Clapping along with music while sitting down. I do not know if this is a uniquely British habit (although I have seen audiences doing it on clips from German TV), but I have not noticed it so much in America.
Picture a live audience that is seated. And a musical guest starts their piece — and within a few seconds, the audience will be clapping along. I do not know if this is sometimes prompted, i.e. someone at the side of the stage holds up a large sign, “Clap”, or if the clapping is spontaneous. I seem to remember attending live events as a child in England, and the clapping starting with no obvious prompt, so I assume it is spontaneous. But even as a child I found it quite laughable. I understand the constraint of listening to upbeat music while seated — but many people go through their daily lives listening to music through earbuds, and they rock along by nodding heads, jigging in seat, tapping fingers on knees, rocking feet, and so on. It is only while seated as a group listening to the same music that people are compelled to clap along. There must be a clapping switch in the brain that just turns on — and that switch might not exist in some autistic brains (or it is locked in the “off” position.)
I am not a musical performer, but I am sure that I would be very distracted by the clapping — especially if the beat that the audience settled on did not exactly match what I intended. I suspect that in the TV shows where I have seen this, the performers were just miming to a backup track and so it was not an issue. And even if playing live, we are dealing with music designed to entertain the masses, so perhaps it just goes with the territory and entertainers are comfortable making an adjustment for slow-clapping or fast-clapping audiences.
It still drives me nuts though!
America has/had a game show called Wheel Of Fortune. While the wheel is spinning, everyone claps. The contestants clap. The audience clap. The host claps. Vanna claps. It strikes me as so pointless and makes me cringe to watch. I actually used to enjoy this show — except for the clapping while the wheel spins. I could never have been a contestant myself, because I would not have joined in with the clapping. And one of the production staff would have told me I have to clap. And I would have said that I will not clap. And then they would have told me I cannot be on the show if I will not clap.
I acknowledge that this is one of those “but it makes people happy and there’s surely no harm in it” things that most people never question — and get annoyed at me when I do. So I am guessing/hoping that my aversion to it is just part of my autistic wiring. But I would like to think that some neurotypical people find it baffling also.
Now I am wondering if a performer has ever requested that the audience NOT clap along — and walked off stage when the audience did not comply. Would make a good comedy sketch!