The truth about Home Improvement’s Tool Time audience

The show-within-a-show aspect of Home Improvement gave it the opportunity to use its studio audience in a way that few sitcoms ever had, but taping in front of an audience carries advantages beyond just prompting home viewers to laugh. Sitcoms that are taped this way almost always employ multiple tapings to get the best takes, and if a joke is falling flat or the audience otherwise responds unfavorably to something that’s scripted, it gives the writers and producers a chance to course-correct.

The advent of the laugh track meant that even single-camera shows that were obviously shot on sound stages could mimic the effect of an audience chortling along with the action onscreen, but, for the purposes of fine-tuning each episode and maintaining an authentic, stage play-like presentation, many sitcoms, even today, choose to shoot before a live studio audience. Recent hit shows like The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, and Mom have carried on this tradition, even though it would likely be logistically simpler (and cheaper) to simply plug in a laugh track.

Even Allen’s more recent, long-running series Last Man Standing, which has aired for eight seasons and counting on Fox, is taped before a live audience. As of this writing, large public gatherings are still limited due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the next time you happen to be in L.A., it’s usually pretty easy to get tickets to tapings by simply requesting them online. 

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