Stand-up comedy is the ultimate of narcissism. As practitioners of the art, we demand that you not only see us and hear us, but that you pay careful attention and, most importantly, assure us that we did well.
“Getting your name in lights,” as cliché as that sounds, is the ultimate ego stroke for a stand-up comic. Sure, standing ovations are awesome (and always welcomed), but only the people in the show can see that. Your “name in lights” tells the entire world that, just for this one night, you have worth. Well, at least it tells the part of the world that isn’t blind and/or illiterate.
It is especially nice when the marquee is somewhere well-known with lots of nearby eyeballs. Like the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, or in Las Vegas.
Marquees do not have to be large environmentally-unfriendly behemoths to be effective or give you an emotional handjob. Here’s the chalkboard outside the TakeOut Comedy Club Hong Kong, which apparently gets the job done. Both jobs.
Inexplicably, there are even places where the marquee is on the inside of the venue. Which doesn’t really do anything to let the outside world know you’ll be there, but still does well at stroking the ego. Maybe they were fooled by the wall inside that was made to look like the outside world? Not sure.
But sometimes your name isn’t on the marquee. Here’s the marquee for a show I did where my name wasn’t on the sign and the sign wasn’t powered by electricity. In fact, the sign was scrawled in Sharpie on damaged cardboard and left to rest on a barrel full of ashes.
Earlier this year, I did a show where the guy who books the show had only his own name on the marquee. Whatever gets people in the seats. I’m not complaining. I view that as a good thing, since it shows this booker has cultivated an audience which knows he will produce great shows. And if I can be part of that history, I can still feel good about myself. Or am I just rationalizing? At least it wasn’t hovering over a vat of carcinogens.