For the last three decades, Tim Harris, a professional slow clapper, has been stirring crowds with his single claps. In his 60s, Tim is still actively slow clapping.
Last year, he attended and slow clapped at over a hundred college games, high school cafeterias, and local Shakespeare productions in the park, leaving the crowd around him to ask, “Who was that guy?”
We sat down with Tim to answer that question and more.
When did you first become a slow clapper?
August 1st, 1964. I was five. I was at a rodeo with my folks when an enraged steer horned a rodeo clown. I felt sorry for him.
I wanted to do something to help. So, as he was carried out in a stretcher, I let out a slow clap. Eventually, the other twelve people in the audience clapped too. All because of me.
From then on, I dedicated my life to this sport.
So, slow clapping is a sport?
That’s right. There are several variables at play: when to clap, how to clap, facial expressions, tempo, beats. Oh, and dealing with hecklers.
Can you tell me more about hecklers?
It’s the nature of any sport, usually from people who don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve. When hecklers — sometimes children — tell me to stop, it pushes me to clap even harder, unless they’re very intimidating. Then I take my claps elsewhere.
You’re currently wearing gloves. Is that to protect them?
Yes — these are my tools. The money-makers (sometimes). I have to protect them at all costs.
How do you prepare your hands for a performance?
Arms and back are key to successfully slow clap, so I make sure not to exert any kind of weight on them.
I practice every day and air clap to a metronome in front of a mirror, making sure to take in the entire body. Form is critical for a slow clap. Your shoulder blades must touch, your elbows need to be at a 27-degree angle, and your face: absolutely still.
Do you have a favorite place to slow clap?
Not really — the world is my playground. Sometimes you don’t choose the place, the hands do. I do prefer baseball games and corporate events, however. The crowds there get what I’m doing, and sometimes give tips.
I once slow clapped at a town council’s meeting but was banned for life after my claps were seen as “too disruptive.” Those were my experimental years.
What were your experimental years like?
I spent two years slow clapping on a unicycle. I was called a rebel by my contemporaries, and lame by everyone else. Did it bother me? Yes. But they wouldn’t know by my claps.
So, what motivates you to slow clap?
Generally, I do it for the audience. And for my ego. Money helps, too.
What are your thoughts on fast clappers?
God bless them. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. With them, I have real power. I like to think of them as followers, whether they clap after me or not.
You mentioned contemporaries earlier. Do you mean there are more of you?
There are. There are millions of slow clappers throughout America — and the world. Statistically, one may be slow clapping right now.
Those who realize this talent can join the Society of Slow Clappers, though we don’t really like to meet. We’re highly competitive, especially after speeches.
Turf wars have been a real issue with our kind.
They’re not as bad as they used to be, especially since the Milwaukee Accord of ‘93.
Now, out of principle, we communicate through a secret code that lets other slow clappers know when they’re on your turf. We do it with three 1-second claps, a 3-second pause, three 1-second claps. That usually resolves our disputes. That, and A LOT of blackmailing afterwards. It amazes me the kind of perversions slow clappers have outside this sport.
Do you have any interests outside slow-clapping?
No, not really. I live for this. I did try music once, though. With my hands, obviously.
I wrote a song called “Silly Hands,” which goes a bit like this:
It’s a love song.
That’s beautiful. Sounds like you were meant to be a slow clapper.
Thank you. Well, I live by one simple rule: Clap hard, clap once, then clap again.
So, before we wrap up, do you have any tips for aspiring slow clappers?
Perfect the single tear. And don’t you dare slow clap if I’m around.