Actors Halle Berry, Dwayne Johnson, Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington at the front row of the Academy Awards in February. If you are in the audience of an award show, clap along and clap really hard. Show that you approve. (NYT PIC)

“HELLO readers. ‘Tis I, Queen Hiz, Mother of Little Dragons.

“Show me your appreciation. Clap hard the moment you find yourself enjoying reading this piece.”

That is how I sometimes imagine, during a writer’s block, of how crazy or inane it would be if I hold sway over my readers.

But, of course, generally (and we are not talking about my column here okay) reciprocation, comes in many forms or through many mediums, such as letters, flowers, gifts, text messages, chocolates and, in the past, smoke signals.

Nevertheless, some have unwittingly taken appreciative gestures for granted, probably due to lack of courteousness. And below is an illustration of when such a situation commonly takes place in the entertainment industry.

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With my husband in tow, it is always exciting to be attending entertainment-related awards shows where industry players are honoured and their achievements celebrated.

Besides the evening’s performance line-up that audiences normally look forward to, there is also the magnificent sight of popular celebrities sashaying on the red carpet in their best sponsored evening attire and oh, their latest arm candies (which can either be a new handbag or a new beau).

But, no matter how great the awards shows are, most times they are marred by the lack of active participation from the audience.

It is an age-old issue where, suddenly, during the awards event, there is this pregnant pause like you are attending a funeral or wedding.

We’ve seen many times emcees and presenters calling for the crowd to be more proactive by saying, “Tepuk lah sikit untuk pemenang-pemenang” (Let’s clap and cheer for the winners).

The call is usually followed by hallowed, awkward applause by the audience, some of whom were caught on camera making duck faces for their Instagram shots.

I feel sorry that some emcees have to resort to begging just to get the sound of clapping from the floor, which resembles the sounds of cheap firecrackers being lit in a neighbouring village during Hari Raya.

I’m sure the event organisers are not expecting the audience to scream and shout from their seats. Otherwise, some of our moral police would be out and about on the dearth of budaya ketimuran among celebs.

But, people forget that the audience’s reaction does affect the whole “feel” of an event, including an awards night.

There are usually three types of clappers in the audience — the hyper-clappers, the average-clappers and the lazy clappers. Most of us fall in the third category. We can be so quiet and looking so bored in our seats so much so that it makes the Parliament sitting or a fishermen cooperative meeting comparatively exciting.

It’s an awards show for God’s sake. Shouldn’t someone winning an award trigger applause?

I’ve even caught some of the audience who got a tad bit annoyed at clapping at some point that they resorted to making the motion and only managed a few barely audible slaps, or sometimes just made a show to look like they were clapping without actually generating any sound. In short, they were actually shadow-clapping.

Clapping is a pretty straight-forward, intuitive behaviour. It’s foolproof. After all, many of us have done so for as long as we can remember. It’s even one of the very first social interactions you get taught as a child.

Do organisers need to resort to other methods or “manipulations” to get a little bit of audience involvement?

I think maybe the crowd needs to be given cues for applause. I’ve seen big signs above the stage saying “APPLAUSE”.

I remember attending a small stage performance in Los Angeles years ago where the audience was given a memo of sorts before taking their seats. It’s a memo to seek cooperation. Among others, it states the need to mute your smartphones, stay seated unless you need to take that needed washroom break and show your appreciation for the performance by clapping after each section.

Okay, how familiar are you with some of the popular reality shows from China? For those who have seen these shows, have you noticed how the cameras zoom in on some members of the audience with their overly-emotional reactions, ranging from intense crying to wild ovations?

And, if you haven’t known about it, I’m sorry to break this to you, but they are all staged.

Apparently, the producers rope in “professional audience members” who are paid to be part of the audience to clap and cry during the shows. And Chinese Netizens gave titles to the takers of these job — “Bawling Boys”, “Grieving Girls” and “Emotional Emperors”.

I read in News Weekly that, in China, taking up the role of a “professional audience member” is legit, and one could earn up to 800 yuan (about RM480) per show. Well, with each show taking three to four hours, it’s good money there!

Even the Oscars appoint professional roaming audience members. Their duties include sitting at any vacant seats left by celebrities until the owner of the seat returns.

For example, should actor Ryan Reynolds stand up to leave the hall, this professional audience member will sit in his place while he is gone. However, he or she is barred from speaking to anyone at the table. No chit chatting. Not even a “howdy” to Blake Lively (Ryan’s actress wife). Their job is to just sit and smile until Reynolds turns up.

Have you noticed how the cameras at the Oscars always depict a packed hall all the time? Well, now you know.

Should our event organisers resort to “staging”? I’d rather have the real “feel” from a genuine audience.

So, break into a clap people! Clap along and clap really hard. Show that you approve. Demonstrate that there’s not much difference between who is up there on stage and yourselves.

HIZREEN AZLEENA KAMAL is a passionista with a keen interest in showbiz and pop culture (online shopping included!). And oh, she is also
the Entertainment Editor

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