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Clapper Gag

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Bruce: You installed The Clapper?
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. So much so, that many people that know this trope might not even know such a product ever existed in real life in the first place.


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  • 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 Martínez 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.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Bad Guys (2022), Professor Marmalade has a lamp designed as himself holding the heart-shaped meteorite in his manor that activates with clapping. It's him self-applauding himself at the end of the film that reveals the swap between the lamp and the real meteorite, also implicating him of the crimes.
  • Madagascar: Alex has a clapper-activated light over the place where he sleeps in his pen at the zoo, which he uses right before realizing the zoo people left the ambience on.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, an elderly firefly turns on her light by clapping.
  • In Robots, during the montage where Rodney helps to fix the Outmodes, one has a lightbulb for a nose. When Fender claps, the Outmode's nose lights up. When Fender and the Outmode give each other a high-five, the Outmode's nose dims out.
  • Smallfoot: Yetis use bioluminescent snails as lights, which they turn on by clapping to wake them up.

    Films — Live Action 
  • A gag in Around the World in 80 Days (2004) 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.
  • In the second movie Austin Powers' swinging bachelor pad has a fireplace that turns on when he claps.
  • 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 which adds an extra degree of humour since they're in 12th century England.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • On an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a scene of soldiers marching was msted this way:
    We're gonna march in double time! (We're gonna march in double time!)
    Let's sing a song by Michael Feinstein! (Let's sing a song by Michael Feinstein!)
    Sound off! (One Two!)
    Sound off! (Three Four!)
    Clap on! Clap off! The Clapper!
  • 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"
  • In the first episode of The Librarians (2014), Jenkins tries to shut off the magical hologram of the planet with a clapper action. It doesn't work.
  • In Daybreak (2019), the Ghoulie-fied Miss Crumble declares that she has a key to unlock the doors to the mall, but she cannot find them. After checking all of her pockets she remembers that she attached them to a clapper, but when she does clap she can't follow the ringing sound until she realizes that it's coming from inside her: She swallowed them.
  • On The Big Comfy Couch, Loonette and Molly will clap to turn on the lamp before reading a story and then clap again to turn it off after the aforementioned story is over.
  • Frasier: In one episode Niles reveals that Maris had a lamp fitted with a clap switch after a power cut left her unable to find her way around the beach house. He also notes that her extremely frail build meant she was never able to clap hard enough for the lamp to activate.

    Puppet Shows 
  • 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 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.


    Video Games 
  • 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!".

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
    • Prehistoric versions of Spongebob and Patrick keep clapping repeatedly and turn the rain on and off until they do it one time too many and it doesn't stop.
  • 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.
  • One episode of The Critic shows a parody of RoboCop, Robo Clapper.
    Robo Clapper: Freeze dirt bag, you're under a- (clap, clap) (shuts down) (clap, clap) -rrest. Please don't do that.
  • One Animaniacs skit was Slappy Squrriel advertising "The Slapper". Also one of the post-credits scenes is the Warner siblings singing The Clapper jingle.
    Warners: Clap on...Clap off...Clap on, clap off...Show's over!