Guffawing At The Right Time

by admin on May 23, 2012

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

{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

FunkyMunky May 23, 2012 at 2:42 am

I perform stand-up comedy. You’d be surprised how many people are dead quiet during the performance then tell you later how much they enjoyed it, not begrudgingly, either, I’ve had them seek me out after the show after sitting stony-faced the whole time.

The death stares were unnecessary and rude. Unless you were loud enough to inflict pain (and I’ve sat next to a few people who could manage that), your choice to be vocal does not impact on her.

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Edhla May 23, 2012 at 3:22 am

It sounds to me like she was simply irritated that someone was constantly yelling “YES!” “WOO HOO” in her ear.

I understand where she’s coming from, frankly.

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lkb May 23, 2012 at 4:49 am

Sounds like OP and the other woman were at an impasse and had opposite ways of enjoying the show.
The OP, being a performer, was trying to encourage the comedian by trying to compensate for the lack of response from the others, including the other woman.
On the other hand, the other woman may have been irritated by a fellow audience member who she may have thought was trying to make the show all about her. We’ve probably all been at shows where another audience member (possibly drunk or high) constantly yells “Whoo!” or “Yeah!” trying to draw attention to themselves. That may have been what the woman thought. She also may have had a hearing difficulty and was having trouble enough hearing show through the background sounds of the theatre without the additional whooping.
Sounds like everyone did what they could.

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josie May 23, 2012 at 5:53 am

Perhaps she was enjoying the performance in her own way and your loudness was distracting to her. Or, perhaps she was just tolerating the performance because it was part of the package deal and your loudness was distracting to her.

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Lychii May 23, 2012 at 5:59 am

Oh wow. Do you really not understand why you were getting the evil eye? You were yelling into her ear all night, and being on the receiving end of this is very unpleasant! It’s fine to laugh and clap, but do mind your neighbors’ eardrums.

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MellowedOne May 23, 2012 at 6:37 am

I’ve recently had this EXACT situation happen before–enjoying a Beatles tribute band, and hardly anyone other than me and my friend were ‘involved’ in the performance–moving/dancing/shouts of appreciation and applause after each song. Everyone else was so quiet you’d think they were at a funeral. I felt so bad for the band, they were high energy and good, they deserved feedback!

I don’t think it’s wholly generational, I’ve been in audiences of mixed age where the vibe is the same, and my friends have experienced this same thing as well. And I’ve been on several cruises, and some audiences respond well, others–don’t. I think it’s more ‘luck of the draw’ so to speak, depending more on who attends any given performance. I myself always hope for the vocally expressive type, makes for a much more enjoyable experience IMO.

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Aunty Em May 23, 2012 at 6:47 am

Thanks for your post because it helps me to understand one of the reasons why people in the audience do this during a performance. A woman, behind me in the audience at the Kennedy Center, almost ruined a play for me by her loud laughing and guffawing at each and every funny line in the play. When I turned around and stared I was surprised to see that it was a middle aged, well dressed woman in pearls making all the racket. The humor in this instance was subtle and a bit sophisticated and it seemed that she was trying to show everyone else that she “got” the play on words, jokes, etc. Especially annoying to me are the people who do this in a movie theater. I think you can think something is absolutely hysterical or tragic without having to scream out with laughter or sob loudly when others are trying to follow the performance.

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pdolly May 23, 2012 at 7:03 am

I disagree with the OP here. This is one of my pet peeves. When I watch a performance or movie I like to put my focus on that. If the person next to me was yelling it would yank my concentration away from the performance. Every. Time. Which means that person is stealing focus from the performer.

As long as the audience wasn’t staring blankly/glaring at the performer then they weren’t being rude. You can show that you like it by smiling and clapping at the appropriate time. TBH if the performer is that ‘needy’ they should consider another venue.

It also kind of seemed like the OP was saying that *they* know how an audience *should* behave cos they are ‘in the biz’. Maybe it was just me but that rubbed me the wrong way.

