Carroll Pratt, a Primetime Emmy-winning sound mixer who was at the forefront of the development of the laugh track, died November 11, 2010, in Santa Rosa, California. He was 89.
According to news reports, Pratt died of natural causes.
Pratt shared six primetime Emmys for 1985’s Motown Returns to the Apollo, 1987 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and the 1989 Grammy Awards.
The son of a sound engineer, Pratt worked as re-recording mixer at MGM. During World War II served in the Air Force and was captured as a prisoner of war in Germany. After about two years of captivity he escaped.
After the war he returned to MGM. During the 1950s he joined forces with Charley Douglass, the creator of the Laff Box, and assisted with the looping of laugh tracks on sitcoms. The business eventually expanded to other human sounds.
As the laugh track increased in popularity among television producers, the business expanded. In the 1970s Pratt and his brother John set up their own company, Sound One. They worked on such sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which included the longest laugh he recorded, and Married … with Children.
In addition, he was a founder and past president of the Cinema Audio Society.
John Pratt died earlier this year. Carroll Prat’s survivors include his wife, a son, a daughter, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
On June 12, 2003, Carroll Pratt had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the two-and-a-half hour interview, conducted in Philo, California by the director of the Archive, Karen Herman, Pratt talked about his start in feature films at MGM in the sound department where his father worked.
He spoke in great detail about the audience reaction (laugh) machine created by engineer Charley Douglass, for whom Pratt worked for after leaving MGM. Pratt described the device and the types of responses that the machine was capable of creating, from whistles to belly laughs.
Pratt went on to describe the updated version of the laugh machine, which he created with his brother, John, in the 1970s, when he split from Douglass and started his own company, Sound One.
Pratt also talked about providing laugh tracks for numerous television series throughout the years (including the longest laugh he ever recorded, for The Mary Tyler Moore Show), until his retirement from Sound One in the mid-1990s.
The entire interview is available online here.