More Misadventures: Los Angeles Recap!
I’ve been so jet lagged since I’ve been home. Jet lagged and depressed. LA really felt like the land of opportunity. Being in Michigan feels like being stranded on a desert island. It’s not that I can’t get off the island because there isn’t a boat. There’s a boat. It’s within grasp. The only problem is I’m chained to this house. That’s how I’ve been feeling since I’ve been home. Feeling like I have a 700 square foot albatross.
My plan in recent years once I realized I wasn’t half bad at this comedy thing was to get decent enough at my craft so I could go out to Los Angeles and make a fair enough first impression. I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that you only get one chance to make that first impression and that the first impression is a lasting one. The opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and get a guest pass with the “in crowd” presented itself in April. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since. On a realistic level, I was hoping the trip would recharge my batteries. And it certainly did that, plus it gave me direction. On a totally unrealistic level, I was hoping I’d have an experience like Fatty Arbuckle where someone would see my little song and dance act and say, “C’mere kid, I’m gonna make you a star!” Obviously, that didn’t happen.
I’d been in a rut lately. At my worse, the only thing I feel like I’ve accomplished in comedy is not quitting. I started emceeing years ago at a handful of clubs. I did a good job, so I moved up to feature. I did a good job, so I moved up to headliner. All I feel like I really managed to do was stick with it. I honestly had no grasp on whether or not what I was doing on stage was good or if I just built nice relations with the people that book those stages so they were being nice to me. Mentally, I’m a mess. I understand that. I felt like being able to perform with my heroes would give me a boost of self confidence.
Here’s the recap day by day.
We’ll start again with Sunday, even though I already covered that last week. It’s important though in getting to Monday. You’ll see. I got off the plane, got my rental car, checked into the hotel and pretty much headed straight over to Meltdown Comics for Matt Mira’s Day Off. Matt is 1/3 of the Nerdist podcast. The show was amazing. Perhaps 50 people crowded into the backroom of the comic book store telling some really original jokes on stage. For the most part everyone stuck around and supported each other. It was a positive environment in which I was honored to perform.
Monday I met up with Dave Landau who was in town to do a television taping. We hung out with his buddy Ken who had directed Dave in the short film Bromine. Ken was super awesome and I’m glad I got a chance to meet him. He was funny, laid back and just a really decent human being. We all headed over to the Comedy Store. Dave and I both did sets. The vibe from the comedians at the store was polar opposite of the Meltdown vibe. It seemed to me like none of the comics were supporting each other. Everyone seemed to be hanging out outside posing and trying to look cool. Many of the comedians went up with premises instead of jokes and lashed out at the audience for not laughing. Dave and I did well written material, got laughs, thanked the audience and left. It was what it was.
Tuesday was the night that I built the whole trip around. I was doing Comedy Bang Bang (formerly Comedy Death Ray) at the UCB Theatre. I showed up almost two hours early because I was worried about being late. Doug Loves Movies was taping and episode before hand, so I wandered around the neighborhood and tried to spot famous people at the Scientology Celebrity Center across the street. Once I saw Comedy Bang Bang creator Scott Aukerman outside, I decided to go in. I was ushered into the green room (which is actually green in this case) and sat while Doug Benson’s show wrapped. TJ Miller was on that, so when he came in the green room he gave me a hug since we know each other a little. That made me feel a little validated. Scott came in, sat down, probably sensed that I was nervous and engaged me in nice conversation the whole evening. I’m such a huge fan of his so it was a great treat that he was as nice as I had hoped!
Jonah Ray, another 1/3 of the Nerdist podcast was hosting the show and also turned out to be a great guy. In fact, I would say that out of everyone I met in LA, Jonah is probably the guy who I feel I bonded most with. More on that near the end. Louis CK stopped in to do a set in preparation for late night talk shows since the second season of his show Louis was premiering this week. How surreal is that? I was sitting on a couch next to Louis CK. He kept bumping my arm with his notebook and the only thing I could think was in that notebook was solid gold!
Also on the bill was Myq Kaplan, Charlyne Yi, Jerry Minor and the great Marc Maron. It was interesting watching the dynamics between all these amazingly great performers and being able to draw connections to my peers here. Seeing Marc and Louis together, who I consider two of the greatest comedians of all time, was such an amazing experience. I got to watch Louis on stage while standing back stage next to Marc. I’m having a hard time imagining a more incredible situation. Everyone was so cool, talented and nice. Scott sent me a really nice Facebook message afterwards which had me floating on air…of course until I landed in Detroit!
