"What are you laughing at?"
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I welcome correction by a native Chinese speaker, but I think your sentence is possible.
That said, while "着" can certainly be used with "笑", often it's used in the context of something else happening at the same time.
And while it's true that "在" and "着" serve the similar function of denoting progressive action, and their usage does overlap, they're not perfectly interchangeable in all progressive-action contexts.
(You may also be aware that they can be used together, sandwiching the verb.)
When 笑 takes an object, it's a direct object so there's no need to translate "at". Here 在 means "to be currently (in the process of)", and not "at" as the latter is typically used.
Your suggestion doesn't work, though perhaps it could be interpreted as a weird way to say "What are you on top of while laughing?".
It's always directly in front of the verb when it means that the action is in progress.
When it's referring to a location, it's always part of a locative adverbial phrase, and precedes the location noun or noun phrase, e.g. "在中國". For most verbs, and all verb-object compounds (such as "睡觉") as far as I'm aware, the "在" phrase precedes the verb: "我在中国工作".
There are a limited number of verbs for which the "在" phrase can come after the verb as a sort of complement. I don't know of any such verbs that are composed of two characters or more.
These exceptions to the general rule are "坐", "放", "住", "站", "待", etc., which I call "verbs of positioning". However, this exception is subject to any modification of the verb's aspect, and thus you get "他住在中国" (simple indicative aspect) but "他在中国住过" (past aspect).
Actually, 在 is always BEFORE something. If it is in front of the verb, it means that the verb is in progress: "他们在看书。= They are reading right now."
If it is after the verb, then that is only by chance, because it is actually in front of something else: "他们住在北京。 = They live in Beijing."