The Fish
for 6 July 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Suck Staff

Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff
Editor in Chief


[Tim Cavanaugh]
Tim Cavanaugh
Special Guest Editor


Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director


[the fixin' pixie... ]
Emily Hobson
Production Manager
& Rhythm Guitar


Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Ian Connelly]
Ian Connelly
Marketing Manager


[Brian Forsyth]
Brian Forsyth
Production Editor
& Pool Monitor


[Copy Edit]
Erica Gies
Merrill Gillaspy

Copy Editors

Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text

Carl Steadman
Carl Steadman


Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox
Executive Editor


Sean (Duuuuude) Welch
Sean Welch


Owen Thomas
Owen Thomas
Copy Editor


T. Jay Fowler
Production Manager
& Ass Kicker


[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
Erin Coull
Production Manager


Monte Goode
Monte Goode
Ghost in the Machine


Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

Canned Heat


I looked at your "Canned
Heat" in today's Suck and I
wanted to address some of the
points you made.

I found your notion that "the
mechanized and tittering
swells of an automated laugh
track ... should be
considered one of the few
remaining signs that
producers of TV shows still
give a crap about their
audiences" completely
reasonable. On the other
hand, have you considered the
possibility that the growing
number of non-laugh-
tracked shows indicates that
producers are attempting to
respond to other needs
of the viewing public?
There is a substantial
number of people who
gravitate to shows like
Sports Night and Ally McBeal
because they've decided they
can decide what they find
funny and they don't need a
laugh track to do it for
them. And some people enjoy
both approaches; ratings
posted toward the end of the
season seemed to indicate
that Sports Night had started
to build on the audience
for the show before it, the
laugh-track-driven Spin

You mention the alienating
effect of the absence of a
laugh track, but in my
experience, the presence of a
laugh track can be just as
disturbing. How many unfunny
sitcoms have you sat through
with stupid joke piled upon
stupid joke, while your
frustration grew at the
inverse proportion between
the lame humor and the
enthusiastic response of the
live/canned audience? For
every hopeless individual
saved from suicide by a laugh
track there's another driven
closer to it by the same
thing, alienated from the
canned audience by differing

Seinfeld would not have
survived without a laugh
track. It wouldn't have made
sense without it since at the
beginning of every episode,
the comic-audience rapport
set the stage for the
episode. On top of that,
you need that illusory
audience anchor when you're
making a comedy "about
nothing." On the other hand,
The Simpsons has lasted even
longer than Seinfeld,
entering distinctly crazier
territory with jokes that not
every audience member is
going to get. It has never
had a laugh track and doesn't
need one. It wouldn't work
with the cartoon format, and
anyway, the show functions on
enough levels (family comedy,
wicked satire, cultural
odyssey) to keep an audience

For some shows, the laugh
track enables the viewers to
feel part of a communal
audience. For others, the
absence of a laugh track
enables the viewers to become
emotionally involved with the
characters on screen. And I
imagine there are quite a few
people in rural counties,
watching Ally McBeal
and The Practice every
week, caught up in each show
even though their lives aren't
represented on screen.

Some shows are enhanced by a
laugh track. Others are
limited by it (Sports Night
used one for about half of
its first season, found it
jarred with the show's
comedic/dramatic agenda, and
dropped it — and the show
substantially improved).
There's plenty of room for
both kinds of shows (and
still other alternatives, as

It would be truly disastrous
if all media were as
conservative and
unadventurous as you seem to
wish television to be. For
example, if journalists were
only able to address topics
with a stiffly formalized
approach at the expense of
satire (or even simple
irreverence), it would
alienate a substantial
proportion of the news

And there sure as hell
wouldn't be a Suck.

Thank you for your attention.


