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There Was a Standing Ovation Every 12.5 Minutes at the 38th Kennedy Center Honors

Audience members showed their appreciation. A lot.
One of many standing ovation moments. Photograph by Margot Schulman.

Sunday night’s 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors brought many standing ovation moments, like President Obama‘s late arrival, Yo-Yo Ma’s musical tribute to conductor Seiji Ozawa, and Aretha Franklin’s triumphant, show-closing rendition of Carole King’s(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Over the two-and-a-half hour show—which also honored Star Wars auteur George Lucas, actress and singer Rita Moreno, and actress Cicely Tyson—audience members stood up, cheered loudly, and then sat back down a total of 12 times, not including the individual rounds-of-applause that each honoree got at the start of the show (which will be counted as one long, sustained whoop). That generates a striking estimate of one standing ovation per 12.5 minutes.

The difference among the 12 ovations, though, was in speed. Everyone jumped to their feet following Franklin’s unadvertised appearance or when the choir from the Cicely Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, New Jersey came out to honor their teary-eyed namesake. But reactions to other sequences were slower. It took a few seconds for everyone to stand up and applaud following a bizarre orchestral tribute to Lucas’s filmography that featured smoke, lasers, and Imperial Stormtroopers. The cheering for Lucas came a bit more naturally after visits by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Carrie Fisher, who appeared, appropriately, as a hologram.

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