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Slow Clap or Golf Clap is a sarcastic type of applause that is used to heckle a speaker or performer. On the web, the gesture is commonly expressed through text or reaction GIFs of people applauding at an even and leisurely pace.
Sarcastic clapping was parodied as early as 1991 in an Saturday Night Live skit titled “The Sarcastic Clapping Family of Southhampton.” Online, this type of sarcastic clapping was used as a text-based reaction as early as February 2003 on the alt.fan.don-n-mike newsgroup in a discussion of a different Saturday Night Live skit.
In film and television, the “slow clap” may also refer to a moment in which a single person begins clapping and, as it becomes infectious, leads to a large crowd clapping in response to an event which is often instigated by an underdog. his type of slow clap was written about as early as 2004 by late movie critic Roger Ebert, who called it an “ancient cliche.” Despite being relatively different things, the double meaning of slow clap has converged, as some reaction GIFs used in a sarcastic manner have stemmed from clips of the beginning of these enthusiastic slow claps. On January 22nd, 2007, YuppiePunk.org released a supercut of this type of clapping from film and television (shown below), showing the progression of appreciation from one person to a large crowd.
In April 2004, “slow clap” was first defined on Urban Dictionary as a sarcastic action. In February 2006, a posted on the FS Passengers forum inquired if anyone had heard a slow clap on a flight with a poor landing before. In 2008, a clip of Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight sarcastically clapping at the news that James Gordon (Gary Oldman) would be named Police Commissioner the following day. While Ledger is shown clapping at a normal speed in the film, the footage was slowed down in trailers for dramatic effect.
Throughout 2009, the phrase “slow sarcastic clap” or “slow clap” appeared in the comments of numerous blogs and forum posts including Celebitchy, The Escapist and Xboxachievements.org. In July of that year, a poster on The Straight Dope began seeking out the origin of the enthusiastic slow clap which included discussion about the sarcastic version. Also in 2009, Yahoo! Answers posted a thorough explanation of the slow clap on their staff blog.
The Citizen Kane Clap
In 2005, a poster on the Straight Dope forums noted that the slow clap first appeared on film in the 1941 film Citizen Kane. During the film, Orson Welles’ character Charles Kane is attempting to start a round of applause for his wife after a poorly received opera performance, but he is the only person clapping (shown below). Though Kane’s intention was to cheer on his wife, it came off as a person fiercely applauding a dreadful display. The GIF has since become one of the most well-known clapping GIFs online and has been used since as early as December 2007.
On July 31st, 2011, Baltimore resident Chris Ashworth registered the domain SlowClapForCongress.com launched as a hub spot for videos of people slowly applauding politicians for finally coming to a conclusion on the 2011 debt ceiling crisis. By August 3rd, 43 videos were posted on the site leading to it being featured on TechPresident, BoingBoing and CNN that day. Also on August 3rd, the verified Twitter account for Congressman Hank Johnson’s staff tweeted that the site had been circulating around Congress. That week, the site was also featured on The Washington Post, TIME and Mediate. As of September 2013, there are more than 5,700 search results for “slow clap for Congress” on YouTube.
Google Groups Archive – alt.fan.don-n-mike: well played -sarcastic slow clap