Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sound Engineer Carroll Pratt Passes On

Carroll Pratt, an Emmy winning sound engineer who helped develop the laugh track, passed on November 14, 2010 at the age of 89.

Carroll Pratt was born on April 19, 1921 in Hollywood. His father was a sound engineer in radio and film. He graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1939 and joined his father at MGM in 1939. He attended Santa Monica College. In 1942 he joined the Army Air Forces. He served aboard a B-24 bomber, which was shot down. He was a prisoner of war in a German prison camp before escaping two years later.

Following World War II he returned to MGM. It was while he was a sound mixer there in the early Fifties that Charles Roland Douglass approached him with an offer to work on the Laff Box, a series of audiotape loops containing recorded laughter--essentially the first laugh track. The two were eventually joined by Mr. Pratt's brother John. Eventually the Pratts would strike out on their own and found their own laugh track business.

From 1957 to 1958 Carroll Pratt worked on sound for the TV series Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. He would later work on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Over the years he would work on many television specials, including Sheena Easton...Act One, Bill Cosby Himself, Winter Carnival in Quebec, Penn and Teller Go Public, Motown Returns to the Apollo, The Smother's Brothers Comedy Hour 20th Reunion, Dolly. Great Performances, The Magic of David Copperfield, The Kennedy Centre Honours, several Grammy Awards ceremonies, and The Glenn Miller Band Reunion. He also worked  on the TV series Head of the Class and Married With Children.

While many might view the laugh track as a dubious achievement, it has become ubiquitous on television. Besides, Carroll Pratt achieved much beyond helping develop the laugh track. He was a skilled sound engineer who won six Emmy Awards and was nominated for another five. Few sound engineers can boast such a record.

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