THE BLOG
01/18/2012 02:34 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Excessive 'Clapping Along' and the 'Round of Applause'

I am finally coming out against the stage performer's abuse of the request for us, the audience, to "clap along." We don't want to clap along. I'm off, you're working, I paid for this ticket; you clap along. Clapping along should come from me being inspired enough in whatever you're doing to want to clap along.

But once I do give in to clapping along (usually out of public pressure), for how long do I have to clap along? The entire song? Until the performer stops clapping along? I feel uncomfortable stopping before the person next to me for fear of being judged that I am an unappreciative audience member. I am appreciative of the performance, just not the request and responsibility laid upon me to clap along. It's the equivalent of having to do the YMCA hand gestures so that the bar-mitzvah band leader doesn't feel alone and lame.

Asking me to clap along more than once in the show makes my hands hurt. Maybe I clap too hard. But what if one's clap doesn't make a lot of noise? Or any? Sometimes if my hands are too dry, I clap along and nothing comes out.

But when the performer can see me, I clap anyway... I panto-clap. This also goes for the request to give someone -- a guest musician, an assistant, an audience member -- a "round of applause." Rounds of applause are requested for the entrance, the exit, or an additional "good job" reinforcement, because "they can here ya backstage! Go ahead and give them another round of applause!" They can't hear us backstage. They're already in the dressing room, in the car or on the phone ripping someone to shreds.

Performers beat this to death generally because they are lazy, self-show directors and want to fill the transitional silence. Tell me who's coming to the stage. If I am excited about the surprise, I'll happily give a round of applause before they even do anything, as I am expected to do. If I am inspired by their performance, I will give a big one when they leave, to say thanks... unless I'm applauding because I am happy they are finished and leaving.

When I bring three audience members up on stage for one of my closing bits, I ask a little about them to make them feel comfortable, then I say to the audience, "Thank them for joining us for the big finish!" thereby getting into the bit. Yeah, it's the same thing, and I could get away with not doing it at all, but it feels different! It's like asking a child to kiss his grandma as opposed to telling him to. Only at the end, after a job well done, I ask for the round of applause for these unwilling participants as they exit, in place of giving them a parting gift like a free DVD that I sell in the gift shop or on my website.

There are other exceptions to this rule. It is one thing if you are sharing the stage with, let's say, the band. You are acknowledging other artists. But if you acknowledge the musician every time there's a solo in every other song, then no. I'm tired, and I would like a round of applause for my participation, too. For the record, nothing is worse than a performer asking us to give ourselves a round of applause. Now I have to applaud for you, the guest, and me? No. Go be a program director at a retirement village and lead a session of karaoke.

As for stopping the whole show to introduce the stage crew, stop doing this. The reason the lighting, sound, and stage techs work backstage in the dark is so they are not seen. They know the gig. They wear all black to blend in! It is their job to create a mood in your show that is natural and subliminal for our audience experience. You don't peel the covers back to reveal the bed bugs, and this isn't your high school production of Damn Yankees. I was a tech for many years. Just thank us privately with liquor, food, or cash and skip the round of applause.

Our next topic: when watching Saturday Night Live or any late night talk show monologue, at what point did we replace laughing after a joke with the pacifying gesture of woo-ing and clapping? If you are woo-ing and clapping, it's because you didn't think it was funny enough to laugh. Stop robbing the performer of his responsibility, no matter what the audience warm-up guy tells you!

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