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Audience reactions are a scream


At the start of her daily television show recently, Ellen DeGeneres informed her studio audience she was going to do something different; instead of standing on her designated spot on the stage, she was going to stand on a different spot. So she did that, it was pretty funny and the audience screamed and shrieked its approval.

Then she moved a few steps, stood in a different spot, it was sorta funny and the audience screamed and shrieked again.

She did variations of that several more times, until it eventually became only a tiny bit amusing. But the audience continued to scream and shriek until there couldn’t have been an unsore throat in the house.

And while I happen to think DeGeneres is one of the funniest women ever, I can’t help but wonder:

What’s with all the shrieking and screaming? In place of signs that once implored audiences to “applaud” and “laugh” are there now signs that say “scream” and “shriek?”

Whatever the impetus, screaming and shrieking has become the new applause for today’s audiences at television programs, as well as at every musical performance this side of Handel’s “Messiah.”

Not that screaming and shrieking, in themselves, are new; they’ve undoubtedly been around for as long as humans have had vocal cords. Adam and Eve probably screamed and shrieked as they were being pursued through the Garden of Eden by lions and tigers and bears. Or by dinosaurs, depending upon your position on the creationism/evolution thing.

But on programs such as “American Idol” and “The Voice,” audiences scream all during the performances. Frequently the people in the audience scream and shriek so loudly you can’t hear the people on the stage singing. Which is not always a bad thing.

Today’s audiences scream and shriek through everything from “Dancing With the Stars” to “The Daily Show.” It’s probably only a matter of time until “60 Minutes” starts taping before a live audience and Vladimir Putin’s answer to a question from Scott Pelley is drowned out by screaming and shrieking.

I’m not sure when screaming and shrieking replaced applause as a way for audiences to show their approval. If I had to guess, I’d say it started at about the same time Ed Sullivan packed the house with adolescent girls to see Elvis. But Elvis is dead and a lot of today’s screamers and shriekers are a couple of decades past adolescence.

It is, I suppose, an audience’s right to express itself in whatever manner it sees fit. It may even be an emotionally healthy thing. But when an audience’s noise drowns out a song I’d like to hear, I get really annoyed.

In fact, sometimes I could scream.


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