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Posts Tagged ‘nyc’

Comedy: NYC vs LA

“So what’s better, comedy in New York or comedy in LA?”

Several people in LA have asked me that question. Last week when I was in New York, I was asked this question:

“What’s comedy like in LA? Do you miss New York?”

The third question is the easiest to answer. Of course I miss New York. It’s my favorite city and I bet it always will be. I also really like LA.

In New York, comedians like to repeat this advice: “Don’t move to LA until industry tells you to.” I don’t know who said this first or when, and maybe at one time it was good advice. But after living here for a year, I think it’s pretty off the mark. I think that the reputation of a place is always about five years behind reality. I remember hearing that comedy in LA is lazier and not as smart and that there’s not enough stage time available to really develop. If those rumors were at one time true, they’re not anymore.

It is true that the audiences are different in New York and LA. Audiences are more demanding in New York, and I like that. It sets the bar high and that’s one of many reasons New York is a great place to develop as a comedian. But LA audiences are not “easier because they are dumber,” which is another rumor that’s out there. I think LA audiences are more relaxed and willing to accept you as a good comedian because they are there to laugh, and that does make it easier to do well. I’m much more comfortable sharing more of myself onstage here, and that has helped my writing as well. It’s more specific, and I feel like it’s easier to write jokes in my own voice. Part of that is just progress, my third year of doing standup as opposed to my first or second. But I also think the supportive audiences have a lot to do with it too, as well as the supportive comedians who make up the LA comedy scene.

My first night in LA, I went to an open mic. The open mic system in LA is a lottery, so the host draws names out of a hat and you sign up for a spot when your name is called. If luck exists, then I have really bad luck when it comes to having my name drawn out of a hat. That first night, I was drawn dead last. Two and a half hours later, it was finally my turn to do my five minutes. Most of the comedians had left at this point, so the room was nearly empty. As soon as I got onstage, two more people came in the room. It was Jim Hegarty and Dominic Dierkes, two nice guys who introduced themselves to me earlier in the evening and made me feel a lot less awkward and alone. They had both gone up pretty early in the evening, but stuck around for an extra two hours just to see me. To be supportive. I will never forget that.

And if I wasn’t clear above, I am a girl and they are guys and they stayed to see me to be supportive. One thing I don’t miss about the New York comedy scene is hearing “Who did she fuck to get on that show?” Because I heard that phrase said about female comedians too many times in New York, and it’s gross and disrespectful. I don’t hear garbage like that in LA and it makes me happy. LA comedians are fans of each other. They even laugh at open mics, and when they go to shows it’s hard to tell them apart from regular audience members because they are also laughing and having a good time.

Why do comedians in New York seem less supportive of each other than in LA? The New York comedy scene is very competitive. Sure, comedians like each other and are friends with each other, but it seems like bitterness and jealousy come between friends often, openly or behind each other’s back. Taylor Williamson, who started in LA/San Diego, moved to New York, and is now back in LA, once explained his theory to me on why this happens in NY and not LA. In LA, the “heat” of the industry will be on a comedian for a little while and then it will move to someone else. While the “heat” is on you, you make progress that’s noticeable to others, and when it’s not on you anymore it’s ok because the tangible success you had, even if it was brief, is reassuring that you are moving forward. And other comedians don’t really have time to get jealous because the “heat” just keeps moving. And it often cycles back onto you again at a different time.

In New York, the “heat” concentrates on a few select people for a lot longer. When it gets hot enough, those people usually move to LA. Some continue to live in New York and build successful careers there, but they will still travel to LA fairly regularly for meetings. So most up and coming comics don’t get to feel “heat” in New York, and without tangible success to reassure them, it’s easy to get jealous of comedians who have success, especially if they have been doing comedy the same amount of time as (or less than) the jealous comedian.

By the numbers, there is more stage time in New York. There are more open mics and shows at alternative venues in New York and you can get up multiple times every night if you want, which is incredible. But if you were to tally up the number of shows at alternative venues in both places that are produced well and get real audience members, the numbers would be about equal. There are a lot more comedy clubs in NYC than LA, but there are lots of comedy clubs not too far away from LA, like in Orange County and San Diego that get great audiences and will give stage time to up and coming comics.

So which is better? Comedy in New York or comedy in LA? I think they are both great, and it depends on the person which is a better fit. If competition drives you, New York will make you better faster. If a supportive, welcoming environment makes you more comfortable onstage, LA is a better pick. For me, both are valuable and I need to get to New York more often than I do. I know really talented, cool people doing comedy in both New York and LA, and watching them develop their comedy onstage has helped me develop mine.

What about all the other great places to do comedy, like Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and other cities? Yes, I’m sure there are lots of great places to live and do comedy. I have only lived as a comedian in NYC and LA, so those are the only cities I can really compare.

If you are an up and coming comedian in New York, I think you should come out to LA and do some shows. Just a few days, a couple of weeks, or even a month. Don’t wait for industry to call for you, you can start learning about all that now so that when you are called for, you’re ready for it. And LA comedians should go to New York for a bit. There is so much to observe because so much is happening all the time, it’s easy to spark your creativity there.

Good comedy has a clear perspective and if you only stay in one place, it’s easy to lose perspective. Comedy has no rules, there is no set path for a career in comedy, but the more experiences we have, the more we have to joke about, right?

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Joe Powers

I’m thinking about Joe Powers today. I think of him often, but today it has been 2 years since his accident. I am able to see the things people google to get to my blog, and besides “pregnant masseuse” and “peruvian parasite,” “joe powers accident” shows up pretty frequently. When I run into people who know Joe, they ask me how he’s doing. We live across the country from each other now, but I try my best to keep up with all his progress. I visited Joe’s parents in Oregon a couple of weeks ago and I got to see the home Joe grew up in. I had a really nice time that I won’t soon forget.

