Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's 3 p.m., let's watch Harry Connick Jr. alter reality to keep his audience on beat

The mighty jazzman himself!
The mighty jazzman himself!
Photo: Dave Kotinsky (Getty Images)

It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.


A bit of audience etiquette and extremely elemental music theory: Do not clap on the one and three. If you’re in an audience and people start clapping, take a moment to briefly count each beat, and if everyone is clapping on the first and third, do not join them. Their intentions are good, but it’s stultifying to the musicians, who generally like to emphasize the off-beats—the two and four—in order to give the music a sense of rhythm and swing. This is true of most shows in which you might find the audience clapping, but it is particularly true of jazz performances.

Here, watch the best scene from Treme, the jazziest jazz show ever, for proof:

Don’t be like Portland, Oregon. Clap on the two and four or do not clap!

Famed jazzman Harry Connick Jr., perhaps performing to an audience of Portlanders, found himself in the midst of an arrhythmic purgatory of first-and-third claps. But rather than go softly into that good blandness, he busted out of the confines of reality, discretely adding in an extra beat—a single measure of 5/4—that then shifted the entire audience’s robotic clapping to the preferred second and fourth beats. Even if you’re not a particularly musical person, you can immediately hear the difference; something sounds better and more correct about the shape of the universe. Connick, a handsome and talented jazzman, smiles wryly, knowing he has overpowered them using his dangerously quick intellect.

It happens 40 seconds into the above video, and at 44 seconds you can see his bass player raise his hands in triumphant celebration, agog at the great jazzman Harry Connick Jr. If you want a little more explanation, here’s a pretty dry video that counts things out really clearly:

The point is this: Do not clap on the one and three. And also do not fuck with Harry Connick Jr., a great and terrible jazzman who will not suffer a bad audience.