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SS May 23, 2012 at 7:11 am

If you were in the back of the theatre and were yelling in order for the performer to hear you, then the volume of your voice may have been painful in the enclosed space to the people directly around you, especially in front of you. You do say this person kept ‘staring back’ so it sounds as though they were between you and the performer. I have been subjected to people sitting next to me insisting on yelling or whistling repeatedly indoors during indoor performances and it has ruined my enjoyment of the event because it kept startling me, and making me flinch because of the painful level of the noise.

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jena rogers May 23, 2012 at 7:23 am

If I were the only one responding a certain way at such an event, as the OP, I’d ask my trusted partner if I were doing something socially deemed as inappropriate, and be as open as possible to constructive feedback. Can a whole roomful of people be wrong? Reactions to entertainment are as varied as the number of audience members, and differences may or may not be attributed to age , as suggested by the OP. (As an aside, if the audience was relatively older, they may have been more quiet in order to catch what the performer was saying). Something is amiss here; for whatever reasons, it is apparent that from the other people’s reactions, OP was a distraction. I appreciate her wanting to support the performer. Clearly, no malice is intended. What I have done personally is to take my cues from the audience in a situation like this, and then, whenever possible, make a point of speaking with the performer(s) after the show to give them kudos and encouragement.

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JustAThought May 23, 2012 at 7:40 am

Perhaps she was upset because though you were giving the performer welcome feedback you were effectively shouting over her (or possibly in her ear) in order to do so. Maybe if you had sat closer to the stage you could have given the performer cheers and responses without shouting as loudly, or in someone’s ear. Even though your responses were welcomed by the performer, they are not necessarily welcomed by all those you have to shout across for him to hear them. Like it or not, people who choose not to participate, will begrudge your participation if it is irritating to them. Next time get there early, sit up front and cheer all you want, without shouting over 20 rows of less than gleeful attendees.

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Shannon May 23, 2012 at 7:40 am

It sounds to me like the OP over-sympathized with the performer and neglected to consider her fellow audience members.

I think if I’d been sitting near the OP, I would have felt hopelessly awkward. Here I am, politely sitting through a show that’s not my cup of tea, and some random person behind me is bellowing through it like it’s a tent revival. I’d probably wonder if we were watching the same performance, or if she was the juggler’s mom or sister. I don’t know if I’d resort to dirty looks, but I’d definitely find it annoying and odd.

It’s great to offer feedback to a performer, but not in a way that is disruptive to others. If you want more interaction with a comedian, either go to a small comedy club, or get seats near the front.

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vanessaga May 23, 2012 at 7:41 am

That is odd that she’d expect you to sit quietly and watch any performer. I don’t think you did anything wrong, she was just grouchy.

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Cat May 23, 2012 at 8:12 am

I am 62 and have become, much to my dismay, the “older generation”, and you are right in thinking we thought that a performer would prefer to concentrate on his performance. We held our applause until the end to show our appreciation and did not yell out during it.
I think of the movie, “Pretty Woman” and how Julia Roberts’ character shouts, “Woo, woo!” at the end of a chucker at a polo match, horrifying the older crowd.
She was wrong to try to correct you by staring at you. I am afraid that your staring back was perhaps a foot over the line as well. I am not certain if your continuing your comments was impolite. It might have been more kind if you have toned it down a little. If I am caught between polite and kind, I lean towards being kind, even if what I was doing was not impolite.

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babbaloo May 23, 2012 at 8:14 am

I’m just going to guess here and say that OP was probably being a little loud, especially if she was sitting in the back and needed to be heard all the way down to the front. No matter the performance, if someone is shouting in my ear throughout a show, I’m going to be a bit annoyed.

I myself will laugh out loud, but for the most part am quiet during a performance–it’s just my personality. While I certainly don’t begrudge anyone their own enjoyment, having someone yell in very close proximity to me is unnerving.

