***warning, la-la-la-longest recap evah***
“You may have just received a very exciting opportunity!”
This line is how a lot of SPAM email starts…
but then again sometimes it’s not SPAM, it’s just regular email…
and sometimes it doesn’t say may have, it just says, congratulations, you’re going to LA!…
and sometimes it’s not written in SPAM-glish, but rather in English, and…it’s from NBC?!
Short story long, I just got back from LA a few days ago where I got to be in NBC’s “Best Of” Stand Up for Diversity Showcase for 2007 last Monday night.
Eeee, right? Am I right? *crickets cheering*
Here’s the breakdown. NBC went to a couple cities this past year (Orlando, Seattle, San Francisco, Austin and NYC) to hold open auditions in search of diverse stand-up comics, and then they picked 10 people in each city for a showcase in that particular city. I just happened to be in Seattle this past summer visiting my buddo Andy when NBC was there for auditions. He told me about them, and said I should try out. I did and bazam, I got selected…crezzy! Then after all the regional showcases, NBC picked 11 people out of all the cities to go to LA to showcase for some industry folk. Kablam! It isn’t a televised event, but more for casting people to scout for some fresh faces.
Here is a rundown of the trip and its happenings —
If a Star Is Outside of LA/NYC, Does He/She Still Exist?
Monday morning, I arrive at the airport foggy-eyed to head out. Like clockwork, I see celebrities left and right, and it’s not even LA yet! At the security checkpoint, I see that girl with the prominent eyes from Girlfriends, you know, Diana Ross’s daughter. Yeah, that ‘un (Tracee Ellis Ross). She appeared smiley, alert and well put-together for a early morning at a security checkpoint. All things considered, she was in the Premium Passenger line where they don’t ask you to turn your shoes inside out and drink all your mouthwash because you cannot take it through.
Then at the news-water-candy-cityspecific clothing store near my gate, who do I spot but Steve Carell! I had to follow him within a few-foot radius to make sure, but it was him. He was scanning the entire periodical section thoroughly (it’s so great to see a celebrity looking at celebrity magazines. i high-fived my brain), and finally settled on some exotic car mags as well as a Powerbar Harvest. Great choices, Steve. He appeared reasonably spaced out for a morning flight passenger. The iffy part was my dad gave me a $100 bill to take to LA and I do not ever want to be carrying around Benjamins so I had to break a $100 dollar bill for a bottle of water standing on line in front of Steve Carell. I was “that guy!” However, Steve Carell plays “that guy” on TV so I’m sure he understood except he’s an actor so maybe he didn’t. The point is he probably neither noticed nor cared.
Alright Already, I’m Impressed!
Now the last time I was in LA was during the OJ Simpson car chase (no personal correlation), and I was a mere pip of a girl hardly even aware of the events playing out at the time. So I wasn’t sure what to expect this time ’round. I did get the little pick-up at the gate where they have a sign with your name and you say, oh that’s me, excuse me, that’s me, did you see? I have a sign, yes, thank you, coming through…I have a sign, y’see… Then I was outfitted with my very own silver car (the color, not the metal) with my very own lil robolady GPS (let’s call her Miss Guided). They stuck her on the front window but as soon as I started driving, she promptly fell in my lap so that’s where she stayed for most of the trip. She proved to be pretty high-maintenance, and necessitated coddling/bribery/begging.
palm trees are da bomb trees; product placement!
First stop: my friend Adam’s work. He works for a high-profile video production company (shows like Iron Chef America, Live at Gotham, Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza, etc.) that actually partners with an entertainment group that also partners with one of the top comedy booking companies in the country. So yes, I drooled a bunch in his building. There were posters of comedy specials everywhere that his company shot and produced! I got to see the equipment at his job, meet some of his coworkers and watch some of the programs. It was like Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work-Day except Adam’s not my dad, and I plan to be a homemaker no matter what even if it takes me 50 years. His coworkers had some pretty fantastic stories – one was a morbid suicide tale, another was a bank heist, and there was a holiday party story too (the holy trinity of good work stories).
Adam also is a surfer, which ups his cool factor by several points (I don’t make the rules), and it’s already high. So I felt pretty validated as a person since ‘hanging out with Adam’ was my first LA experience. He also traveled recently to Bolivia (this added more points, yes) since it’s good to get out of LA occasionally to keep your head on straight. He told me one of the best keeping-your-life-in-perspective stories from his travels there.
Once he was taking a bus in rural Bolivia and there was a crusty older indigenous lady covered in shawls sitting next to him and her grandchild is stuffing his face with something, and suddenly, he just starts profusely throwing up, and the old lady just starts wiping up the mess with her shawl nonchalantly like it was no biggie, and meanwhile Adam was just pressed up against his seat in the corner trying to play escapist mind tricks on his brain and he looks out the window and sees…a pig humping a dog. So yeah, kind of puts your life in perspective.
