The guy says something funny, clearly amusing himself.
He cracks up, throws his head back, mouth agape.
And then he does it: He claps.
One big resounding slap of the hands, like some sort of madman, a yukking narcissist applauding his own magnificent sense of humor. (Briefly springing to mind: a comic-book villain, rubbing his hands together as he cackles malevolently.)
What really is he and so many others who perform the laugh-clap doing? Something strikes you as funny and laughter peals forth. Got it. And then you do a thwacking clap, a percussive note accentuating your uncontainable delight. Add a snort to the mix and you’ve got a symphony.
The dreaded laugh-clap is cousin to the har-har knee-slap, which is rather outmoded, more of an uncle-in-overalls gesture. The foot stomp: same.
The laugh-clap, however, never goes out of style. I see — and hear — them all the time, and I cannot fathom their purpose or impetus. Where do they come from? The tipsy, the assertively gregarious, sports fans, frat boys, theater majors — it infects a cross-section of chortler. You’ve seen them, laughing, clapping, having a good old time while giving a round of applause to … something.
The most egregious high-profile offender is Jimmy Fallon, the cutesy, infantilized host of “The Tonight Show.” The guy will laugh at anything. He will chortle, titter, guffaw and giggle. Almost always he will clap.
There’s an actual online message board “Jimmy Fallon Laughing & Clapping.” It’s terribly unenlightening in its attempts at parsing what’s wrong with Laughing Boy — who knows what makes these characters tick? — but at least it exists, a sort of douche-o-meter.
Many posters call Fallon’s overreactions to even the featheriest of tickles “fake,” which is, we all know, high treason in comedy. (Watch a video compilation of Fallon laugh-clapping HERE. Beware: It may irritate you to death. Literally.)
“Did you ever see him on SNL? Every thing, at that moment, is the funniest thing ever and ol’ Jimmy just has to laugh,” notes one messenger.
Another one, who, while calling Fallon a “prepackaged predictable politically correct vanilla product,” seems to come to the host’s defense:
“You can only express so much excitement through a laugh — you have to add some other form of how funny something is.”
Adding a dimension to the old grizzled snigger, when boring, limited laughter isn’t good enough. They make it sound like an art form, say, a popular new dance, the Laugh-Clap.
Natch, this is nothing but a quibble, a Seinfeldian social moan that amounts to empty venting. I still don’t get the laugh-clap. I don’t like it. Yet one poster offers possibly the most clear-headed and charitable view that I’ll swallow for now:
“It’s an appreciation for joy.”