Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Quasi-Epic Brush With Internet Immortality

When I refer to myself as an "Internet Icon," tongue-in-cheek, people tend to laugh. Which is fine, and kind of the goal in the first place.

Along those lines, here's a quick story.

Back in the day, when my humor site was at its most robust, my billboards were one of the first Internet memes. (Although, back in 1999, memes weren't called that yet.) They were widely shared, widely emulated, and they prompted the publication of my book, "Twisted Billboards."

This was about a decade ago, and I always took a lot of pride in the fact they'd been part of early Internet culture. Tonight, I attended a new show at The Venetian in Las Vegas, "Rock of Ages." The show has been a hit on Broadway, and was made into what I understand was a not-great movie.

The show takes place in Hollywood, and one of the elements of the set are (wait for it) billboards. Among the billboards was one that, when I saw it, sent a chill up my spine. The giant mock billboard was, in fact, one I'd created for all those years ago, albeit with a minor design tweak.

Below is a pic with both the billboard onstage in "Rock of Ages" as well as my original billboard, dating back to 2002 (at least).

Needless to say, I had difficulty concentrating on the show. I went into mild shock and was honored, stunned, baffled and, yes, a little miffed (no credit was given as to the source or creator of the billboard).

Mostly, I was just plain blown away. I wondered if someone involved in the show, possibly a set designer, thought the billboard was real (I get asked that all the time about my billboards, even after all this time). I wondered why that billboard stood out enough to be used in the show. I wondered if it had occurred to the creative artists in the show to seek out the creator of the billboard so permission could be requested and appropriate credit given. (Although, if they thought it was real, perhaps they didn't think that process necessary.) I wondered how many people will see my joke, blown up to larger-than-life proportions, during the run of "Rock of Ages" and perhaps beyond.

More than anything else, though, I was struck by the amazing coincidence I'd encountered. All those people in attendance. All the funny images floating around the Internet. How many shows blow up Internet images and use them in their sets?

All those variables, and there I was, face-to-face with a joke I'd written a decade or more ago, a joke that somehow lives on in a stage musical in Las Vegas, my favorite city on Earth and the place I call home.

I may not be an Internet icon, as my friends often remind me, but maybe if one's work is entrenched in the zeitgeist, that's close enough. And even if it doesn't make someone iconic, it's still pretty flipping cool.

Update: In June, 2014, the below photo was taken of the set at "Rock of Ages." It appears the show may have had second thoughts about a billboard with a specific brand of liquor on it, especially one implying that liquor has inspired incest of some sort. Maybe Jack Daniels contacted the show, maybe not. Perhaps the show wanted the billboard to be less identifiable as one created by, you know, me. Not having the liquor bottle sort of ruins the joke, and must leave audiences scratching their heads. But you know the real story.

If you'd like to see what I do in my day job, check out I work as the Interactive Marketing Manager at Fremont Street Experience and write a blog about all the best things to do in Las Vegas.


Mike G said...

Bravo, Scott. I wasn't really planning on going to see Rock of Ages. And, how pathetic would it be if this is the reason I end up going? Because it could be.

Walkin-n-Waggin Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Services said...

Okay, on the one hand I am so happy for you: Just too cool, Scott -- my sincere congrats!

On the other hand, I'm friggin' pissed (for you): They should have compensated you and, in the very least, given you CREDIT... Hell, on second thought, they should have first GOTTEN YOUR PERMISSION before PILFERING YOUR SHIT... Just sayin.

Jonderson said...

You update this blog so infrequently that I just now spotted this. Anyway, how freaking awesome is that?! Your "friends" may be correct when they say you are not an internet icon. When your stuff starts appearing on stages IRL, your influence has officially gone beyond the bounds of the internet. You may have to consider a new moniker. Something more robust. Maybe "cultural raconteur", or something like that.


(And no, it didn't escape me that it is the booze billboards that seem to get the most attention. At least this one didn't involve sternly worded letters.)

Scott Roeben said...

Pretty awesome, Jonathan, thanks. Now I have to look up "raconteur." ")