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Ripple May 23, 2012 at 8:14 am

Perhaps it was not so much that you were responding as your volume. You say yourself that you were loud. If this was right behind her, it might have been louder than she appreciated.
What I don’t understand is, with all there is to do on a cruise, why would anyone stay at a show they didn’t appreciate? I’ve been on a couple of cruises and there are certainly plenty of places to go if you don’t like one particular performance.

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Angel May 23, 2012 at 8:23 am

No matter what you do, there will always be someone who takes it the wrong way or is annoyed. From your post it seems like it was one lady. I wouldn’t concern myself with it and I might be inclined, if the performer is looking for volunteers from the audience, to point to the lady in question!She sounds like she could use some fun!

I never understood why people go to performances like this and then sit there like a bump on a log. Performers of that nature thrive on audience response and sometimes even participation. It’s not as though they are performing a classical music concert. The guy was juggling LOL. You can’t get any more casual than that.

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LILLEY May 23, 2012 at 8:33 am

While I appreciate the need for performers to get audience reaction, perhaps the lady in question did not like having someone gaffaw and comment loudly in her ear while she was trying to enjoy the show. I know that it would greatly annoy me to have someone be that loud right behind me the entire show.

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Carol May 23, 2012 at 8:44 am

Some people are just weird. I feel for the juggler who’s struggling to get a response from the audience. I, too, am in the theatre (sort of) and can appreciate what you said about actors responding to audience feedback. We’ve had shows where we KNOW we’re being funny, and people after the show said we were funny, but they didn’t laugh during the show, because no one else was, and no one wants to be the first person to laugh! I think its sad more people in the audience didn’t follow your example.

Just a funny story because I like to share it – I was at a show at the PA Ren Faire at Christmas, where they do this very abbrivated and funny version of A Christmas Carol with just two actors. The one guy made a couple of references that apparently I was the only one to get, and both times I laughed loudly and happily. After the show, there was some time before we had to move to the next area, and he actually asked who that was who got his jokes, so I raised my hand, and he was so happy someone knew what he was talking about, and even said later I was the ‘best’ audience member he’d had. So you can probably take comfort in the fact the juggler probably loved you!

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Mary May 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

I don’t mind loud laughter when a performance is funny, but I have been at shows where those who are cheering end up being so loud that I miss the start of the next joke. That really irritates me!

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Katie Houston May 23, 2012 at 9:04 am

I would have thought you were drunk OP and would have been worried about what you might do next . . . I realise this probably says more about me than the OP!

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QueenofAllThings May 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

I see nothing wrong with laughing at a comedian.

Hollering, however, is aggravating – even though I understand the OP’s motives. It would annoy the heck out of me if the person behind me was shouting on and off during a performance – which is why I don’t attend rock concerts (where such behavior is the norm and expected).

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Spike May 23, 2012 at 9:28 am

I agree with what other people such as lkb and Kat said. This reminds me of a time when I attended a rock concert of a very well-known classic rock band. I’d worked all day then driven for hours, set up a campsite, then driven another while to get to the concert. I stood through the crappy opening band in a mud puddle in the rain and was currently partway through the main act’s set which was fairly underwhelming. I was a fair way back from the stage and most people standing around me were more or less quiet, except for cheers at appropriate times (when the band solicited it or when a song was over). I imagined many of them were as tired as I was. Then some guy came and stood near me and kept yelling random woo-hoo’s in this really loud, ragged voice. When I gave him the death stare he was like “what? it’s a rock concert.” Now he did have a point but he could have easily gone closer to the stage where all the other boisterous drunks were. When someone is plain annoying and distracting it is hard to just talk yourself out of feeling that way. Like someone else mentioned, people should take their cues from the people around them. There’s nothing wrong with responding to a performance by laughing or cheering appropriately, but there’s a line which when you cross it, it just makes you seem more like you’re some kind of attention hog.

