NOTE: I am nearly at my 6-month anniversary of Moving To LA, therefore I have decided I am an expert in all things Moving To LA and thus wrote this extremely helpful blog. You're welcome!
Congratulations! You, a Chicago comedian, have decided to leave/escape Chicago!
Either you have A) Finally collected 100 Crushing Disappointment Tokens and can now emotionally afford to leave, or B) Won your third Jeff Award and 15th Del Award and you're somehow only 19, so you literally have nothing left to accomplish in Chicago and also you're beginning to suspect every comedian over 30 secretly hates you (we do), or C) Finally realized that you don't have to live through 17 months of brutal, emotionally scarring winter anymore just for 11 seconds of summer/one wistful White Woman bike ride along the lakeshore, on a vintage bicycle, sweater-less, while listening to some shit like, I dunno, Feist? Is she still a thing? Or did she pass away when the flash mob trend died?
Anyway. How DO you do it? How do you make the Great Leap to Los Angeles, city of Angels, on-ramps and Dumbass Hats (copyright Kat Barker)?
Don't worry. I'm here to guide you.
ONE: Realize If You're Unhappy In Chicago, It's Likely Not Going To Get Any Better
Some people, better people, emotionally stable people, can be happy in Chicago. These people either achieve the success they want, are Seen and Understood by the comedy powers that be, or they likely don't care if they're ever on Superstore. Or, stay with me now, they might actually have full, vivid lives outside of the improv world from which to draw happiness.
PEOPLE CAN BE HAPPY WITHOUT IMPROV, JAYSTON. I DON'T KNOW HOW BUT I'VE BEEN TOLD THERE ARE JOYS TO BE HAD IN THIS LIFE OTHER THAN A WELL-TIMED WILFORD BRIMLEY DI-A-BEET-US CALLBACK.
If you're like me and Jayston, you're not so lucky to be an emotionally coherent adult. Snowflakes like us need constant outside approval from improv audiences and improv theater owners like a Hungry Hippo needs another fucking plastic ball.
If you've been in Chicago let's say, five or more years, seven maybe (I dunno, everyone is different. I would know, I'm a snowflake) and it bothers you that you're not achieving what you want to achieve, you should consider that you likely never will. At least, not anywhere between North and Howard.
That prestigious comedy theater isn't just going to reverse it's fetus-only policy and decide to cast a balding 37-year-old who's never heard of Yik Yak or that person they've never called back for auditions because they only play Bedeviled Duchesses in every scene. And remember, you are locked out of the Chicago Fire/Justice/PD/Chimneysweep universe because you played Call Center Employee #2 in that one episode, so no more TV roles for you.
If the above is true, what you want is likely something Chicago can't provide. It's a city of abundance, of lot of cool things, but they're all spoons. 10,000 spoons. And all you want is a knife.
LA is a city of knives. Go there.
TWO: Know That Your Sadness Will Follow Here You Like Pigpen's Stink Cloud
Los Angeles won't instantly cure your depression. Let's get that out of the way first. It will provide you space, time, air, openness to deal with said depression, and it might make it more manageable. It might also be so overwhelming that you freak out and return to Chicago to the safety of your Harold team, that tiny bro-plaid nation-state in which you were king, and pretend it never happened.
As with most things in life, our sadness isn't going to be cured by Things. Any success you have in LA will immediately numb the pain, be a wonderful infusion of serotonin, but once the shine is off your walk-on role on NCIS, that sadness will come back. You'll continue to compare yourself to others, to see yourself as not getting enough, not getting far enough, to not being Seen and Understood.
That's because that sadness is Your Shit. And we all have our own Shit to deal with, and no amount of success and money will completely remove Your Shit from Your Shoe unless you're doing the emotional work to remove it.
Your Shit isn't "No one wants to hire me to act," it's "I'm afraid of the implications of my own mediocrity" or "I just want someone to love me" or "For the three years I was out before my dad died, he never talked to me about being gay and so I still feel like I'm an incorrect son and when I don't get cast my feelings of being an incorrect anomaly intensify." You know, something pretend like that that I just completely made up .
