Don’t Be A Sidekick

Dad sometimes expressed his wish for me to be a television host. He envisioned me of one day replacing Johnny Carson. Dad said not to settle for becoming Ed McMahon’s replacement. I usually brushed off dad’s comments by reminding him that I have zero ambition nor interest in a television career, let alone hosting a late night program. It was just not something I would enjoy, neither would I want to replace McMahon for many of the same reasons.

Some time later, while working at Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, California, I was fortunate to have a mellow, insightful, wise supervisor. His name slips past my memory now, but something he once told me has stuck like glue. Never befriend someone who will outshine you because you’ll never have a healthy friendship. “If you become someone’s sidekick, you’ll eventually get kicked to the side.” In other words, be careful about becoming someone’s wingman.

My boss used another analogy that I like. The Full Moon is brilliant alone in the night sky, but after the Sun rises, the Moon is imperceptable or dim in comparison. Even if the Moon eclipses the Sun, that condition is short lived–the Sun regains its dominance soon afterwards. The Moon will always be subservient to the Sun in the sky because the Moon receives its light from the Sun.

Regardless of your station in life, while you’re on the stage of life, you are never an also ran or a sidekick. You are the headliner, the star attraction, the main character of the story. If you allow yourself to take the supporting role in someone else’s story the less desireable of a companion he will be. Such a companion will become used to you playing second-fiddle in his performance. Any recognition you receive will be leftovers after the applause has died.

“Usually when you’re Asian and you’re on set, you’re the only Asian there. Either you’re the token Asian or you’re the Asian sidekick.”–American actor, stand-up comedian, and writer, Jimmy O. Yang

In stage, film, and television acting, the secondary figures have little or no in-depth character development. They are seen as certain stereotypes. They are rarely fully presented as three-dimensional characters who are pertinent to the outcome of the story. The secondary characters are defacto sidekicks.

Meanwhile, some people do prefer to consciously take the sidekick role. Such people do not like standing in the limelight. There is a certain attraction to playing the supporting cast member. Many times they stand out on their own due to their own special qualities and talents. They might act goofier, or quirkier. Some sidekicks play the patient, wise advisor to the more impulsive main character. With the sidekick’s guidance, the main character is better able to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. Also, Ed McMahon ended up becoming a multi-millionaire–that’s nothing to sneeze at.

However, in my own way of seeing situations, I’ve felt somewhat sorry for sidekicks because they never get their full recognition and reward. They are still remembered as the subordinant in relationship to the main star of the show. After all, the public thinks of Batman and Robin, not Robin and Batman. Robin isn’t even mentioned in the television show’s theme song.

Perhaps, in some way my sympathy for the sidekick came about because I always felt like the wingman to my grade school friends. They seemed to always get the attention and praise, while I stood aside and observed. Although I loved and admired my friends, the relationships never felt equal and fair. It wasn’t until the college years that friendships became more democratic and equal. Having balanced say-so in important matters, felt good. Sometimes my best pal played my wingman; sometimes I played his wingman. Everything worked better for both of us. Neither of us were subordinant. This is still the way I want my friendships to work.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Jimmy Kimmel. “If you want to do a talk show on network television, you’re probably going to wind up having a desk and a band, wearing a suit, and having a sidekick. Audiences want to feel comfortable.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Entertainment, Friendship, philosophy, Youth and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Don’t Be A Sidekick

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    The fact that your supervisor’s name has slipped from your memory says much. Where did he wind up with such a suspicious outlook?

    • swabby429 says:

      I do not believe he said it in a suspicious context. He had noticed that I–barely out of my teens–was very submissive and too eager to please others. He was a good man with a big heart who was reminding me of the importance of standing on my own two feet. The reason his name slipped from my memory is that this happened more than 50 years ago and I neglected to remember his name. I am able to see his face when reminicsing about him. Thank you for your observation and question.

      • Jnana Hodson says:

        I appreciate the context. From my end, I think there’s much to be said for being No. 2, if one can maintain and nurture one’s talents in the position. On the other hand, we’ve also seen ambitious people who will take as much as they can while giving nothing in return.
        Being a star carries many hazards of its own, worthy of examination another time.

  2. Herb says:

    It seems that sometimes sidekicks are actually important partners. I can’t imagine Johnny Carson without Ed. Ed was important to the show and was one of Johnny’s closest friends. One of the few real friends he had. Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels were also close friends offscreen. Some friendships are like that, but I agree, you should not be subordinate to someone, that’s not true friendship.

  3. It depends on how you look at it and what you want to get out of a relationship. Teams have stars and role players. Pilot and copilot works well. Mutual respect is important.

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