Computational studies as well as in vivo and in vitro results have shown that many cortical neurons fire in a highly irregular manner and at low average firing rates. These patterns seem to persist even when highly rhythmic signals are recorded by local field potential electrodes or other methods that quantify the summed behavior of a local population. Models of the 30-80 Hz gamma rhythm in which network oscillations arise through ‘stochastic synchrony’ capture the variability observed in the spike output of single cells while preserving network-level organization. We extend upon these results by constructing model networks constrained by experimental measurements and using them to probe the effect of biophysical parameters on network-level activity. We find in simulations that gamma-frequency oscillations are enabled by a high level of incoherent synaptic conductance input, similar to the barrage of noisy synaptic input that cortical neurons have been shown to receive in vivo. This incoherent synaptic input increases the emergent network frequency by shortening the time scale of the membrane in excitatory neurons and by reducing the temporal separation between excitation and inhibition due to decreased spike latency in inhibitory neurons. These mechanisms are demonstrated in simulations and in vitro current-clamp and dynamic-clamp experiments. Simulation results further indicate that the membrane potential noise amplitude has a large impact on network frequency and that the balance between excitatory and inhibitory currents controls network stability and sensitivity to external inputs.