Joe and I did standup comedy together in New York City. In fact, he was my inspiration to start doing comedy. He’s the best storyteller I’ve ever known and we used to tell each other stories for hours, or when we were at work, email stories back and forth all day long.

On August 22nd (late at night, so actually the 23rd), Joe was at a party after a comedy show when he fell two stories off the roof of an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. I was not there. No one is exactly sure how it happened because no one saw it. At first, his friends thought maybe he just went home without saying goodbye, but one friend said that wasn’t possible because they lived near the same subway stop and Joe would have asked her if she wanted to go also. So they looked for him, found him, called an ambulance, and saved his life.

Joe’s bones have healed, but he is still recovering from a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). When I lived in New York, I would go to Queens about once a week to visit him at Park Terrace, a rehab/care facility. For the first year, Joe’s memory was very much impaired. But I knew all his stories, so I would spend the day retelling the incredible stories he had told me from his life. When his family couldn’t be there, I would stay a few nights at the Holiday Inn across the street and spend my days with him so he wouldn’t have to be alone.

But almost a year ago I moved to Los Angeles. Luckily, Joe made so much progress in his first year of recovery, he was able to move as well– to an amazing facility called the Northeast Center for Special Care in Lake Katrine, NY. His wonderful parents and siblings travel to New York to spend time with him, but if there’s a week that no one is able to be there, Joe is ok by himself. He’s much more independent. I got to visit him for three days in June for the first time since I moved. Since my last visit in September 2009, Joe was now pushing his wheelchair by himself, speaking more complex sentences clearly, and his memory was very much improved. We watched Last Comic Standing together and he even remembered some of the comedians on the show (the year prior to his accident is still the hardest for him to remember.)

He has been in recovery for two years now, and he continues to make significant progress. He is the kindest, most patient person and his attitude is remarkably positive. He jokes around a lot, and when he is ready to move on from the rehab facility, he would like to move back to NYC and continue doing standup. While I was there, Joe was preparing a list of questions to ask one of his fellow “neighbors” at the center. He wanted to ask him to name five realistic goals for the next 10 years and five “if I could do anything” goals. So I asked Joe what his realistic and “if I could do anything” goals were. He said, “To get out of my wheelchair, to use my left arm again, and to start doing comedy again. That’s it.”

I talked to Joe on the phone yesterday. He sounded good, he was hanging out with his dad. He has met all his speech therapy goals, and will receive more botox in his left arm and leg and additional baclofen that will help with relax his muscles so he can strengthen them and eventually walk and regain the use of his hand. Joe is left-handed, but he can do a lot of things with his right hand now, including send text messages, emails, and write words by hand.

I’m so proud of Joe. He has made wonderful progress, and it is inspiring to see him treat everyone around him with so much kindness and respect as he works so hard on his recovery. I am also inspired by his family, who are so supportive and encouraging.

For those people who are looking for more information, his parents do a great job of posting updates to http://www.carepages.com/carepages/JoePowers/.


This was taped a few days before his accident. Joe still remembers this joke!

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Y2K + 10

10 years ago tonight, I partied like it was 1999. My mom dropped me off at Daniel’s house so I could ring in the new century with my “theatre friends.” If I told Mom I was hanging out with “theatre friends,” she would be certain there would be no trouble, so therefore, no curfew.

As she drove away, I dragged my large duffel bag on the ground toward the house. It was heavy. So many cans of food (including a seven pound can of chocolate pudding), bottles of water, a flashlight, first aid kit. It was my Y2K Pack, “just in case.” I was surprised no one else brought Y2K supplies, but I was relieved. If Y2K turned out really bad, and someone suggested eating each other, they probably wouldn’t eat me since I brought some supplies.

We listened to REM’s It’s The End of the World As We Know It, like we did every New Year’s Eve because TEENS RULE. We watched the ball drop in Times Square on tv and I imagined how I would someday go to Times Square every year to watch the ball drop. My dreams have changed since then. I decided never to watch the ball drop live once I learned that a lot of those people wear diapers so they can go to the bathroom on themselves and not lose their place in front of the action. That sounds like too much fun for me.

There was no Y2K disaster and eventually the seven pounds of chocolate pudding were eaten. I have lived in five places in the past ten years and I have changed direction on many things, like politics, religion, and whether or not onions taste good. But a few things remained unchanged, such as New York City is the greatest place on earth, I love the theatre, and chocolate pudding is amazing.

Happy New Year!

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Life Coach

I decided my two options for tonight would be a) update this blog, or b) Become a certified life coach 16 hours online classes weekly (from a link to my gmail).

Even if I took classes, I still wouldn’t be qualified to be anyone’s life coach, and I think this is true of most life coaches. Although I often act like I’m trying to be someone’s life coach, and usually it is to the tune of “Don’t leave NYC! Keep trying! It will get better!”

Over the past few years, friends have let me know they don’t know how much longer they can “take” New York. It took me some time to learn not to take this personally, and I am still learning how to not try to force them to stay here, because that’s my instinct. I guess it’s because I’ve never once thought “I want to be somewhere else but New York.” Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get here, and even in college, I remember thinking “I like this place, and it’s a good place to be, but someday I will be in New York.”

I guess I just can’t relate to those thoughts of unhappiness. I mean, sure, I’m unhappy sometimes. But I could never blame this place.

I realize what I sound like, but I can’t help it. So if you are one of those friends whom I have ever tried to persuade to stay, I’m sorry. If I do it again, please, pat my head (and rub my tummy) and tell me to cool it, toots.

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