Imagine you're still at that same party with the same back-flipping snob. He's in the corner, drinking a PBR and V8, and you're chatting with a buddy you haven't seen since high school. The subject of television comes up, as it often does. "Arrested Development was great," you explain, "but I gotta admit, my favorite show of the past 10 years is How I Met Your Mother. Sure, not every episode was a home run, but when they were on, they were on. They weren't afraid to get real without actually ruining the comedy. And you know what? I actually liked the ending! Sue me!"
But the Snob! He's overheard you! He shoves the person he's talking to out of the way and plunges into your conversation like a snake into a box of mice. "How I Met Your Mother is fine, I suppose," he hisses, "but I just couldn't get over the laugh track. I just can't endure that the show thought I was so stupid that I needed them to tell me when a punchline happened. But it's fine that you liked it. Really. There's nothing wrong with that."
What to Tell Him
Laugh tracks are, and always have been, an effective (and valid) storytelling tool.
Laughter usually isn't a reaction to humor, but to companionship. Roughly 20 percent of laughter, or one in five chuckles, comes in response to something funny. The rest of the time, people are laughing just to put each other at ease. "Hey! Good to see you, hahaha!" or "Haha, yeah, I see your point about laughter." Some scientists even think that laughter precedes speech as a form of communication. Our hideous, monkey-like ancestors used to huddle in caves together, giggling maniacally at each other to feel more comfortable. That is the horrifying origin of human companionship.
So while it's true that many shows use laugh tracks in the place of jokes (The Big Bang Theory is an obvious example), a lot of other shows use laugh tracks because they're trying to make you feel like you're part of the show's community. Shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother are about a fun group of people who hang out and have adventures and care about each other. How I Met Your Mother is even shot from the perspective of someone who is hanging out at the bar with their buddies.