Posted by R. Berg on April 12, 2001
In Reply to: Knock 'em dead posted by Bob on April 12, 2001
: : : I've used every search engine there is, and can't find
: : : "knock'em dead" anywhere! (except in reference to "how to do knock'em dead resumes/interviews)
: : : How did this ever become a positive thing to say to someone!!
: : Maybe by way of the theatrical expression "knock them in the aisles," to do comedy so well that the audience falls over laughing. And one meaning of "knock for a loop" in the Dictionary of American Slang is to make a favorable impression.
: Performers often use slang for a successful performance that, on closer examination, uses violent metaphors. A comedian or musician coming offstage to huge applause might tell someone "I blew the room away," "I killed 'em," "mowed 'em down," etc. There's an undercurrent of combat in the performer/audience relationship, and the warlike metaphors reflect that.
I'd like to offer a less sinister interpretation. (It works better for comedy than for music.) People overcome by their reaction to extreme humor lose control of themselves: they "die laughing." But getting carried away like that is a state the audience wants, not one it hopes to avoid.