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Wendy May 23, 2012 at 9:31 am

I have to add to the people saying that the loud “woo hoos!” and so on probably hurt the woman’s ears. I have mild hearing damage from listening to music too loudly when I was a teen. Certain sounds at certain volumes hurt. And in certain rooms the acoustics play a large part in that. Having also been a performer in the past, I know that many well constructed theaters are designed both to project from the stage and also project from the audience to the stage…allowing the performer to hear softer vocalizations of acceptance if the crowd is a quiet one. OP, as a performer, you probably know how to project your voice without actually raising your voice and that would have been an excellent way to say “Yes!” or respond otherwise. Woo Hoos, I think, are left best for the sporting arenas. Maybe the woman didn’t know what else to do but stare at you. I, myself, probably would have moved…or left.

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KMC May 23, 2012 at 9:36 am

Honestly, I would have been a little annoyed with you too, OP. If you were sitting behind me, we were near the back of the theater, and you were yelling loud enough for the performer to hear you? Yes, that’s probably going to sound like you’re RIGHT IN MY EARS…you know? But, I probaby wouldn’t have turned around or given dirty looks, because I don’t expect a quiet audience for a comedian. I don’t have any problem with someone reacting and responding NATURALLY to a performer. But when you have to amp up your response because he’s not getting much feedback from the audience, maybe the audience is not the main problem.

When I go see a comedian, I will laugh and clap and respond when something strikes me funny. I will not make myself partly responsible for his successful performance (unless by chance the comedian is my friend or family member and I’m there to support them). That’s a lot of pressure when I’m just there to enjoy myself.

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Amber May 23, 2012 at 9:37 am

@ Aunty Em, that’s an interesting assumption you have about people enjoying the show, there. As if a strong reaction is somehow always for the benefit of others. Perhaps the woman laughing behind you was simply…laughing?

When it comes specifically to comedy: people respond to funny things in different ways. Laughter, as we all may or may not have noticed, can be incredibly involuntary, along with what our laughter sounds like. Being irritated at someone who is a gaffawer when you are a titterer is pointless. And being irritated because someone laughs at a comedy at times when you are not laughing is curious. Perhaps they got more from a joke than you did. Perhaps the comedy itself has primed them to laugh at even the smallest jokes. It doesn’t matter. Comedy is meant to be laughed at, whether on the inside, or with a barking laugh.

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Helen May 23, 2012 at 9:42 am

Loud people at performances drive me crazy!

Laughter and applause are one thing, yelling out is another.

I’ve been to performances where other people’s loudness has caused ringing in my ears because they are yelling, whistling, et cetera.

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Lilac May 23, 2012 at 9:42 am

I am torn on this one. I want to say that what you did was appropriate because you acted how everyone in the audience SHOULD have behaved. But unfortunately, they didn’t. If everyone was laughing and responding to the performance, your vocalizations would have blended in. Instead, you became a distraction from the performance for at least one person. I have also been to shows where I was also surprised at how unresponsive the audience was. It does put a damper on the experience because there is something special about a whole room enjoying a good joke. I love to laugh so it’s a disappointment when I can’t wholeheartedly enjoy the entertainment. This situation sort of reminds me of a similar one. I go to an bosu exercise class at noon. There are one or two people in the room that like to yell out the step count along with the instructor. I believe the instructor would love it if the whole room would join in because it does raise the energy level. But they don’t. So it’s just one person yelling along with her. And it is really distracting. And it feels a bit like the yeller is saying “Look at me! I’m an example of what all of you should be doing!” Very annoying. So even though I HATE coming down on the side of the crabby and the humorless, it does sound like you may have been more of a annoyance to the audience than a help to the performer. That being said, I wouldn’t feel too bad about annoying people who are crabby and humorless so don’t dwell on it and be glad you don’t have to live in their heads!

