The Joan Rivers Clap
Joan and I talked many times about her signature, seal-like, long-armed clap when she entered or exited the stage.
As you may have read in my very first Huffington Post piece, I hate hate hate when performers tell the audience to give themselves a round of applause. It’s ludicrous, theatrically and directorial weak and just cheesy.
But Joan’s entrance clap wasn’t to cue them to clap. It wasn’t to get the crowd going. It was two-fold.
Many comics will accept the rejection whole heartedly but not the accolade. Which is why many performers bow and exit quickly after a set. Joan’s physicality of clapping to the audience was emotional deflection to get the very uncomfortable moment of having to accept the acknowledgment without being dismissive or unappreciative. Somewhere inside we think aren’t fully deserving of it. Especially since she hadn’t done anything yet and you never know how the show is going to turn out!
But the clapping to the crowd was also welcoming them, acknowledging that they showed up and that they have entered into an agreement and partnership of this evening’s mutual experience.
The extended arms clap at the end of her performance was something else. It was an acknowledgment of the audiences listening skills, intellectual consideration, non-judgmental willingness to go with it.
Her focus and fear was getting through an hour and ten minutes using a grain of salt and a lot of eye winking without falling off the trapeze wire. And so the outreaching clap was her finish line, release of the pressure valve for not having anyone walk out or boo or God forbid respond with silence.
She was thanking you for upholding your end of the audience agreement to be “all in” with her. But just so you know, she wasn’t begging or needy. She was the professor. The clap was giving you a passing grade for your work.
Like Johnny calling you to the couch, Joan gave the long-armed clap as the proud stamp of approval to you, if not as a smart, savvy person then at least one that likes to laugh and can leave their baggage at the door while she does the heavy lifting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Philly native, Michael Paul began his career in local television at age 16. Sustaining a 25 year comedy career, he honed his craft touring with such names as James Brown, Lisa Lampanelli, Wynonna, Joan Rivers and Don Rickles to become a headliner in over 40 countries along with television credits on The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live.
Michael’s film career includes motion pictures such as “27 Dresses” opposite Katherine Heigl, and “The Ten” co-starring with Winona Ryder, Paul Rudd, Liev Schrieber and Jessica Alba. He has lent his voice to Pixar, Jim Henson Productions and Disney. He has script doctored for The Disney Channel, CBS, Kevin Spacey and punched up jokes for David Letterman and Bill Maher.
Michael is well known for creating branded puppet characters including, “Nadia Coma: The World’s Oldest Gymnast” and MTV’s “CJ and Peanut”.
His published works include comedic editorials for USA Today, Huffington Post and LaughSpin. His new book “Breaking Out of Show Business: What I Discovered by Not Being Discovered” (by Post Hill Publishing) can be found at numerous book outlets including Barnes and Noble.
Michael resides in Los Angeles and continues to work in movies, television and as a comedy writer & script doctor.