David Robson

Your point about audiences is
well taken. But you
underestimate the dangers of
innovation. We Americans just
aren't ready for our own
decisions, as Gouverneur
Morris of New York wrote in
the 18th century: "The mob
begin to think and reason.
Poor reptiles! They bask in
the sun and ere noon they
will bite, depend upon it."
An inegalitarian attitude, to
be sure. But more so than
Ally McBeal? Still, we
believe the children are our
future, and perhaps they can
live up to the promise of
uncanned laughter. (That is,
as long as journalists aren't
constrained by a stiffly
formalized style — now
that would be a problem.)


Fish With Letter Icon


"What it makes you is
un-American, hostile to a
tradition that a half-century
of audiences have voted for
with both real and
manufactured applause."

Are you trying to be ironic
or satirical with that
statement about canned
laughter, or is one of the
Big Four (or the three
little) networks paying you a
nice little residual for your
obfuscating pile of shit?

Simply put, manufactured
applause, as you've put it,
also constitutes manufactured
consensus (no, I won't delve
into Chomsky land, but it
does draw interesting
parallels with other forms of
manufacturing consent).
Personally, I don't like
Sports Night either, but I
don't need to have the
silence broken to entice me
to laugh. Maybe you do.

Maybe it has to do with the
collective shortening of our
attention span — we can't
wait around to get the joke
so the canned laughter is our
cue. Very Pavlovian, I might

I'm sure you've got a clever
put-down/comeback to counter
my rant — after all, you
gotta keep the hits coming.

Very American, by the way.
And very wrong.

Nelson Tremblay
Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I gather from your letter
that you are Canadian. The
open-spirited mirth and
guileless character of your
people must make our canned
laughter seem like a very
foreign and exotic thing
indeed. I hope one day to use
my network residuals to visit
Canada's beautiful lakes and
mountains. Thanks for
writing. With fans like you,
we know we truly are
"manufacturing consent!"


Fish With Letter Icon

Just FYI:

A few years ago, here in the
UK, the BBC decided to rerun
a classic series of M.A.S.H.
Whenever the program was
shown in the UK it had always
been without canned laughter.
The BBC used to remove the
false laugh track before
broadcast and the British
public loved it (and knew no
different). Unfortunately,
due to the late arrival of a
tape, they allowed one
episode to run with the
canned laughter still intact.
This caused a huge uproar and
many complaining letters were
sent to the BBC saying how
they had ruined the program
and spoiled everyone's
enjoyment. They never did it

Maybe the people in the UK prefer
to think about the comedy and
make up their own minds
whether it is funny or not,
whereas the American audience
gets more enjoyment by
joining in with others and
creating a larger group
experience. Just a thought.

Neil King

Americans are herd creatures,
no doubt about it. But then
how can you compare us to a
country where the policemen
can't carry guns? I would not
react to a TV show in mute
loneliness any more than I
would respond to a crime in
progress armed only with a
billy club and a whistle. But
I still have my doubts about
Absolutely Fabulous or Dame
fans as paragons of
rugged individualism, whether
they take their jokes
sweetened or straight.


Fish With Letter Icon
Ten Years After: OJ Simpson,

"... so fire up those cable
modems, folks, and get in the

You put that in there for
laughs, right?

Matt Horgan

No, that was supposed to be
the poignant social
commentary part ...

St. Huck

Fish With Letter Icon

I'm just writing to say how
cool it is that you can
minimize the frame with the
banner ads ... just kidding.

Seriously, this illustration
and the rest of the comic
were the funniest fucking
things I've seen in ages. You
made my day.

18 June 1999

I would console you about the
hate mail you might expect to
receive, but I don't think
there's anyone but white
yuppies reading this stuff
anyway. ;)

Kelli Olson

Does that mean you're a white
yuppie? If the answer's yes,
then why are you hiding the

St. Huck

Fish With Letter Icon

How funny was that?


I'd say funnier than those
Adam Sandler movie trailers
but not as funny as those
promos for the Jukka Brothers

St. Huck

Fish With Letter Icon

Little Rag, Little Knob


After browsing your lively
little rag on company time, I
was struck by the number of
references to your neighbors
to the North. In addition to
outright attacks, you
actually manage to utilize
"Canadian" as a symbol of
everything that's gone wrong
in the world. After a
sufficient amount of reading,
the usage doesn't even seem
incongruous. It seems
perfectly natural.