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AMC May 23, 2012 at 10:01 am

I also have a background in theater. It’s always interesting how audiences tend to have personalities. Some are vocal, energetic, and interactive while others are more subdued. I’ve seen the same performance done the exact same way and receive completely different reactions from the audience night after night. OP is correct that it is helpful to a performer when the audience is reactive, so long as it’s at the appropriate times and in a respectful manner. Perhaps the woman felt that you were distracting or too loud. It’s hard to judge since none of us were there. But if you’re certain that your volumn was not too loud and your reaction was appropriate to the performance, then I don’t think you did anything wrong. Some people are just overly sensitive about things like that. One of my best friends has a pet peeve about people making any noise AT ALL during movies. Even small noises like a cough or sniffle.

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Gloria Shiner May 23, 2012 at 10:09 am

Wow, I am totally floored by most of the responses! Where to start? Well, first, performers who welcome audience participation and feedback are not “needy”. Second, we aren’t talking Shakespearean (sp?) actors or chamber musicians, this was a stand-up comedian who solicited audience participation!

I don’t buy the “generational” thing either. I’m over 60, and I respond vocally or by clapping when I hear an outstanding musical or vocal solo at live concerts – especially rock, bluegrass or just about anything other than classical. The performers always smile in response, often nod and enjoy knowing that the audience appreciates their efforts.

By the way, the OP clearly states: “I laughed at appropriate times, did not talk/laugh over the performance . . .” so she wasn’t interfering with the ability of others to hear the performance (which sounds like it was mostly visuals anyway).

I had a similar experience once at the Arabian Nationals Horse Show. At these horse shows, everyone is very supportive vocally for horses and handlers/riders who they like and who perform well. There is a lot of whistling, clapping, “woo hoos”, etc. At one such show, there was a woman sitting near my group who would turn and glare every time we even clapped. Now understand that this is in an audience of thousands of people where everyone is at least clapping! Apparently this woman felt that my husband was clapping to loudly since he was the object of most of her glares, and she wasn’t objecting to any of the other nearby groups that were clapping and whistling. I never could figure out a) why she didn’t move (unassigned seating and plenty of “better” seats), and b) why she bothered going to this show to begin with – she spent more time glaring than watching the show.

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Ann May 23, 2012 at 10:11 am

When one finds oneself the target of backward stares from the clearly annoyed, that is one’s cue to lower one’s voice. It’s called a Social Cue.

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Stacey Frith-Smith May 23, 2012 at 10:52 am

Interesting problem. Maybe the solution is for the audience members to be themselves and not try to control others through either shushing them with death stares so that all are quiet or yelling and expostulating excessively to encourage more response. OP, you went to enjoy a performance. Your response was all that need have concerned you. Becoming the Hall Monitor Enforcing Appropriately Enthusiastic Audience Vocalizations doesn’t endear you to others. As for the Death Starers, Enforcers of A Zone of Acceptable Indoor Voice Use probably won’t endear you to anyone either. Somewhere in the middle, where each audience member can enjoy the performance unencumbered by excesses of attempts to control- that should be the sweet spot.

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The Elf May 23, 2012 at 10:55 am

Ooooo, there’s a fine line here. In general, excessive noise should be discouraged during a performance. Laughing is fine, clapping is fine, but excessive of either (especially the “woo hoos”) is generally not accepted.

But then you have audience interactive shows. You can generally tell when a performer is looking for audience interaction. In those cases, staying quiet and straight-faced is generally the ruder response.

Most comedy shows strike a middle between the two.

Music is a little different – and different genres and kinds of performances demand different audience interactions. Let’s assume I’m at a heavy metal concert. I’ll be standing in front of my seat (assuming there are even any seats), shouting along with the lyrics, banging my head, flashing the horns, maybe even moshing. (Okay, at my age I won’t actually be moshing. I’ll hold your shirt. You mosh, and you can be the one peeing blood the next day.) If someone sits stoically in their seat and gives me the stink eye, I’m going to wonder why they bothered to buy tickets to this kind of show. It’s just what you expect, hell it’s part of the experience. I can listen to the album at home! But if I’m at a classical concert, I’m going to be the one giving the stink eye to the people going crazy and cheering.