Anyway, I had to leave Adam and his prizewinning stories for LA traffic. I sat in that for awhile and rocked out to the monotonal instructions of Miss Guided. I also lost my jacket while hanging out with Adam so that, in the future, I could always call LA and be like, “ohhhh…hey…so I left my jacket at your place. Guess I better come back!”
Showtime at the Apollywood
Next I check in to the Sheraton Universal. It was right in Universal City so there were some writers striking it up all over the place, which I appreciated, being a fan of the word on the page, even if it eventually flies off the page onto a screen. My room was impeccable, and the beds (that’s right, two, count ’em) had so many pillows that I got in a pillow fight with myself.
movin’ on up to the west side!
two? you shouldn’t have!
I washed up and got ready to head over to the Highlands nightclub for the show. BTW, the Highlands nightclub is located in a shopping mall – on the 4th floor of a shopping mall mind you, but still…a shopping mall. And also in downtown Hollywood (a Timesy Squarepants type area) so this was when my little Miss Guided decided to bail on me. Right when I was on the verge of being lost, Miss Guided helped me take the commited plunge into being fully lost.
First she said, hey my battery is dying. Then she’s all JK, i’m back on track (or so everybody thought). Then she kept telling me to turn right on Sycamore Street for the rest of the night no matter where I was or in what direction I was heading. Even when I was on Sycamore Street, she still wanted me to turn right onto Sycamore Street. Then she told me that I was at the Highlands Mall when I was in fact in the middle of a residential neighborhood next to some trash cans. Cursing her mightily and shaking my fist at the stars (both the sky and the Hollywood ones), I Macguyvered together an internal compass out of pure desperation, and somehow got myself to the mall…using the same force of will associated with the mother instinct when a child is trapped under a car.
Cut to showcase – the Highlands mall was quite funcy indeed. I got there a little early to feel out the stage, etc. and the whole set-up was very trendy, very swanky, very Hollywood. It took me a second to muster up the nerve to talk to anyone, anyone at all, including myself who I didn’t recognize for a minute. My favorite part was how they did the timing for each of our sets. When you had one minute left, instead of flashing a light at the back as they do for most comedy shows, they swirled these whirly lights over you onstage, and then one more time when you had to get offstage. It was like you were being flushed down a giant spotlight toilet. Fantastic!
you can find me in da club, pocket full o’set list
We also did a photo shoot with the other comedians in a special lounge reserved for the postparty. I’m pretty sure my eyes were closed in all the photos, which is my best look. The lounge where we took the photos had a bunch of TVs where we could watch the show as it was happening, but the sound wasn’t loud enough to actually hear the other comedians, but everyone looked famous on camera. Additionally, the lounge looked like a VIP lounge out of the hottest rap video, which is the point I’m trying to make here.
The host Bill Bellamy was super nice, and asked me my name a few times to get the pronunciation down. We had a green room too with a dinner set up. I mostly hung out there as I considered it ‘the neutral zone’ where I didn’t need to be on top of my game.
The showcase itself was a blur. We each only had 5 minute sets so it zoomed by real fast. The room was packed with industry, and the crowd was having a great time. They were very supportive, and lots of young people were there all gussied up. I just wrote that last sentence so I could say ‘gussied up.’ It helped to remember we were in a shopping mall whenever I felt overwhelmed. Everyone got some love. I had some friends there so that was magical.
After the showcase was schmoozy time. I was still kind of dazed from performing so I just stood like an elegant coat rack for a few minutes and let people flurry around me, but there were lots of friendly and kind words. I talked to a few assorted groups of people, and asked everyone about LA. There were some prototypical-“Hollywood” types, which I found just delightful. I also met Michelle Buteau, a participant from last year’s showcase and kind of a big deal. Later on in the night, she, LA comic and all-around wonderful human bean Hari Leigh and I decided to go to a bar across town.
Somehow, between Miss Guided, Hari and I, we lost Michelle while trying to follow her car on the mean streets of Beverly Hills, but we did end up at a hipster bar in Silverlake, which was uh-mazing. People were literally there just posing for the night; just sitting in corners and posing in their attire. There was also a gigantic hipster baby in a newsie hat who threw a hissy fit when Hari was just trying to play a friendly game of pool. How dare he! I know some hipsters think being unreasonable is in their credo but CAMMAN. I got to bed late that night considering I had meetings the next day! That’s right! Meetings!
