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
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
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.