My show was fine. I’ve never been so nervous in my life. I felt like I ate a handful of sand before going on stage because my mouth was so dry. I think I took a drink of water after each joke. The jokes didn’t pop like I was used to, but I did get laughs in all of the appropriate places. I riffed a little bit with the audience that sits on the stage. It was fine. I couldn’t help but to think about the explosion of gasps when Louis CK was introduced. When I hit the stage I think maybe the audience thought I was going to be a new Andy Daly character. I mean, you have a line up where it’s the star of a great television series, a guy who was on Last Comic Standing, the star of Paper Heart, and then some dude from Detroit you’ve never heard of. Still though, what an absolutely incredible experience to share the stage with all of those talented people. I can not thank Scott Aukerman enough for letting me on the bill.
Wednesday I was taping a set for comedy.tv at the Ice House in Pasadena. Before the show I met up with my friends Jonathan and Hilary. The three of us worked together almost twenty years ago in cable television. Hilary and I buried cable, which is not a euphemism! Jonathan and I goofed around, listened to punk rock, shot office supplies at each other and apparently went on weird road trips! Now they both have super amazing television jobs and are very successful. They are two of the best people I’m lucky to have as friends. Their story is so fucking romantic too. They were together, moved to different states and then reunited and have been together ever since traveling from coast to coast. Their story is Hollywood adorable and super sweet! Nicer things couldn’t happen to two nicer and hard working people. Hilary has Emmy nominations and Jonathan is working on one of the best shows on television! Their daughter made me a nice drawing and amiss the crazy Hollywood wealth is grounded, smart and just really polite…which makes sense since she has great parents!
I did my show at the Ice House which they combine with a Latino Showcase. I’m pretty sure the audience was 100% Latino with the exception of my friend Joe! Joe is a guy who worked with me at Gamestop, took a leap of faith as an animator and is doing some amazing things too! We later hung out and I got to meet his fiancee. I hope fiancee with two Es is the female kind because she is a lovely lady! The taping at the Ice House was so good! They gave me a copy of the show and I noticed that I was getting longer laughs than I was used to because I had a hard time maintaining that faux anger that I do on stage. I kept smiling because I was giddy with excitement and joy! Doing eight minutes of television clean material gave me a big boost of confidence that I needed.
Thursday was time to do Bar Lubitsch for the Josh and Josh Show. It’s one of the bigger alternative showcases in LA run by Josh Haness and Josh Weinstein. Bat Lubitsch is where Greg Proops does his podcast and it’s an absolutely beautiful Russian Kabaret! I felt not nearly cool enough to be there, but that’s on me. Jamie Bamber from Battlestar Galactica was in the audience and I think someone said he was with his sister Anastasia Griffith from Royal Pains. Matt Braunger was headlining the show. He’s a friend of my sister-in-law and our friend Kristy Rock from the Re:Com magazine. I’m a big fan of Matt’s so it was nice meeting him and getting to watch him perform. I made a misstep in thinking it was the right crowd to do more abstract stuff. It didn’t go over as well as I had thought. I probably would’ve been best off to do the material that usually works well. Braunger did a super hilarious bit about being a shovel fighter. I felt like maybe it went over the audience’ head a little bit too.
Here was the crazy thing about that night. I was standing in the hall talking to comedian Grant Lyon when Dave Foley from the Kids in the Hall walked up. Holy shit! I gushed. Grant had the foresight to let Dave know that we had both performed on the show so we were no longer the weird guys gushing. We were the weird comedians gushing! Grant was super funny and I have a feeling he’ll be one of those people who people really start to notice on a national scale more.
Friday I was worried that I needed to ground myself so I wouldn’t come back with an obnoxious ego. My ego cost me my career in radio, which in retrospect was probably a good thing! I got to hang out with my friend Laura who got me my radio job in New Orleans years and years ago. I ended up hitting an open mic show…granted, I did the coolest open mic in town at the Silverlake Lounge! After that Laura and I went out to dinner with Jonathan and Hilary at a little Mexican restaurant where I ate a cactus. It was like the flat Mickey Mouse ear kind and the texture was exactly what you can probably imagine. It was a little pungent. I don’t need to ever do that again.
On Saturday I walked through Los Feliz with Laura and picked up souvenirs for Christine…okay, and for myself! There was an awesome book store that had signed copies of Simon Pegg’s “Nerd Do Well”. Christine loves octopusses…octopii? I found a really nice octopus necklace for her! And I found a shirt of Batman and Robin making out for me!
Saturday night Jonah Ray invited us out to go bowling at a friend’s birthday. I just really liked him a lot. He’s super smart, very funny and a incredibly nice. He writes on Web Soup instead of touring as a comedian, which is a shame because I’d love to have him perform out here.