Martini Glasses Are Also for Water
The next day, fellow participant Jen Kwok and I decided to carpool to the meeting with NBC together. I was secretly grateful because I didn’t tell her until she was already in the car that my GPS system was on strike in support of the writers. So she was forced to help me find our way there. There were also writers striking all over the place – Disney studios, NBC studios, Warner Bros., and lots of cars were honking in support of writers so I kept thinking I was the worst driver in the world, which is probably still 1/16 true. Once we got to the Casting building where the meeting was located, there were posters of all these successful NBC shows all over the walls which made me giggle and drool like a comedian imitating a schoolgirl. The meeting was short and sweet, but I will tell you that it’s scary to have a meeting with five people looking at you but only one person talking to you! Five! That’s like one hand of people evaluating your social graces and poise. That’s four fingers too many! Somehow I pulled through.
The afternoon contained another meeting. This one was with in a fancy glass office where I was served water in a party glass. I guess the new thing is to have glass offices so no one does any illicit behavior but I felt like I was in a fish tank. There were more general questions to answer at this meeting, but I put on my best professional face despite being a bit intimidated by the sitch. After this meeting, I had some time to kill before meeting my friend Martina for dinner in Santa Monica (near the beach)! That’s right, another meeting!
excuse me, i’m here for business, not sunshine…ok, ok, i’m here for both.
I strolled around Beverly Hills, and stopped for coffee at an organic vegan cafe. The coffee must’ve been super organic because the coffee grounds were seemingly made of dirt. Then I tried a cookie which tasted like cardboard with chocolate chip slivers melted onto it . I didn’t really think either item was ‘fair trade’ for my money. Also everyone who worked there looked like they were about to win an Oscar later that night which I didn’t find offensive as much as distracting. It did take my mind off my nonfood and nondrink.
Later it was time for dinner in Santa Monica with Heather and Martina (high school buddos) at this fun little bar called Father’s Office where they served you fries in mini-shopping carts and we had to have a stand off just to get a table. Martina also surfs, and told us how she got thrown on some rocks earlier in the afternoon. Badass! And I heard about some prototypical LA experiences like going to a Dolce & Gabbana promo party.
Local Yokels Know How to Jokel
My LA experience ended with performing at one of the funnest local comedy shows I’ve ever attended. I met up with Hari at D+D’s Joke Center, a crazy free-for-all comedy show at a bar in Glendale called Big Fish. There was fittingly fish propaganda all over the walls, and bartenders who looked like their names were Billy and Gus. I think one of those two is right. One of the bartenders made free mac n cheese for everyone that night served out of a bucket. The smell was slightly interesting, but many partook of the fluffy stuff.
The show is part of a series called Garage Comedy where the show is broadcast on the Internet while it happens so people can watch it from all over the place and comment on it at the same time. The hosts were two kids by the names of Denver and Johnny P (standing in for a Doug P, hence the name of the show), and things were starting late, which I always consider a good sign (no sarcasm intended, I’ve never been on time to anything in my life).
The show itself was fun magnified. I really enjoyed all the comics who went up. One girl named Hannah played a fitting lil ditty on the keyboard, and made bold but true assertions throughout her whole set. There was also a train that went by occasionally that people had to work into their sets as it drowned out their words. Some sets ran rather long, but these comedians were appropriately heckled by the bartenders, who were like friendly uncles.
Then near the end, before I had gone on yet, Brody Stevens showed up! I didn’t know who he was at the time, but now I’ve been appropriately schooled as to what a comedy rock star is the Brody. I drew the lucky pick of being the one comic left between the audience and Brody but I delivered decently enough, and the crowd was ridiculously generous in paying attention and responding despite their tiredness.
After me, Brody went up and blew everyone away with a 40 minute faux-rant on how to run comedy shows ‘correctly’ since he had been made to wait quite a bit, and he had had to leave a party early in order to come at all. I heard later that it was “classic Brody” and truly, the guy was amazing to watch. He didn’t use a microphone or do any kind of joke set, he just improv’d a long spiel while walking around the room and working everybody into it. There was also a guy named Rick McCorkle in the audience, which is by far the best name I’ve heard in some time. Honestly, it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in my life. The show turned into a crazy free-for-all party after that and I got a balloon with a face on it! Yummazing.
After all that jazz, I dropped off Hari at Silverlake but we hung out for a bit tossing ideas, steaming forward with ideas for the future and we ended up filming a 40 minute video at two in the morning wherein I talked so quietly that it looks like I’m out of synch with my own voice. We then exchanged pleasantries and I capped my second LA night with a 3am bedtime. Fitting as such!
Then I flew home to DC the next day and, instead of palm trees, there was snow on the ground, and my tears froze onto my skin creating a youthful glassy look, which I now consider the bare minimum for having a fresh face.
What a time though, bundlebears, what a time. Thus ends this tome of a blog. Blessed be the children who read it in its entirety.