chandler's bedroom scene was being filmed, the audience screamed so loud they had to stop filming and calm the audience down before starting again.
What it was like to be in the live audience of Friends?
It is certain that being a member of the live audience of Friends was a fascinating experience. All the members of the audience for each filming session of about 300 fans were given free gifts. They were also given free food if filming took very long and ran late. Each episode took about 6 hours to film so some food was definitely a necessity. Even though cliffhangers and semi-nude scenes weren't shot in front of the live audience, the audience was a very large part of the show and its success.
What Friends fan wouldn't have loved to be a part of the filming of such a popular show like this one? There's no way they weren't having the time of their lives.
Something you probably didn't know about the live audience on Friends
Did you know that Coca-Cola flew in all the winners of a Diet Coke contest to make up the entire audience for one episode? Well, they did! Everyone in the audience for one of Friends episodes was a winner of a Diet Coke contest. But, Joey had a dislocated shoulder and so they weren’t able to film as planned. As a result, Coca-Cola flew them all back home and flew them back in at another time so that they could watch the filming.
Why was the live audience prevented from being a part of some episodes in Friends?
The live audience on Friends was there for the majority of the show’s filming. However, the cliffhangers and final episodes of the show were not shot in front of the live audience. The reason is obvious; the makers of the show didn't want to spoil it for the fans as well as risk the plot being leaked. For obvious reasons, semi-nude scenes were also not filmed in front of an audience.
Getting the live audience for Friends
All shows that have live audiences follow pretty much the same process. There are actually companies that handle ticket requests. They distribute tickets to individuals who want to be members of the live audience of a show. Typically, people who want to be members of the live audience can sell themselves to the company distributing the tickets as a way to get a spot in the show's audience.
These individuals who would potentially be members of the audience need to show enthusiasm for the show as well as be outgoing and willing to participate. Just like all of the shows that choose to have live audiences, the live audience for Friends was found by distributing tickets to the many fans waiting for them.
How the live audience reacted to Friends?
Not surprisingly, the live audience reacted quite positively to the sit-com. Friends was quite hilarious as well as an emotional show presented to an enthusiastic audience. The audience's reaction was a pure reflection of how they felt about the show. Laughter emanated from the crowd when the funny scenes took place. The members of the audience expressed deep emotions when the romantic scenes came as well. If you pay attention to all of the sounds made not even including the laughter it is obvious that the people in the audience were quite involved not only with the show but also the characters and the plot lines throughout.
Yes, Friends was actually filmed in front of a real audience and most of the laughter or other sounds you hear from the audience are 100% real. The only time when fake sounds were used was during intimate scenes or scenes or episodes with plot twists, cliffhangers, or season finales.
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