How Dare I Evaluate Another Person

I booed a performer recently.

Sophie, who was sitting next to me, initiated the booing, and I chimed in. Soon, more and more people started booing, and the singer had to leave the stage. The interesting thing is that she wasn’t at all bad. The problem was that she wasn’t impressive.

This took place at the Apollo Theater for Amateur Night. I had lived in Harlem for a full year without ever having been to the Apollo, and when the end of my stay was imminent, I finally committed to attending Amateur Night. Anyway, the host, Capone, during his introductory skit, encouraged us to boo whoever didn’t perform well – except for the kids. The kids were off-limits. He also said that once the booing became loud enough, the “executioner” would jump on stage, and kick the performer off.

The kids went first. There was a 7 year old piano prodigy that played Chopin, another 7 year old that sang Alicia Key’s “Girl on Fire,” and a teenager that danced. I don’t know why I felt so proud watching these strangers perform.

Then, it was the adults’ turn. The first guy came up on stage and sang “Stand by me.” He sang with a strange vibrato that wasn’t very pleasant to listen to. Some booing happened here and there from the audience, but not enough for the executioner to appear. Looking back on the night, he was one of the worst performers, but the audience had no one to compare him to, and so he was spared.

I forget what the next performance was, but I remember it being mediocre. Sophie started to boo, and I looked at her and laughed. I just couldn’t join her. I didn’t have the heart to do it. I’m sure the performer spent a lot of time preparing for that night, and would probably be devastated if booed off stage.

Later on, by the third mediocre performance, I stopped feeling bad (although not completely) about booing people. Didn’t I pay money for my ticket, and had a hundred other things I could do with my precious time in New York City? Why should I feel bad about sitting through something not completely enjoyable? I wasn’t the only person that changed my perspective within the past 15 minutes. The rest of the audience was noticeably bolder as well.

Finally, the performer I mentioned in the beginning started signing “Killing me softly.” If she was one of my friends singing at a Karaoke on a drunken night, I would’ve been very impressed. However, the context of being on stage at a big theater had my expectations quite high, and she didn’t match them. When the executioner, a man in a costume and mask, jumped on stage and chased her off, I felt bad and satisfied at the same time.