God: No, but catchy jingle, isn't it? "Clap on, clap off, clap on, clap off, The Clapper!" Can't get it out of my head.
The clapper is one of the quintessential infomercial gadgets... a sound-sensitive switch that can be used to turn devices on and off, typically by clapping, although any sharp, loud sound can also do it.
On film and TV, the clapper is used almost exclusively for lights, and typically as a joke. Given how gimmicky the product is, people aren't expected to have them; not to mention that since the device can't distinguish between clapping and other sounds, it is very possible to set it off accidentally.
Believe it or not, it's not usually a case of Product Placement; the product itself is rarely seen, and thanks in part to this trope, the idea is ubiquitous enough that people know what it is without needing to have their attention called to it. Many people that know this trope might not even know such a product ever existed in the first place.
- A commercial for Energizer Batteries featured the Energizer Bunny interrupting a commercial for The Clapper. The Bunny's drumming caused The Clapper to turn the lights on and off in a flickering way.
- In an old commercial for the Seattle Mariners baseball team, star player Edgar Martinez attached a Clapper to the stadium lights so that he could quickly turn them on and off for late-night practices. Predictably, this causes problems when the fans applaud at the game the next day.
- In a story arc in Knights of the Dinner Table, B.A. installed a Clapper so he could dramatically turn the lights off during a game to create atmosphere. Brain kept clapping his hands so he could turn the lights back on to take notes. A clapping war ensued, eventually breaking the Clapper and leaving them stuck in the dark.
- A 2003 Mother Goose and Grimm strip had an elderly Aladdin attempt to get the genie to come out of his lamp by clapping his hands.◊
- Combined with Dead TV Remote Gag in Pearls Before Swine. Rat hooks the TV up to the clapper so they can turn it off easily without the remote. It gets set off when Pig slaps his knee whilst laughing.
- A gag in the 2004 film version of Around the World in 80 Days used a variant of this trope that involves turning the lights on and off via whistling. This eventually leads to another gag where Jackie Chan's character whistles in astonishment, accidentally turning off the lights in the process.
- Made into a running joke in Bruce Almighty. It's one of God's calling cards, as he (and later, Bruce) clap their hands as a practical (if a bit mundane) way to turn lights on and off even when there's no clapper in the room.
- Funny moment in Garden State, where genuine applause accidentally triggers the clapper and turns off the living room lights.
- Hot Shots! Part Deux showcases that Saddam Hussein had The Clapper installed on his manor in a quick gag.
- In Night at the Museum the main character invented The Snapper, a gimmicky product just like The Clapper except it responds to finger snapping. It failed to catch on because "clapping is easier than snapping".
- Maid Marian uses it to turn on the lights in her room in Robin Hood: Men in Tights
- A non-lights version appears in Tank Girl. While the little girl Sam is held captive in the Liquid Silver resort she tricks a customer into grabbing a silver ball she has. When she claps her hands twice, the ball sends blades into the customer's hand, incapacitating him.
- Not the Clapper itself, but a similar device appears on The Cosby Show. The Huxtable kids buy their father a keychain for his birthday that can be located by clapping. The kids demonstrate and repeatedly get it to work, but Cliff himself can't. He decides to hold onto it anyway because his kids gave it to him out of love. At the end of the episode, he mentions that he's gotten a little thicker over the years and pats his belly. Now, the keychain goes off.
- Alton Brown has one in his fruit and ale cellar in Good Eats.
- Home Improvement, "The Route of All Evil" (S 04 E 13). Tim and Al are repairing a gas leak. Just after Al is told all the electrics in the house have been turned off save one light that runs on a clapper, Tim comes up and claps. The house promptly goes boom.
- One episode of Married... with Children has Bud Bundy slapped twice by an angry girl, setting off the Clapper effect with the lights.
- In a sketch on Not Necessarily the News (an American quasi-version of Not the Nine o'Clock News) a man installs the Clapper, then sees a commercial for the Clapper on TV. The clapping on the commercial turns his lights on and off.
- Parodied in one episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch where Sabrina checks her spellbook to see if there is a spell for turning on lights during a power outage. The spell is to say "clap on" and clap the same way you would for a real clapper light. She is all too aware how obvious this joke is.
- Once on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson made a joke about the President connecting the nuclear button to the clapper. "Clap-on... all gone"
- The premier episode of The Librarians (TNT Version), Jenkins tries to shut off the magical hologram of the planet with a clapper action. It doesn't work.
- In an "Abby's Flying Fairy School" segment of Sesame Street, Abby, Blogg, and Gonnigan are turned into fishes to look for Blogg's Slime ball collection when he accidentally drops it in the ocean. To light up a dark part of the ocean, Blogg claps against against an electric eel, even saying The Clapper's slogan while he does it.
- In the Dinosaurs episode "Power Erupts" Robbie mentions that another student at his high school science fair made a lamp that can turn on/off at the sound of clapping. When he and Spike hi-five, the lights go off and someone yells, "Clap on, clap off, I'm rich!"
- An episode of Adventures in Odyssey has Eugene lose his car keys (again) in Whit's End. He then starts whistling and Whit has to explain to someone else in the shop that Eugene is doing this because Whit got him an early Christmas present: because Eugene keeps losing his car keys, Whit bought him a present to attach to his car keys that will make a noise if he whistles for them.
- In Gruntz, this is referenced with the Black Screen curse. Curses are multiplayer items that, when picked up, cause some kind of temporary inconvenience for other players. This particular one causes other players to have their screen become completely black (except for the gruntz themselves), and the grunt who picks it up can say "Clap on, clap off!".
- Techtales has a story where a man complained his lights turned off whenever he tried to install a certain program. Turned out the start of the music sounded just like a clap.
- In The Princess and the Frog, an elderly firefly turns on her light by clapping.
- In the episode of Recess where Spinelli has to stay with Miss Finster, Miss Finster turns off her bedroom light by clapping her hands.
- An episode of The Simpsons had Homer repeatedly clapping his hands in an effort to turn the lights off. Marge eventually tells him that they don't have a Clapper.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Have You Seen This Snail?" has Gary's new caretaker turning off her lights this way.
- In the second 2 Stupid Dogs episode where the dogs run into the Red Riding Hood with Tourette Syndrome, the three wind up in the home of the Three Bears. They retire to the bears' beds for the night, and Red claps her hands to turn the lights out.
- Parodied in Robot Chicken with "The Shouter", which is exactly what the name implies. The demonstrations in the commercial are either frustrated expletives or cynical declarations.