Watching the Flight Into Terror episode of Father Ted I was struck by the staggeringly high number of jokes that are met with not only laughter but enthusiastic applause from the studio audience. Applauding at a particularly clever joke isn't anything out of the ordinary, but watch the episode again and take note of just how often it happens. I counted four bursts of applause in the short end section alone.
I wonder why this episode, of all Ted episodes, got such a strong reaction from the audience. I admit I haven't watched all of the other episodes again for sake of comparison, but I'm nearly positive this one has the highest applause-to-joke ratio of them all.
I wonder if maybe it's the heightened sense of danger, which is not something that Ted dealt with often at all. While I doubt anyone in the audience really believed the priests would be killed, the fact that they are facing, for once, an immediate and serious threat might have heightened emotions to the point that the audience's response to levity is met with greater relief. And you do have to admit that the show manages to keep the tension pretty high without having to spare the gags.
I'm always interested in spontaneous applauding, whether in television or live music, because there's a definite mentality of collective-appreciation behind it, and it's something I'd quite like to see explored.