Pet Please #89: When a Standing Ovation Is Defeated

Perhaps I’m cynical, but I think 90% of all standing ovations are uncalled for.

standingovationYour percentage might be different, but I’m sure you’ve encountered a scenario when the guy in front of you jolts out of his seat at the end of a performance and starts clapping way too loud. You look around at the other people in the room to see if other people are joining in.

Soon there’s a critical mass of people participating in the standing ovation and you don’t want to be the jerk who stays in his seat. So you begrudgingly drag yourself out of the seat and clap along with everyone else, but you don’t really mean it. You really just want to sit back down and try to pry the last clod of Milk Duds off the bottom of the box.

That’s 90% of standing ovations for me.

However, every now and then that annoying dude tries to start the standing ovation, but no one else joins in. It’s glorious.

That’s what happened the other day at the Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me live show. After the interview with the guest of honor–which was charming and funny, but in no way standing-ovation worthy–the guy directly in front of me jumped out of his seat and started clapping. His wife stood up in sync with him. I bet this is their thing, to go around to live shows and be the first to stand up for the ovation. They probably get frisky in the car afterwards.

As they clapped, I looked around the room, hoping that no one else would join in. And miraculously, only one or two other people did. Not nearly enough to get the momentum necessary for the whole room to stand up. It was amazing. I almost gave a standing ovation to the fact that I wasn’t socially obligated to give a standing ovation.

It was a great show, but that made my night.

Have you ever experienced this? Or are you the person who races to be the first to his/her feet?


13 Responses to “Pet Please #89: When a Standing Ovation Is Defeated”

  1. Jeff says:

    The worst is when the president (any president, not just the current one) speaks in front of congress. The audience stands up and claps for EVERYTHING. Drives me crazy.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Very true. And you can tell by looking at the audience that most of them aren’t happy about it either.

      • Jeff says:

        Maybe we’d like them better if they were done at socially inappropriate times, like during class when the teacher announces something expected or at a mandatory work meetings. The key is, whoever tried to start it needs to commit.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          That’s awesome, Jeff. I would absolutely like standing ovations at socially inappropriate times. Like after I make a decision about salad dressing at the grocery store.

  2. Katy says:

    To a certain extent, I agree that standing ovations sometimes seem underserved, and loathe standing and applauding a poor performance simply because I’ll seem like a jerk for not doing so. In the past I’ve always followed along with the masses at standing for live performances, but will revolt by either not really clapping, or by attempting my best slow clap if I didn’t enjoy the performance (petty I know, but it makes me feel just a but better).

    Equally annoying is when people give standing ovations at the movies. I understand that clapping because you enjoyed the movie is a thing, but when half the theater stands up and claps (for minutes that seem like an eternity), it just makes me wonder why, since no one from the film is present at the time. It’d be different if it were a screening with cast or crew, but at a St. Louis theater on a Saturday afternoon I doubt any big names are going to be around to enjoy the applause and ovation….

  3. Teddy says:

    Standing ovations are an addiction. One of my friends constantly does it and says it gives her a rush, even if she was sleeping during the entire lecture. *sighs*

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I echo your “sigh,” Teddy. Perhaps standing ovations are more about the individual instead of the people they’re applauding.

  4. rupertfuller says:

    I agree that sometimes they are uncalled for, however I always think the best of people and maybe something that was said or done or played (rather than the overall performance) touched the people who stand up and clap – does it matter if it starts a general ovation – maybe it was a song from when they met, or favourite music of a lost child, or rememberance of a grandparent. It’s hard to resist peer pressure – but if you weren’t touched or didn’t think the performance was outstanding – then don’t stand – but don’t hold a grudge either.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Rupert–That’s certainly a fair point. And really, I don’t hold any bad feelings against someone who tries to start a standing ovation. But I will smile when it doesn’t catch on. πŸ™‚

  5. Jamey Stegmaier says:

    Katy: I definitely appreciate the slow clap method. πŸ™‚

    Yeah, I can’t say that I would ever give a standing ovation to a movie if it’s a normal screening. You’re just clapping at a screen. It’s different if the cast or crew are there, but that’s very rare.

  6. Bob says:

    I think part of what’s key to this phenomenon is that the standing ovation tipping point is very low, maybe 20-30%. That is, If at least 20-30% of an audience decides to give a standing ovation, then you look like a grouch if you’re among the rest who doesn’t give one, so those remaining 70-80% go along with the rest and give a standing O.

    One way to look like you’re going along with the standing ovation but really not be is to perform a “stand up and clap.” How is this different than a standing ovation? Well, when a performance ends, in order to leave I must first stand up from my chair. And I would also like to clap for the performance. If I coincidentally do them both at the same time — ooops, that kinda looks like a standing O. But it’s not, trust me, it’s a stand and clap.

    Finally, we are not alone here:
    http://www.tbd.com/articles/2010/08/are-standing-ovations-becoming-meaningless–2778_page2.html
    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/columnist/finalword/2004-01-27-final-word_x.htm
    http://www.chron.com/entertainment/article/Enough-with-the-standing-ovations-already-1928803.php

    So I offer a corresponding pet please: When I get to give a standing ovation that I’m really into (and it seems like the performers can tell). Maybe we should start a new trend that indicates when a performance really did wow you, like waving our arms over our head while we’re standing? Sure, that, too, would become devalued in time, but those would be a glorious few years before everybody waved their arms at the end of an average Hanson concert.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks Bob! This was a really interesting comment. I do appreciate the stand-up and clap. The situation I encountered for this post, though, was in the middle of the performance…not the best time to leave. πŸ™‚

      I like the corresponding pet please too.

      In Japan–at least when I was there–audiences rarely clapped at all. For some reason they showed their appreciation with silence, not noise. I’ve heard that it’s confused some musicians who are used to the verbal cue for an encore.

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