No Boos is Good Boos

Audience dares contestants to meet expectations

Erick Johnson | 4/3/2014, 9 a.m.
It’s Friday night in Overtown. In the hallowed halls of historic Lyric Theatre, everyone is eagerly awaiting the next act. ...

Some fans enjoy the bad performances and the penalties more than good ones.

“People think it’s [booing] unethical but it’s fun,” said Maria Guerrero, 21, from Hialeah, who came to Lyric Live after hearing it from a friend. “It won’t be the same without the boos.”

Sean Banks, 31, who traveled from Pembroke Pines to attend the show, agrees.

“It really makes a difference,” he said. “It makes everyone comfortable and it challenges the the people to perform better.”

Banks said he attended similar talent shows in Atlanta where he recently lived. He and his friends plan to become regulars at Lyric Live.


Banks is perhaps one of millions of Americans whose favorite venue is the long-running Amateur Night at the Apollo in New York, where Howard “Sandman” Sims tap dances as he escorts bad performers off the stage following boos from the audience. Sims died in 2003.

The Apollo started encouraging crowds to run contestants off stage in the 1930s. The character “Porto Rico” was created to chase down contestants after they were “booed” off the stage, according to Apollo’s website. The role was passed on to Bob Collins, then Sims. When Oscar winner MoN’ique hosted the show in the ‘90s she changed the “boos” to “wop wop” to reflect a more ahem, classy way of expressing disapproval.

But the “boos” were reinstated after MoN’ique left the show in later years. Although the show itself has gone through changes and different television networks after several bitter labor union and production disputes, the “boos” have remained part of the show.

The late Luther Vandross buckled before getting “booed” at the Apollo before hitting his career as a legendary R&B crooner who sold over 25 million records.

Amateur Night at The Apollo still runs every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at its venerable location on 125th Street in Harlem.


At Lyric Live there is no tree of hope or the good luck charm for success. The crowds can be tough for their penalties for poor performances, which can be intimidating and challenging for contestants. And judging begins when contestants appear on stage. If they do not have “the look” that’s one strike against them, but talent usually wins out.

Contestants say the harsh crowd challenges them to rehearse more, but some say having natural talent is the most important quality for success. To them, either you have it, or you don’t.

Corenzo was in the lobby of the Lyric alone during intermission, recovering from his experience with the tough crowds.

He wasn’t happy.

“I’m not a fan of ‘booing’,” said Corenzo, a North Miami Beach resident who wants to be a professional singer. “It drops a person’s morale. At the end of the day, I know who I am. They don’t know anything about John Legend. It’s easy to ‘boo’ from the audience. But it’s different when you’re on the stage.”

Corenzo said the ‘boos’ should be taken out of the competition. After intermission, he returned to his seat to watch the show.