I can’t tell from the description which one this really was. But if you’re getting the stink eye for making noise during a performance, it’s more likely that your “performance” was excessive than the stink-eye-giver was just a sourpuss.

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Miss Alex May 23, 2012 at 11:00 am

Hey, I’m a performer (classical musician, if that matters), and would like to weigh in with my opinion.

While I do love audience feedback, there’s a point beyond which it becomes distracting for the performer as well as the other audience members. OP, I would have appreciated what you were doing, but your behavior would have crossed my ‘distraction threshold’, especially since the other audience members were so quiet.

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pdolly May 23, 2012 at 11:01 am

How was this audience ‘crabby’, ‘stonfaced’ or ‘humourless’? Since the OP was at the back it is likely that people were smiling at least.

You don’t have to be either disinterested or screaming across the room. There is a middle ground. The OP was clearly ruining the performance for at least one person in order to make some kind of point. Or to say ‘look at me mr performer, *I* appreciate you’.

And people can control their responses. When I am at home I laugh out loud at films and books. But at the cinema my laugh is more of a smile and quiet exhale.

Because I don’t think I’m so important that everyone has to hear my reaction or know that I got an obscure joke. When people do that it is like they are yelling ‘look at me! look at me!’ And I hate that kind of neediness and attention seeking. I’m not saying that all people are doing it due to this just that it seems that way to me.

It doesn’t ruin your experience to be a little quieter and more considerate of others. But it does ruin it for people when you are loud and force others to listen to your reactions.

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Ashley May 23, 2012 at 11:11 am

I attend a lot of concerts. Quite frequently there happens to be at least one opening act that is awful compared to everyone else on the bill. It also never fails that I always wind up within five feet of the “ruiner”. The “ruiner” is the guy who will over enthusiastically cheer and jump around and try to start a mosh pit no matter what is going on stage, and no matter how clear it is that no one else around him wants to mosh. He usually ends up shouting way to loudly in someone’s ear, and my fiance inevitably winds up acting as a human shield at one point or another so I don’t get hit by flailing elbows. Honestly, op sounds a bit like the “ruiner”.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying don’t cheer or what have you, but if it reaches a point where you are getting death stares from people around you, it’s probably a safe bet that you have become obnoxiously loud and are actually hurting people’s ears, specifically those people in front of you as this woman sounds like she was.

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amyasleigh May 23, 2012 at 11:25 am

At first reading of the OP, I felt rather amazed: sentiments along the lines of how surely, throughout all the millennia since people first started performing to give pleasure to people, comedians’ acts have largely been all about being loud and raucous, “on both sides of the fence”. It was more or less “brain does not compute”, concerning an audience member for a comedian’s act, casting dirty looks at someone else in the audience for shouting loud encouragement to the performer.

Reading others’ responses, though, has given me some opposite-side perspective, and thought-fodder. The OP could perhaps — as some have suggested — have acted considerately by placing herself at the front of the hall. I can more or less see the point that has been made, about the problems someone with sensitive hearing might have in such a situation. However, it also comes to mind for me, that a sensitive-hearing-afflicted person might be well-advised not to patronise entertainments where people were likely to be noisy; a sensible general principle could be seen as, “if you see it likely that going to some venue will in some way be upsetting for you — don’t go there.”

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Jay May 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

Laughing at whatever volume your body tells you to laugh at seems fine to me. Answering a question from the performer also seems fine to me.

If you were laughing extra-loud on purpose, you were being a bit annoying to the others there. I think “woo hoo!” in a performance that doesn’t have anyone else “woo hooing” is also being annoying to others. Why is shouting that better than, say, answering a cell phone call? Because you think the performer would appreciate it? But you knew the audience makeup, and you could easily predict that they WOULDN’T appreciate it.