But I felt that I should note
for you what might be causing
this friction with Canada.
Canada, you see, has a small
penis. The United States has
a massive, nuclear-powered,
armor-plated love shaft.
Britain has a respectable
enough tool, but absolutely
nobody wants to see it or be
reminded that it exists.
Canada, though, is
significantly under-endowed.
As a result of this, Canada
feels a need to draw
attention away from its
itty-bitty friend. This
results in raves about
Canada's superlative
educational system, universal
health care, clean streets,
and charmingly colloquial
vocabulary. Eh.

Regardless of whether or not
Canadians know more about
American history than
Americans do or how
invigorating a breath of
fresh Torontonian air may be,
the fact remains that there's
no pot of gold at the end of
the rainbow, if you know what
I mean. Ultimately, under
tribal law, Canada is the
bitch. Maybe it is the
biggest country in the world,
but it's still the bitch. All
of the progressive social
measures in the world will
not change the fact that, if
Canada went to prison, the
soap would be glued to the
shower floors.

What Canada needs to do is
get rid of its pussy-assed,
no-nukes policy, build up its
army, and plunge into a
conflict with little or no
regard for precedent,
history, or strategy. After
delivering a sound drubbing
to whichever dictator
deserves it, Canada will have
been given the international
relations equivalent of a
penis extension.

If peace between Canada and
the States is ever to exist, it
will come only when the Great
White North stops making a
beeline for the stall when
there are plenty of urinals

Liam Black

While we applaud anyone's
disregard for precedent,
history, or strategy, we'd
hate to be condescending and
ungrateful to a nation that's
solely responsible for making
our international penis look
huge by comparison.

Ask any well-endowed man, and
he'll tell you it's always
helpful to have lots of
little wienies in close

Little wienies,


Fish With Letter Icon


I am a college student who
will graduate from Syracuse
University in August. I am
considering starting an
online business, but I don't
know if my idea is good
enough to succeed. Since you
are experienced Internet
users, could you please
offer your thoughts on
my idea?

My idea is to open an online
store that allows people to
purchase personal items from
the privacy of their homes. I
would then ship the items to
the customers in discreet
packages and maintain strict

I think most folks would like
to purchase personal items in
private. By personal items I
mean [Ed: items not listed here
so that no one steals his
fabulous business plan]. I
have always been embarrassed
when purchasing some of these
items and I figure there have
to be many other folks that
feel the same way.

If you think this is a good
idea or you might use a Web
site like this, please reply
to this message. If you have
ANY suggestions, such as
what type of products I
should sell, please send me
the advice.

Thank you for your time.

Your idea is not good enough
to succeed. More important,
if you're stupid enough to
email us for business advice,
then you are not good enough
to succeed. Our advice? Give
up on success immediately.
You may hate us now, but
you'll thank us for this some

Happy trails!


Fish With Letter Icon

 The Shit
Left for Dead in Malaysia, Neil Hamburger, Drag City, 1999
The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, Mark Dery, Grove/Atlantic, 1999
Crazy from the Heat, David Lee Roth, Hyperion, 1998
Keep It Like a Secret, Built to Spill, WEA/Warner Brothers, 1999
Abbott's Pizza Company, near the corner of Abbott-Kinney and California, Venice Beach, Los Angeles (delivery hours limited)
Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd, CD remaster, EMI 1994
Motorhead, CD remasters, all
Det Som Engang Var, Burzum, Misanthropy, 1998
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, Nashville, Tennessee
A History of the Modern Fact, Mary Poovey, University of Chicago Press, 1998
V., Thomas Pynchon, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999
The Coffee Mill, Emeq Refaim, Jerusalem, Israel
The Salesman and Bernadette, Vic Chesnutt, Capricorn Records, 1998
Good Morning Spider, Sparklehorse, Cema/Capitol, 1999
Third Floor, Anderson Building, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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