Guffawing At The Right Time
I’m not really sure what etiquette rule applied, but the woman near me at the performance definitely thought I breached it.
My husband and I went on a cruise a few weeks back. There was a generational gap amongst the guests, and I don’t know if that contributed to the situation I am sharing. As you may know, there is nightly entertainment on a cruise ship. My husband and I are partial to any tye of comedian. One night, the entertainment was a juggler comedian, so we attended. We had only attended a couple of other shows but we did notice a large portion of the audience was unresponsive to the given performers, especially comedians. It seemed odd but I didn’t give it much thought until this particular night.
I should preface the story by mentioning that I was trained in school as an actor and have done stage performances myself. I have learned the impact an audience has on a performer. A performer feeds off the energy of an audience and a lack of it can make a performer falter — and perhaps deservedly so. For this reason, if I enjoy a performer, I am vocal about it, especially if the performer is indicating he wants it.
So, we attend this juggling comedian and my husband and I love him. He was a bit risque, but we thought he was hilarious. He also was actively seeking feedback from the audience and sounded a little frustrated that he did not get much of it. So, I was being very responsive, and admittedly loud about it (we were in the back of the theater). So, I would laugh, yell out “yes!” when the performer asked if we wanted to see a trick, and occasionally do a “woo!hoo!,” mostly when he’d pull of a tremendous feat or was seeking agreement from the audience. This woman near me was clearly annoyed. It started out simple enough with her looking back at me, so I just disregarded it. Then she kept staring back at me giving me dirty looks. She was not responding at all to the performer throughout the performance and clearly thought I was being impolite for doing so. I will say that all of my responses were appropriate to the performer — I laughed at appropriate times, did not talk/laugh over the performance, heckle, scoff, or otherwise act inconsistent with the juggling and comedy. At one point, I got annoyed with her and when she was staring at me, I stared back and just pointed to the performer and said, “I’m laughing.” She stopped staring after that.
So, I guess I just don’t understand why it was so inappropriate for me to respond. Perhaps the woman did not enjoy the performer, but then why begrudge me the enjoyment? Perhaps she didn’t understand the value a performer places on audience response. Perhaps it was a generational thing where her generation believed an audience should not respond and should quietly and politely observe a performance. 0522-12