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Kovitlac May 23, 2012 at 11:30 am

You said the performer was clearly asking for an enthusiastic response from the crowed, so I don’t feel you’ve done anything wrong. Lots of comedians desire audience participation – it doesn’t have to involve someone actually going up on stage. While I’m not saying everyone has to take part and get enthusiastic (I tend to be of a bit quieter nature myself, even if I’m greatly enjoying the show), it seems like quite a few people witnessing the show didn’t ‘get’ what the performer was going for. I can’t assume that the performer was poor, since I know what cruise lines go through I get class A entertainment.

The times I saw a comedy show at sea, the audience was clearly having fun and being loud (but not too loud). Seems like in this case, only one person was responding that way. It’s unfortunate.

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Alean May 23, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Her silence interfered with no one. The OP’s actions are bothesome. Being loud is annoying. Attempting to “que” everyone else on laughter is disruptive. As a performer mixed signals from the audience are confusing. If my timing is in a rhythm to the crowd and one or two helpful hannas try to encourage me they are in fact a distraction to me. I simply can’t play to two audiences at once. For me the bottom line is that no matter how well intended, I came to see and hear the artist, I did not come to see that audience.

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Carol May 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm

This is why I like this site. Reading everyone’s responses made me think harder about the situation. My first reaction, as a performer myself, was the glaring lady was being unreasonable. Not actually being there, I honestly can’t say if the OP was being overly loud and screaming in the woman’s ear, but I suppose that is possible.

I think it would have been nice if Glaring Woman, instead of, well, glaring at the OP simply said something like ‘I do beg your pardon, but you are being a bit too loud, and it’s hurting my ears. Do you mind terribly holding it down just a bit? Thank you so much.’ OP isn’t a mind reader, and since she didn’t think she was doing anything wrong, I can see why she would assign the blame in the situation to Glaring Woman.

I think people in the world, myself included, tend to think the worst of strangers, instead of being optimistic and thinking that other humans are as clever and reasonable as we are.

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kingsrings May 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Add me to the list of performers on this response. As in theater actor. A few months ago, at the opening performance of my last show, for some inexplicable reason, my first entrance onto the stage caused a woman to laugh-scream loudly. I have no reason why, as it wasn’t a funny moment at all. It was inappropriate, and as her sentiment was understandably not shared with the rest of the audience, she ended up looking like a fool, I’m sure.
On the other hand, yes, we performers definitely feed off the energy of the audience. It means a lot to us to get the appropriate response – laughter when it’s a comedy, etc. It’s too bad that this particular audience in the O.P. didn’t react that way, but it is what it is. There could be a million different reasons why the audience was so subdued. The poster clearly stood out with her behavior, and since it was the exception to the rule, it was therefore distracting to the rest of the audience and therefore inappropriate despite the nature of the show. Audience members owe it out of courtest to everyone else to keep their loud laughter and cries, etc., to an acceptable noise level in order not to be distracting and annoying to everyone else.

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Carrie May 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm

This kind of thing drives me insane. At movies and concerts, the only thing more annoying than the constant whisperer is the person who feels the need to have an interactive experience with the main attraction. At concerts, I don’t have a problem with clapping, or singing that doesn’t drown out the performer. But shouting and excessive dancing are too much and interfere with hearing and line of sight. I assume most people go to a concert because they are fans of the act- not to listen to strangers do all they can to make their own voices heard. For movies, it’s annoying when someone has to shout, “OHHHHHHHHHHHH!” when a spaceship explodes, or a particularly cutting joke is made.

In short, be respectful, and take cues from those around you. OP, it sounds like you crossed a line, and the woman in front of you was giving a very obvious cue to tone it down. And I bet she wasn’t the only one hoping you would take a hint and lower your voice. Laughter and claps at appropriate times are just fine; shouts and overt displays of appreciation, especially from the back of a theater, are distracting. Save the noise and try to find the performer later to talk about what you really loved. It’s not an audience member’s place to decide that the atmosphere is all wrong and then act in a frenzied way to change it to the “right” one.

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Fiona May 23, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Loud, over-dramatic antics by audience members irritate the heck out of me. If you’re getting death stares, then there’s a good chance your behaviour is a distraction and a nuisance and that it is undermining, not enhancing, the performance. Applause and laughter are appreciated, but random shouts are not.

