When I go to the movies or a play, I find that I myself am a laugh leader. It don't laugh loudly, but I am the first person to laugh at a lot of things, and I get other people laughing. I'm not trying to go first. It's just that a lot of Americans — especially at high-art type movies and plays — are too polite or insecure about laughing.I think 2 things are going on here: permission and contagion. People need permission to laugh at things that they fear are too serious to laugh at. And laughter is contagious. Most of us have had the experience of laughing along with someone, even when we had no idea why the other person was laughing.
That's why they put laugh tracks on a lot of TV comedies - permission and contagion.
But sometimes laughter brings out anger from others - particularly when they sense that their values are being ridiculed. It's not always true to say "Laugh and the world laughs with you."
I remember a time when I went to see a performance of Mary Stuart, a play I admire. But it was being performed in a campy style.
The first half got some laughs
But not from me.
As for the second half,
I did not stay to see.