Dear People

Folks, we need to talk. You seem to be confusing “applause” and “standing ovations.” You should applaud for basically every performance you go to, even if you think it’s a heap of garbage. You don’t have to applaud enthusiastically, but a polite clap is nice and it won’t kill you.

A standing ovation, however, is for superb and extraordinary performances. It is not rude to not give a standing ovation. Just because you see everyone leaping up and down fifteen times during the State of the Union address, does not mean that you need to follow suit when you go to a play or concert.

Bart and I went to a concert at BYU with a professor of humanities (and a good family friend). When the concert was over (and it was a very nice concert), he looked around at all the students giving standing ovations and told us “You’re only supposed to give TEN standing ovations in your life.” Now, whenever we are at a performance, Bart and I say “is this one of the ten best shows of our lives?” It rarely is. We’re hoarding our ten for our nineties and then we will give them to every show we see so that we don’t die with unused ovations.

All of which is to say, the people who were standing and ovating last night at the show need to get out more. This show was surely not one of the best ten shows ever. Just because others are standing up, doesn’t mean you have to. If the show didn’t blow your mind, don’t stand up. Sit proudly.

P.S. (And none of that lame excuse “I was only standing because the people in front of me were standing and I couldn’t see.” There is nothing to see, people. It’s just bowing).

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  • Reply Bart Bradshaw August 5, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Have we used any of our standing ovations yet? I think we did at “Wicked” in Chicago. Anything else?

  • Reply Katherine August 5, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you. I thought this was largely a Utah phenomenon, but apparently not. It’s rather awkward to be the only person sitting in an auditorium full of enthusiastic standers shooting me looks that clearly suggest I am uncultured and have no appreciation for the arts, but I stand (or sit, as the case may be) my ground against ovation inflation.

  • Reply Gretchen August 6, 2007 at 1:05 am

    Amen. Down with “ovation inflation”! Glad I’m not the only one stubbornly sitting sometimes. I love the idea of only giving out 10, that’s a great way to think of whether something deserves it. I’m currently looking to bestow my 3rd…

  • Reply Sherry August 6, 2007 at 1:28 am

    Thank you! I don’t know how I feel about limiting my standing ovations to ten, but really. Standing ovations are for really stellar performances. I’ve been trying to convince Eric of this for a while. He tries to convince me that I’m just being rude. I will continue to sit and will try not to feel left out when everyone else stands.

  • Reply Blaine August 6, 2007 at 2:07 am

    I think we have become desensitized to what a standing ovation is supposed to be. It’s been done so much that it does sometimes seem rude to not follow suit (if everyone else thought it was mediocre and they are standing, what am I saying by sitting?) It’s kind of like profanity that way. For centuries words have existed which were used to shock and communicate extreme emotion; today these words have largely lost their meaning, or at least their power. Just like people seem to have use more and more profanity to get the same shock value to express how truly emotional they are about things, it’s also getting hard to express how moved you are when something really was one of the top ten performances of your lifetime.

    By the way, the rule of thumb I’ve heard about standing ovations is that you should only stand when you are so moved that it is impossible to stay in your seat. You stand up when clapping in your seat is simply not an option. (As opposed to the situation that Jerry Seinfeld refers to, boredly looking left and right down the row, “are we doing this now? I guess we’re doing this now…”)

  • Reply Kristi August 6, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    I think that is such a great rule– ten standing ovations in a lifetime. I am trying to reflect and see if I have used any standing ovations appropriately– and there are two (I have already used up two, what will I do in my nineties?). One for Riverdance (weird I know, but I was moved!) and the other for Les Mis. The Les Mis was even at a high school, but the story was so powerful and I had never seen it before. I literally could not stay sitting.

    Very thought provoking post!

  • Reply Bethany August 6, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    This should also apply to sports events. I am put-out when I have to stand at games because everyone else is and I can’t see. We should only stand and cheer when a brilliant play is made (10 per game limit).

  • Reply Ginger August 6, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    I stand when I am moved by a performance (if a speaker/singer spoke to my heart). The standing is usually spontaneous and usually before everyone else stands. I also one to not clap politely if I don’t think it is appropriate.

  • Reply Kristy August 6, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    I think I need at least 15 in my life. I just REALLY like a lot of things, so sue me. 🙂

  • Reply TheMoncurs August 6, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    I’m totally one of those people who is often guilted into standing. But thanks to this, no more! I will proudly sit and politely clap when the performance isn’t mind blowing, mean looks be damned. 10 ovations seems just about right and I think I’ve got about 9 left!

  • Reply Anne Glamore August 7, 2007 at 12:00 am

    Call me jaded, but I’m betting I can get through life with only 5.

    (Not counting those I bestow upon my children within the confines of my own home during, for example, the Fanny Shake-Off or other competitions).

  • Reply Nemesis August 7, 2007 at 4:46 am

    I cannot say enough about this issue. It’s like they think they have to stand to be nice. CLAPPING is nice, people!!!

  • Reply ambrosia ananas August 7, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Amen. I was told that standing ovations are to be given only when the performance was so good that it practically pulls you out of your chair.

  • Reply chloe elizabeth August 7, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I feel like my life has been enriched. I will no longer be one of the crowd who stands because everyone else is. I want my stand to be meaningful. Thank you! My ten start now.

  • Reply Leah August 10, 2007 at 8:04 pm


  • Reply Saskia July 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I'm rereading all your entries. I hope you don't mind. Or think I'm some kind of stalker.

    And I'm with you all the way on this one. Giving a standing ovation at every performance kind of defeats the purpose. It kills me. But I also hate people not clapping (hello, people worked hard on this project, even if you didn't like it), so I guess I'd rather have the standing ovation..

  • Reply Holly August 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Just discovered your blog this morning because Mel posted your mac & cheese recipe. Since I love to read as well as love to cook, your blog title intrigued me and I had to pop over. When I checked out your "About" page I had to laugh when I saw your standing ovations comment. I thought I was seriously the only person who had such a strong opinion about such a light thing! In college my humanities professor (at Ricks College) told his students that people give way too many standing ovations when they aren't deserved. I took his words to heart and have been careful ever since about when I choose to stand and clap! Can't wait to check out some of your book reviews. Thanks!

    • Reply Janssen August 7, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks, Holly! Those professors know what they're talking about, don't they?

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