BACK   BACK to the Columnist INDEX ARCHIVE
DAN FRENCH has an M.A. in Rhetoric, and a Ph.D. in Media Studies, but don't let that fool you. And he still hasn't mailed us an 8 X 10.

Vist Dan's site,!
Dan French

The original "What Works"
"Tom Kenney"

"Inside the Box, Pt. II"
TV Development

"Whose Line is it Anyway?"
French's gag in a Quote-A-Crostic!

"Inside the Box, Pt. I"
TV Programming

"Your Showcase Set"
How to craft an L.A.-ready set

"The Clogged Drain of Comedy"
Who belongs on the stage? Comedy in L.A.

Why move to L.A.?

"Good Side/Bad Side"
What does comedy mean to a culture, post-911?

What should a manager do?

"Standup on TV"
What does TV want?

"Cash for Words"
Writing for dollars

"Stoking the Joke Machine"
Writing for a living

"Screenwriting for Standup Comics"
Just what it says

"Random Realizations"
Wisdom born of experience

Casting Season in L.A.

"Ladies & Gentlemen: A Job"
Working at Best Damn Sports Show Period

"LA Freefall for All"
It happens to everyone: Freefall!

"Hollywood or Bust"
How to change to succeed in L.A.

"How Edgy"
Column #2

"How Hip"
Column #3

"Who Writes Your Stuff?"
Why don't comics ask for help?

"The Art of Standup"
What would we gain by "turning up the art"

"Christmas Wish List"
Holiday column

"Getting Exercised"
A writing exercise

"High Octane"
Road vs. L.A., Monologist vs. Performer

"Inside the Box, Pt. I"
Television Programmers

"Inside the Box, Pt. II"
Television Production and Development

"Castle Breached"
Working at Late Late Show, Network television gig!

"I Like LA"
The third of five columns on writing comedy for money

"Hollywod Carousel"
Between BDSSP and Late Late Show, what I learned


I Like LA

I know I am three articles through a five-part series on writing comedy for money in Los Angeles-- writing for other comics, daily joke writing, screenwriting, sitcom writing, writing for miscellaneous shows-- but I'm taking a break from the series and saving sitcom-ing and miscellaneous for future months. Two reasons why: first, I want to interview someone who is currently doing those jobs, because I am not, and although I think I understand the process intellectually, I want to understand it experientially before I write about it. Second, I don't like to skim through topics, and I'm so busy that if I wrote those complex articles right now I would skim, believe me, I would skim. So I'm not gonna.

What I am going to do, if anyone is interested, is talk about why I like living in Los Angeles. Not because I'm trying to convince anyone to move here, because there are plenty of comics here already (although if you want to come and compete, please do, we'll take as many good comics as we can get). No, I'm going to write about liking LA because mostly what I hear are reasons to not like LA. And I just like being on the contrary, even if it means having to be positive about life now and then.

* * * * * * * * *

I came to Los Angeles just over two years ago, Feb. 2, 2000. It wasn't like I was leaving somewhere I loved. I had lived in Austin, Raleigh, Tampa, Dayton, and Louisville, all of which are decent enough cities, Austin especially, but none of which ever seemed to make me very happy. I was always thinking I needed to move somewhere else. That there wasn't enough going on where I was. That I was missing something.

Since I've come to LA, I haven't felt that once.

I had put off coming to LA for years because I, and my wife, had heard this city was the embodiment of hell on earth. And why move to hell until you have to?

I have found that there are plenty of things to resent, even hate, in LA. I'll list them and debunk them if you're interested.

Traffic It snakes through the city, it flows out into the surrounding areas like a long line of shiny metallic ants madly scrounging for food. It never ends. But... it's always moving. There is something to be said for the planning of LA traffic gods; they keep a massive amount of traffic creeping along. You get there, just slowly. And if you can drive at off times, you get there quickly.

Crowds The amount of people here is inconceivable. Thirteen million and counting. They keep coming, from every corner and hole in the world. An estimated five million more people will move here in the next twenty years. If you don't like people, don't like having them around you every single moment, this isn't the place for you. But on the other hand, if you know where to go, there are places in LA that seem almost oasis-like. Where I live in Glendale it is almost deserted at times.

Smog The air here is the worst in the country. And don't let that be an abstract to you. It means you cough, choke, wheeze. Your kids bend over and hack up dirt when they try to play outside sports. But you can always live at the beach. Live up toward the mountains. Don't live in the freaking valleys where the air sits and turns into lung soup.