LA won't fix Your Shit. But it will, if you're patient and work at it, allow your ability to handle Your Shit to evolve.
Chicago can feel like a personified, animatronic, Potemkin version of the Definition of Insanity. If you're starting to feel trapped there, or like you're losing your mind repeating the same mistakes and failures, then it's probably time to try something new. Like LA! Where everyone dresses like they're lesbian Coachella witches, even the men (especially the men).
THREE: Live Near People
LA is heinously expensive. LA is Leona Helmsley cosplaying as a nonsensical freeway system, and only the richy rich are truly comfortable here.
LA is also very isolating and lonely. In Chicago, all your comedian friends likely lived along the same few CTA arteries, the ones that carry you to the theaters you have shows at, so seeing them is never much work.
LA is vast. It's a digestive system for cars that goes on forever in all directions.
Because of that, getting a place within 20 minutes of a good friend or two or five is a must. That's because everyone in LA are horrible flakes and will bail on you if they have to drive more than 20 minutes. But also because, most 20 minute drives stay roughly 20 minutes long, because you can always go local. A 30 minute drive can easily become a 90 minute drive in bad traffic.
Sure, that far-away friend will drive to see you in your studio in Santa Monica the first week you arrive, bring you a succulent, hug you, etc. But after that you will literally never see them again for the rest of your life because no one wants to go to Santa Monica, ever. God it's so FAR.
Also, try to get a place that's reasonably close to at least a few thing to help with functional day-to-day life (a grocery store, a CVS, a Home Depot, whatever). Even if you can walk to one thing, even if it's a tire store, it will help you not feel so isolated and will make your transition from Sad, Slowly Curdling Chicago Improviser to Vapid LA Starfucker With Octagonal Sunglasses infinitely easier.
Lastly, consider taking a shittier place in a better location rather than a better place in a shitty location far away from people you care about or places you want to spend your time. For God's sake, don't live in Pomona. Or Rancho Cucamonga. You will die on the 210, slumped behind the wheel, stuck in your 854th hour of traffic, Terry Gross' slightly pinched voice asking Debra Messing about how her mother's stroke changed the way she approached the character of Grace.
Now, all of this apartment bullshit is much easier said than done, as getting an apartment is hell, and again everything is expensive AF out here, but fortunately there's some good news in point 4Q. KEEP READING!
FOUR: A Bunch Of Random Shit To Keep In Mind
A) If you have a pet, get their flea meds up to date. There are fleas forever, all year round out here and they will attack your dog like Lilliputians.
B) Some apartments don't have refrigerators! Some rental fridges have cockroaches! Try to get an apartment with a fridge.
F) There are rattle snakes out here! Get your pet a rattle snake vaccine
#) Chicago will always be there. Portillo's (god willing) will always be there. If LA sucks a big fat one for you, you can always go back. And there's no shame in that, just like there's no shame in admitting Chicago isn't going to give you what you need.
Q) Use your network. Reach out to friends, to friends of friends, to ex-Chicago improvisers you've heard of but never actually met. The world of Chicago comedy refugees is huge out here and very willing to help make your move as easy and gentle as possible. We will go see places for you, we will give you all our recommendations for moving companies, neighborhoods, resources. We will write needlessly long blogs about it because Moving To LA is what unites us all. It is a right of passage, an emotional tattoo. It is the scar on our taints between our vaginas and our buttholes from where we pushed out a screaming new life and tore ourselves stem to stern.
You're ready when you're ready. And whenever you choose to go, it's the right time. And if you decide you don't want to go, you want to stay in Chicago, that's also the correct choice. I'm not you, you know you. I just know my experience and Sandra Bullock's birthday (July 26, 1964)
But once you're ready to make the leap, I'll be here for you and so will a lot of people who you might not expect, and you know what? So will Beverly D'Angelo. I'm assuming she lives in LA. OMG YOU COULD LIVE IN THE SAME CITY AS BEVERLY D'ANGELO, JAYSTON, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOOOORRRR??!?!??!!??!?!?!?!?