The rhetorical function of laugh tracks in situation comedies: examining queer shame in Will & Grace and Roseanne
I examine laugh track use in two highly popular television programs, Will & Grace and Roseanne, to consider how the construction of what is or is not supposed to be funny has rhetorical implications for queer identities and relationships. These texts were selected not only for their abundance of queer characters—Will & Grace focused on a gay man/straight woman best friend relationship and Roseanne featured at least one queer character each year beginning with the third season—but also because of their immense popularity. I argue that these two programs constitute what I call enduring popular culture texts, popular entertainment that continues to have social relevance throughout time as it weaves itself into a variety of cultures and becomes constitutive of social understanding. As the case studies presented here illustrate, the way enduring texts are immersed in culture might be misleading and even damaging.