Father of the Claw: Mark Siano

When I moved to Seattle in 2001, the defaced road sign you see to the left made me chuckle every time I drove past it on 15th Avenue East near Volunteer Park. As my explorations around the city expanded, I saw the same defacement on similar signs everywhere I went. It was my first inkling that there was an underlying humor at play in the streets of the city. Ah,  but it was a simpler time then, long before the Internet became littered with the carcasses of a million played-out memes.

I haven’t seen a Claw Sign in awhile, but I was curious about the origin of this formerly ubiquitous sight gag. With a little Googling, I found the man who claims to be the creator of the Claw Sign Meme. His name is Mark Siano, and in addition to hilarious vandalism he has been a mainstay of the Seattle theater scene for almost two decades, most currently producing and performing in the revival of popular sketch comedy troupe The Habit.

I asked Siano a couple questions about his viral progeny.   

You claim to be the originator of “Stop For Me It’s The Claw.” How did that come about?

As a kid I used to always alter street signs to make people laugh with my buddy Ryan Dobosh. Like changing “Dead End” to “Dead Wendy” or changing “Watch for Ice” to “Watch for Mice” and drawing little mice. After years of going our separate ways, Mr. Dobosh and I lived in the same apartment building on Capitol Hill, and when the city put up a sign saying “Stop For Me It’s The Law,” we started to spasm with joy. So many options: “Stop For Me It’s The Lawn” with a lawnmower, or “Stop For Me It’s The Lawyer” with a briefcase. But it was obvious we needed to start something special and the Claw was the best option, so simple and catchy. And it’s true: The claw IS the law.

How did you feel when copycat Claws started popping up all over town? Did it feel like you had spawned a movement?

We love it! Every time I see a new Claw that I didn’t do, it makes me feel like a proud parent. And when it shows up on comedy websites and people even make T-shirts [and coffee mugs], I can’t help but get a little giddy.

The Habit runs through Dec. 2 at the Bathhouse Theater on Greenlake.