So I returned to Michigan. Yeah, it’s hard being back home because I feel like there are so many more opportunities out there. I know I can go back. I plan on doing that once or twice a year until we can eventually move there. The fact of the matter is that I can make a living doing comedy here. People said with Christine’s background in PR and marketing she could land a job easily in LA. Who knows? Maybe something great will come from Deadpan and we’ll be forced to move! I have a battle plan now. I know what I want to do for the next year and I’m going to work hard on doing things from the Motor City. My friends are here. There’s great comedy here. I wish there were more opportunities here.
I tried to take as many pictures as I could. Following is more random shots from the trip. I’m so glad that I got to see so many of my old friends and meet so many new ones. I’ve been very lucky as a comedian and as a person. Scott Aukerman wrote that he’d bet on me going far. I’m assuming he means in show business and not physical distance…because LA is 2300 miles from Detroit!
Posted on June 30, 2011, in More Misadventures! and tagged Comedian, comedy, comedy bang bang, jonah ray, louis ck, Marc Maron, mike bobbitt, nerdist, off the mike, scott aukerman. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.
Awesome read Mike, thanks for sharing. Don’t forget the other half of the Fatty Arbuckle experience wasn’t good. They built him up and tore him down. Surely there must be alcoholic nuns in L.A.? While you’re still in Michigan you can brainstorm on how to create your own opportunities here.
Sonofabitch! I was hoping to see a picture of what you got at Umami. I know about the sweet potato fries, but what else!?
Anyway, I’ve been feeling that antsy feeling about going out west ever since I knew I was moving back to Michigan in the summer of 2008. Not really settled in still–or will ever be–living back here, but I am more way settled in than I was when I first came back. I realized the only thing I can do that is healthy, is to focus on is with I can do best creatively now and wherever I’m at. I know you know that. I get sad at times because most of the energy I felt in Chicago all now live and is in L.A. and are just absolutely KILLING IT there; So many friends in the last five years have gradually moved out there–not just my comic friends, but musician friends and classmates from SAIC–Kristy and Ricky is the latest migration of friends moving to L.A., that has became the final straw of me knowing I need to get my shit together here so I can be there too. The weather would also be good for my health. My heart and energy keeps looking towards L.A.. Even if it isn’t permanent, I know I want to live there for at least a year or two.
I’ve felt sometimes here and there, bits of energy in Detroit–but overall. I know I’m longing for something else. It’s funny, before I read this, I kept thinking, I want to make do here and although I do love the things I’ve discovered in the years I’ve been back in Detroit, I know deep down, that I don’t belong in this city. I actually truly believe that. But in the meantime, just going to try to do what I have to do and keep up with the enthusiasm, craft, and love for my chosen creative paths. I guess… Don’t know. I’m ranting. Reading your updates from your week in L.A., I can feel the energy from them that are parallel to the energy of updates I’ve been reading in the last few years from all my other L.A. friends; including now, Kristy.
I know this sounds snobby and I hope people who read this don’t take it the wrong way, but since I’ve been back, it’s been hard seeing people who I used to hang out on a daily basis every night, now on television and in films and completely kicking ass; And it’s so surreal and strange for me to be back in my childhood home, with a different crowd and different lifestyle, now hanging out with people who stay home and watch–the consumers?–of what is going on in t.v., rather than hanging out with those who create what’s on t.v… It makes me so friggin’ antsy.
I know Detroit has it’s own thing; And I love and dig it…. But…
Okay, this can go on and on and on… but just wanted to write you a quick note to say I read this and that… I think I get it…. with how you’re feeling since you’ve been back. I think…. based off of my own personal experience.
Blahblahblah…. I still have a comedy crush on Jeff Scheen.
Oops! This is a public forum!?!? I didn’t meant to write that last sentence!
Yeah, we’re on the same page. The real kick in the pants is that all of my friends in the industry know that Christine could probably get a really awesome job out there easily. I know we’d be fine, but we’d have to abandon our house and take a hit. It’s a scary leap of faith that we’re just not ready to take yet. I know Christine would love the Los Feliz area because it has all the things she loves like a late night diner, coffee shops, independent book stores, art shops, fucking Danzig around the corner.
And dim sum choices. Definitely more dim sum choices! MORE DIM SUM FOR THE BUSQUE SISTERSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Also, like I said a few months ago… I do sense that there is a new energy that is unique in the Detroit comedy scene and that is exciting. I’m definitely digging on that.
Take the leap, if it feels right. Life’s too short not to. What’s the worst that can happen? Barring major health trauma, you can’t really ever NOT survive your decisions. (I’ve been telling people and/or myself this all day).
I am almost pee-ing laughing, because I forgot about mine and Kristy’s wordpress profile pictures.
That’s both the problem and the greatness of Detroit. You have to make-do here. They should rename Detroit to Make-do. If you make something of it, that’s great. If not, they’re you’re just treading water hoping not to drown.