Before this year, I never had any intention or desire to visit Los Angeles. From all the things I had heard about it, it didn't sound like my kind of place. I'm a city slicker and LA is an huge urban sprawl where commuting is a nightmare. I much prefer places where the city is in the centre and that's where the action is. Places like Melbourne, New York and Amsterdam. I had heard bad things about LA and it just didn't sound like I'd enjoy it. When I was planning my trip, I knew I wanted to train at iO so the choice was to spend 5 weeks in Chicago or Los Angeles. Ultimately, I went with LA for a number of reasons. One being that I didn't think I'd ever have a reason to visit LA unless I had something specific to do. So, I'd come for the intensive, have my assumptions about the city confirmed, gather some quality horror stories and then go home and never return again. I also was drawn to LA because it has all the improv theatres that interest me: it has the UCB, Groundlings and Second City just to name a few. A lot of improvisers in Melbourne have trained at iO Chicago but only a few have trained at iO West so I thought it would be a cool opportunity to bring a different perspective back home.
I spent the 5 weeks staying in Los Feliz which is a beautiful area, not too far from Hollywood. I arrived on the 11th of July and the weather was beautiful and the sky was clear. My expectations had already been exceeded. The next day was the day before the first day of class. I met Kirsten, a fellow Melbourne Improviser, at a cafe called Sqirl and we had brunch. We had crossed paths briefly in Melbourne but this was our first time hanging out. I love Kirsten and now we are tight buds. We ended up in the same class and we were the only Australians amongst a handful of people from around America, a few from LA and a few from other countries.
The next 5 weeks were inspiring and challenging. The class was full of wonderful people who are now my good friends. We were taught by Dave Hill, Colleen Doyle, Brian Jack, Craig Cackowski and Jason Shotts. I tried my hardest to leave my experience at the door since the intensive starts at level one and obviously level one assumes no prior knowledge. I think that's the best way to get the most out of any improv class you take. In my opinion, every improviser is as unique as their thumb print and every improv teacher or coach has something to offer you, regardless of their years. The way I get the most from them is by letting my opinions take the back seat for the duration of the class. Having said that, I still take every thing I'm told with a grain of salt because improv is so subjective and variable. This means any advice or technique may or may not work for me but that doesn't mean I won't try it.
Being an improviser can be an emotional rollercoaster. There were times I felt like I had wasted my years because I'll never be good. But what even is good? As long as it's still fun for me, I'm going to keep doing it because when failure becomes fun, success is inevitable. There were times I felt stupid and uncool. But at the end of the day, improv kind of is stupid and uncool. But it's fun and satisfying and it makes me happy. I do improv because it means I get to spend time around creative people and build bonds with people who inspire me.
I got to see some incredible shows over those 5 weeks. I went to a multiple shows almost every night. I thought I'd be over improv by the end of the summer but with every new show I saw, that thought diminished. I saw awful shows and I saw incredible shows and maybe I'm just weird but sometimes I find the terrible ones just as entertaining as the good ones.
Some of the coolest shows/teams I saw in LA:
-Beer/Shark/Mice at iO West
-Quartet at iO West
-The Reckoning at iO West
-King Ten at iO West
-Dummy at iO West
-Asssscat at The UCB
-Search History at The UCB
-Wild Horses at The UCB
-The Crazy Uncle Joe Show at The Groundlings
As for my expectations about LA, they were shattered and as the 5 weeks progressed, I fell more and more in love with the place. It has good food, great entertainment and inspiring people - my three favourite things! Plus, the public transit system isn't nearly as bad as everyone says. LA also has perfect weather and a beautiful sky and every landscape you can think of. It's got the city, it has the beach, it has suburbs and it has hills. If you don't like the area you're in, just travel 30 minutes in any direction and you'll find yourself in a new place. It's great. Four months later and it's now my home for the next 12 months. So much for going home to Melbourne and never coming back, now LA is my home! For now, at least.