Crime There is no more crime in LA than there is anywhere else. It's just that there are lots more people here, which means lots more criminals. And it's kind of fun seeing a car chase on TV every single night of the week. LA cops are great at chases now. They ram cars, spin them out, or throw razor wire under the tires. It makes for a good half hour.

Drugs Yeah, there is a drug industry here. But it mostly keeps to itself. You know where it is, you stay away from there. Unless you want to be involved, from what I've seen you don't have to be.

Poverty Something you don't hear much about, but LA has some areas that make third world countries look like resorts. But there are poor sides of town in every town. Again, if you don't have to be there, don't.

Expense Yes, it costs a lot to live in Los Angeles. If you want to buy a house, get ready to pay, to pay through the nose and whatever other orifice you can finance. I have never seen a decent house in a decent area here under $350,000. Think more on the l evel of $500 - 600,000 to live where there are good schools, good air, good police. There's just no way around the fact that you have to earn cash to live well in LA. But, on the other hand, you can get an apartment anywhere. You can move into Beverly Hills tomorrow if you want, and you're basically going to pay in rent what a house mortgage would be in another city. You won't own the place, but you're in Beverly Hills, not Nebraska, and that is a trade-off the might be worth making.

Finally, the quality of the people here is at least questionable. With thirteen million people, you're going to have large collections of those who could be justifiably rounded up and put in zoos. Check out the LA nightlife, if you can stomach looking at soulless pretty vampires preening for each other. Check out the bookstores and watch the pseudo-artistic reading pseudo-literature and looking down on you because you "just don't get it." Listen in on some conversations at the cafés and realize that vapid stupidity is as rampant here as it could ever be in some cut-off Appalachian hillbilly town. Talk to a couple of media execs and realize that there is as much incompetence here as anywhere else, just here they wear suits instead of mechanics' jumpsuits. Look into the eyes of a couple of some of the uber-ambitious, manipulative, seductive people and realize these would easily be Nazi eyes if circumstances were different. And finally, take a moment to ask someone what they're doing and hear the desperation of the barely talented actors, writers, directors, comics, etc., and try not to shudder.

All of which his bad. Bad, I say. Surely, this must be hell.

But somehow, it's not. The good news is that if you want to avoid the problems, it is possible to do so. There is so much in Los Angeles that if you don't like something, fine, just go somewhere a few blocks away and you'll find what you do like. If you know the city, you can plan your way right around whatever you consider to be despicable. If you don't like certain people, guess what? There are lots of other people who you will like, you just have to locate them. I've made more friends here in a little over a year than I had in ten years prior. It's a networking city, so people are open to new relationships. It's an artistic city, and there are amazing artists within the hordes of pretenders. It's got everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything.

And LA has something that nowhere else has: it has a real entertainment industry.

Okay, I'll give you that New York has a media industry, and Nashville and Chicago on a small scale, but those places aren't warm, so I don't consider them human options.

LA is warm, and it has an entertainment industry.

And for comics, that means so many things you might never think of before you come here.

It means you can think of yourself as a professional. In other areas of the country you're a weirdo, a questionable figure who may not even be "working" in the eyes of many. Here you're one of thousands and thousands who are working in industries roughly the same as yours.

It means you have friends. You can talk shop. There are more comics here than waiters. You can hang out forever if you want.

It means you have resources. There are classes here in every form of acting, every form of writing, every form of production. There are camera people, sound people, editing people, every tiny form of entertainment people. There are bookstores that sell scripts, clubs that do open mikes, clubs where agents and managers hang out, actors who will work on your little project for free.

It means there is money. Oh, my god, is there money lying around in massive stacks in LA offices. You might never get a finger on it, it might just tease or torture you forever, but those who do get a hand into the pot, whoa. Being in LA is like living inside a lottery machine.

Above all, LA is a city filled with hope. Hope perhaps most of all is the sustenance that drives Los Angeles. Yes, most of that hope is dashed, lies flailing on the streets, in the apartments, drinking in the bars. But you can live a decent life just charging your batteries on hope. Where there is opportunity, even if there is massive competition for that opportunity, hope thrives. And living with hope saturating your life is a whole lot better than living in Iowa, staring at corn.

So in the end, I can't quite say that I love LA, but I can say that I like it. Maybe if I hit the entertainment lottery, and can drive around in a convertible and live in a smog free beach home, I will.

But I like it. It offers me, as a comic, a writer, a creator, an entertainer, things I can't get anywhere else.

And that's enough to keep me here. HOME Back to the Top