Current stand-up comedy relies on original expression, requiring
the performer to develop a unique and engaging comedic viewpoint.
This calls for the comedian to be able to shift between different, often
contradictory, perspectives on the world and on him/herself and transmit
them to audiences. Based on ethnographic research in Finland, I show
how the stand-up comedian performs as both sign and sign-maker. As a
sign-maker, the comedian is the contextual ground, the taken-for-granted
source and frame of the performed material. As a sign, the comedian is
a figure the audience needs to interpret and understand as part of the
performance. More generally, my aim is to shed light on how cultural
concepts of self, subjectivity, and person are engaged in the processes of
developing and performing stand-up comedy.