Editing Recording of Comedy Performance - Audience Sound


I’m new to both this forum and Audacity so apologies for any staggering ignorance.

I have a video recording of a comedy performance where the sound was recorded straight from the mixing desk and there was no mic on the audience so the impression given on the video is that each joke appears to fall flat because you can hardly hear the audience. I’ve converted the file to MP3 and imported to Audacity. I’ve spent all day watching tutorials and I’m making some minor progress with amplifying what laughter is audible but the results so far have been poor. The laughter can now be heard but it jars and there’s lots of background noise etc.

I guess my questions are: is there a tool/process that’s more suitable for this than amplifying? Does this sound like it’s a waste of time if the original recording didn’t mic the audience?

If anyone could point me in the right direction I’d be very grateful!

I’m on Windows Vista HP, v 2.0.5 of Audacity.

Thank you!

You should be Googling for audience sounds that have nothing to do with the show and editing them in yourself.

Some of the early TV sitcoms used a laugh machine and it was a subject of some derision as comedians got their own laugh machine and put the laughter in at the wrong times.

You have precisely the opposite problem that people have when they try to record a show and need to remove the audience. Neither of your jobs can be done – you can’t take apart a mixed show – but at least in your case, it is fixable in post production [low giggle]. A lot of post [moderate laughter].

Koz [uproarious laugher, whistles, followed by applause]

Thanks for your reply. Please forgive my ignorance here, are you suggesting that I add a separate laughter track to the minimal laughs that are on the recording?

As a side issue, I’ve just had a thought that there are a couple of occasions where the audience’s laughter can be heard - I wonder if it’s viable to cut these and paste them accordingly throughout?

Could you upload a short sample?
Converting the sound was a bad idea because it adds artefacts. You should import the original audio (perhaps with the Fmpeg library installed) if this is possible.

Thanks for your reply. I have attached a sample, where the laugh from the audience on the night was a big one! And if I up the gain on Audacity it seems to reflect this but I can’t seem to work out a consistent way of achieving it throughout the piece (I haven’t upped the gain on the attached sample so the full issue can be heard).

In regard to the conversion issue, I have a DVD recording of the show so picked mp3 at random really for the audio. if you could recommend a better way of doing it I’d be grateful

The sound on an Audio CD is “WAV” [high] quality, so you were decreasing the quality by converting it to MP3.

As you found, increasing the volume of the performance during the quiet laughter portions also brings up noise and can create other production (fading, switching) problems.

And yes. Find an on-line laughter collection and sprinkle that around in place of the existing audience. If you’re clever at it, nobody will ever know. As a listener, you don’t know what the audience is going to sound like until the first laugh. That first laugh is the place to set expectations.

Nobody “wastes” a good quality microphone on the audience, so they always sounds a little strange. In your case, they didn’t waste anything on the audience.

One of the items on my To Do list is go down to the train station and get background for an announcing job. Similar problem. The backgound/interstitials and the announce job are weeks apart.


That’s probably just rescuable, but you’re going to get serious noise breathing problems. Up, down, up down…


Thanks Koz.

I’m trepidatious about adding more to the track because I’ll have to re-synch the audio with the video so I don’t want to mess with the running-time too much. As you may have gathered, my tech skills are pretty apalling!

If I re-import into Audacity as a WAV file do you think I would be more successful?

Apologies for the idiot questions.

We’ll tell you when you’re being crazy. We’re not bashful. If you post enough new messages without trying to sell us “Male Enhancing Drugs” or “Kitchen Cabinets”, the message moderation will go away.

You don’t have to cut out the old laughter; it’s already low. Just add new on top. You can put the new laughter on a new track underneath the show and use the envelope tool to fade in and out. No, don’t try to cut up the performance. You’ll never get the timing right.

You may still not. The Audacity export show will be associated with the digital timing in your computer, not the original camera. Pay attention to the lip sync near the end of the show to make sure everything is OK.

Nowhere did I say this was going to be easy. We Have People who do this in Hollywood.


Ha! True! Thanks. What about reimporting as WAV, worth trying?

Thanks again for the reply - and this might be the most idiotic question of them all - but if I was to add a laughter track over the existing laughter, how would I approach trying to do that?!

how would I approach trying to do that?!


Every time you import a new sound, Audacity places it on it own new track one above the other and unless you tell it otherwise, it will try to play all of them at the same time.

There are two very handy tools: Time Shift Tool and Envelope Tool.

Time Shift Tool (two sideways black arrows) allows you to click on a sound and move it sooner or later in time (push sideways).

The Envelope Tool (two white arrows and bent blue line) produces “fader lines” above and below the track. These lines are rubber bands. You can click and push up and down and that will cause the volume to go up and down.

It’s probably good to know about the zoom tools so you don’t have to view an hour show when what you really want to do is deal with a tiny four second laugh. Control-E zooms into whatever you drag-select. Control-3 zooms out a little bit and Control-F zooms out to the full show. I do almost everything in those three zoomers.


So. Import your laugh track underneath the show and shove it later in time so it roughly lines up with the place it’s needed. Then use the envelope tool to fade it in and out on cue. Repeat until your fingers bleed.

You can totally make your own laugh track with rescued snippets and fragments of laugh from the show if in your position as producer you think that would work. I’m just sayin’ you may not have enough and it may sound repetitive.


If it was a conversation with one person quiet then yes there would be noticeable “breathing” when the noise-floor was raised when the quiet voice was selectively amplified by dynamic-range-compression.

However as the quiet party here is the audience whose response is laughter which occupies a broad band of the audio spectrum, then the “breathing” won’t be so noticeable in that context : the broadband “breathing” noise will be difficult to spot in a continuous broadband “ha-ha” signal when a large audience responds with collectively unbroken laughter.

i.e. give compression a go before attempting many time-consuming laughter-transplants, ( Use Chris’s Compressor plugin rather than Audacity’s native compressor which will be too slow to respond in this case ).