Your story reminds me of a man, “Jim”, at our church whose attention-seeking ways have definitely not endeared him to anyone. Jim has a big social blind spot and loudly shouts “Amen!”, “Praise the lord” etc. while the pastor is talking. Nobody else in the congregation does this. He also insists on flailing his arms in the air during every hymn. I realize that this is expected behaviour at some churches, so I don’t understand why Jim doesn’t simply change venues. The congregation ignores Jim. It doesn’t stop his annoying behaviour, but at least we’re not rewarding him with more attention.

Everyone is different. Personally I’m in favour of quiet enjoyment and focussing all one’s attention on the performer. If I went to a performance where Jim-like behaviour was expected, I’d be extremely uncomfortable and leave.

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Margo May 23, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I don’t think it’s always rude to be loud, but I think that if you were the only (or almost only) person being that loud, AND you were getting death stares, then probably you were too loud for that particular event on that particular day, and while your motives were good, in terms of ‘helping out’ the performer, it was a bit inconsiderate towards the other members of the audience.

As pdolly says, being quieter wouldn’t have spoiled your enjoyment, but being so loud clearly did spoil at least one other person’s enjoyment, and you were aware at the time that that was what was happening.

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sweetonsno May 23, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I doubt this is a generational thing. I’m a member of the younger generation and I find screamers obnoxious. Even when I am watching videos or listening to recordings of shows, the audience members who make a special effort to be heard by the performers always seem insincere, as though they are less interested in showing their appreciation and more interested in being noticed. I’m all for showing a performer that you enjoy the show, but if you want to do so in a really high-energy way, I think it’s best to snag a seat near the front. There, bantering with the comedian or answering the magician’s questions is expected. It’s also less likely to interfere with other audience member’s ability to enjoy the show in their way.

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Jojo May 23, 2012 at 4:17 pm

This is a cultural thing more than a breech of etiquette on one party’s part.
The way I’ve had this phenomena explained to me by performers is that the less comfortable with their surroundings an audience is, the more reverential they are.
If you’ve never been to a classical music concert before, then you follow the lead of the people who have to know whether to clap between movements or to remain silent.
I, like many other people, have no idea what the etiquette is for behaviour in a cruise ship theatre and would follow the lead of other patrons. It sounds like they’re mostly silent because it’s an unfamiliar environment for them to be in rather than not enjoying the event. There’s nothing wrong in ‘whooping it up’ for a performer who needs some momentum but it sounds like it would be far more appropriate to lead from the front rather than to sit at the back and make lots of noise from there, thus disturbing more reserved audience members.

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Jane May 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Like some of the other comments here, I can see both sides. It’s similar to wanting to stand up and dance at a concert when there is a a person who wishes to simply enjoy it from their seat right behind you.

In these situations, I usually let the audience somewhat dictate my behavior – if others had been yelling, I would have joined in, but if no one else was, I would have kept quiet.

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Carrie May 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I also forgot to mention that I don’t think there’s a generation gap; some people enjoy performances by remaining quiet and still and focusing all their attention on the act. I’m young, and this is how I like to experience my entertainment. When I went to the movies last month, an older couple walked in 30 minutes late (to a movie they had never seen), sat directly behind another couple and proceeded to have a conversation by pitching their voices over the speakers. Throughout the movie, they would make loud comments to one another and laugh at scenes that weren’t at all funny. During the subdued part of the climax, one of them even shouted “Holy s***!” So this kind of thing isn’t limited to people in their teens and 20s.

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Spike May 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I’d like to add something to my previous comment. I think encouraging performers with applause etc is a nice idea and I think OP had good intentions. Just, the execution may have been wrong. I will sometimes do this myself when I go to a small comedy club and if I enjoy a particular comic’s jokes, I’ll make the effort to laugh a bit louder than normal (mainly because I’m a quiet laugher). Then again, I usually sit near the stage.

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