I recently revisited a 2018 article from Vulture discussing the rise of “clapter” comedy.
If you aren’t familiar with “clapter” comedy it’s when a comedian makes a “joke (often a social or political statement) with the purpose to make the audience applaud and agree instead of laugh.
Some common statements you’ll hear may be “so Trump sucks,” “men are terrible,” etc. It can often depend on the type of room you’re working. I’ve even heard some say “so rape is bad..” Yeah, who the hell would disagree with that?
I didn’t really pay much attention at first as I personally don’t perform for the sake of “clapter”; however, as time went on and we assess the present day, it has become increasingly obvious that a lot of comedians have been performing for the sake of clapter.
It makes me wonder, where is comedy actually heading if clapter increasingly takes precedence over actual laughter?
Here are my thoughts.
“Clapter” is pandering.
Whether a comic believes it or not, clapter equals pandering. Plain and simple. Think about it. To achieve “clapter,” you’re saying things that you know an audience will agree with. Call me naive, but I’ve always seen stand up as something that inherently calls out nonsense even if it might ruffle a few feathers. It’s about pushing boundaries to see what you can get away with, not staying within perceived parameters to make people happy.
It is also kind of disrespectful to the audience. Something I have learned over time is that audiences ARE SMART and they can see through crap fairly quickly. Clapter might work once or twice in a set, but when audiences see a continual pattern of trying to get them to agree with you, it’ll eventually backfire.
The PC movement has a lot to do with it.
We as comics are in a difficult time. PC culture has not just made its way into audiences, but it has also made its way into the scene and the industry. I constantly see a rise in comics attacking other comedians just because they don’t like what they say. So much for community.
I’ve met tons of comics that are more worried about being PC than actually writing a smart joke. A lot of it is fear of going against the perceived norm, but in terms of business (late night), certain opportunities require you to have clean material. Many take the idea of “clean” as having to be politically correct which is so not the case. Striving for “clapter” doesn’t mean you’re developing.
Being funny is a skill and clapter only gives a false sense of achievement. It’s cheap laughs and cheap laughs get you nowhere. Doing something that you know will work is safe and we only really grow when we take risks with our writing. Maybe a risk doesn’t always land, but that’s why it’s called a risk. The comic who has an hour of material they know people will agree with is less of an achievement than a comic with thirty minutes of material that risks it in my eyes. Clapter is such an unnecessary restriction that ultimately wastes time and negates from being a real comedian.
Moral of this article? Be your authentic self as a comedian. Clapter is just something for the moment at the end of the day, you have to leave that stage and ask yourself “am I happy with this set?”
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!