California Day 1 - Landmarks, LACMA, and Looking Silly
My first official day in Los Angeles began with me braving morning commuter traffic for some coffee at Dinosaur Coffee. I loved this place. The coffee was great, the service was friendly, the name was suitably ridiculous (how’s a dinosaur gonna brew coffee with those tiny arms?), and they had this wonderfully weird but oddly life-affirming art on the walls:
Properly caffeinated, I made my way to my first stop of the day the Barnsdall Art Park, a community art center located atop Olive Hill for a sweeping view of LA, and most excitingly for me , the Hollywood Sign. I would later learn, that you can see the sign pretty clearly from most places in LA so it’s sort of a mundane thing for most people who live there, but for me to see this big pop culture symbol in person for the first time was stupidly exciting.
The big draw for me at the Art Park was the Hollyhock House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a stunning blend of Aztec and Japanese architectural styles and Wright’s own flourishes. I love the way it seems to bend and arch right out of the hill, and of course in classic Wright fashion, the windows were really exceptional.
Nobody lives in the Hollyhock house now, but instead it houses a community arts center. The galleries were closed while I was there, but a lot of art made in years past adorns every wall. One of the community projects there is a ceramics studio for school kids, where they can learn and practice their creativity with clay. Some of my favorite pieces decorating the walls were tiles made by children from the studio in all kinds of silly shapes and colors. Other highlights included a wall decorated with contemporary cave paintings from the Class of 1995 Junior Arts Camps and some ceramic tiles made that spell out a really lovely poem that might be a little too zoomed out to read so I wrote it out below:
"As life will flow and come and go with
Softness in step as well as grace in stride
Let me sign and carry myself lightly o’er
the path I am to make for myself
As each day brings on new pleasures
I am abounding with life’s joys the
sorrows to pass and tomorrow’s to take
their place in my mind’s eye.
As to love, let it be - For, from,
and around the Perpetual and unselfish
as is carried in its true name
Life shall be lived and cherished for
its splendor. Splendid Is being granted, the daily
Breath of air, the smell of the world, the sight
Of the sun. For each person has his own
Riddles to solve and wonders to bear.
Let him do so with zest of heart
and freedom in mind.”
(the last line was an unintentionally hilarious bit of tone deaf sign placement from the city of Los Angeles).
Credit given where credit is due, the non-Hollywood Sign views from the hill were pretty spectacular as well.
From there I made my way down the hill and into Hollywood proper. It was very exciting for me to actually walk around where so many of the movies and TV shows I grew up watching either took place or were filmed. It’s totally surreal to be so oddly familiar with a place you’ve never been before.
My first stop was a unique little museum on Hollywood Boulevard called the Museum of Illusions. The museum is a brightly colored and entirely interactive tour through immaculately painted walls of optical illusions. All the illusions were designed with places where visitors could insert themselves into the piece for silly photo-ops. The museum is so pro-photo that the woman at the front desk almost didn’t want to sell me a ticket because she was worried I wouldn’t have any fun on my own missing out on that aspect. I told her that truthfully I would probably have more fun just enjoying the optical illusions without having to worry about posing myself, because if it isn’t too obvious by now in the blog I’d basically rather take pictures of almost anything other than myself. I was right too, because I had a blast in there. She was right that some pieces look sort of incomplete without somebody posing with them, but even still every illusion worked super well as just a piece of art. There was so much variety of settings and colors, and the ability some people have at rendering such vividly 3-Dimensional environments on two dimensional walls is truly mind boggling.
My personal favorite illusions included: a beautiful Italian villa being destroyed by an erupting Vesuvius; a tiki bar being operated by a weed-smoking, be-dreadlocked dachshund presumably named Snoop (this was one of the only illusions to actually have a three-dimensional component as there was an actual bar nailed into the wall for you to casually lean on); a deceptively simple rendering of the word “Illusion” and a paintbrush that messes with shadows and perspective in a way I’m sure MC Escher would be proud of; and a thrilling true-to-form Hollywood action set complete with dashing cars, shooting planes, and crumbling streets. The even crazier thing to imagine when you look at all these pictures together, is that all these disparate scenes really just sort of blended together within the museum for an added layer of total immersion.
Just looking at the illusions, it might not be totally obvious to you where visitors might fit in to complete the images, but luckily each piece had photos next to it of museum workers demonstrating some of the ways in which you might engage with the tableaus. Hopefully these examples make up a little for the fact that I didn’t personally insert myself into most of the scenes.
That being said, there was one Illusion I couldn’t resist participating in, so I did ask some other visitors for a little help taking the photo. They laughingly obliged this bit of goofball-ery:
After the museum, it was just a short walk down the boulevard to one of Hollywood’s most famous landmarks: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the place to see what celebrities’ hands and feet look like. While I’m not sure how culturally sensitive it is, the theater is undoubtedly a stunning piece of art and architecture, grandly and ornately out of place with anything else on Hollywood Boulevard. Because of its grandeur and history as a Hollywood landmark, the Chinese Theater is still a hot spot for film premieres and red carpet events, and while I was there they were preparing for the opening day of Rampage, but unfortunately neither the Rock or a 50 ft. gorilla were there in person.
Of course one of the biggest, tourist-y draws to the Chinese Theater is the hundreds of concrete blocks with hand, foot, and, in the case of Grouch Marx, cigar prints of different celebrities. It’s a little bit corny, but it’s still pretty fun to see all the big names from Hollywood past and present and to literally try putting yourself in their shoes. There were also a bunch of fun little Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the concrete including: robot “foot”prints from R2-D2 and C-3PO, a very un-sentimental message from Humphrey Bogart to the owner of the Theater, and, my personal favorite, a handprint with one extra finger from Mel Brooks who was 88 at the time he was being honored, proving age does not have to get in the way of being a prankster.
After the Chinese Theater, I went strolling down the walk of fame admiring all the stars. One certainly stood out to me more than all the others as the most deserving, if only because of the destruction they would cause if they were snubbed (Joan Crawford would be a close second in that department):
As I continued to walk down Hollywood Boulevard, I was surprised to stumble into a real stereotypical LA attraction: The Random Celebrity Sighting. What I initially thought was just an unusually crowded sidewalk, was actually Felicity Huffman being honored for her charity work. I didn’t really know any details, and I’m also not super familiar with her work but there is a dumb excitement to seeing anyone famous that I’m sure you must get desensitized to actually living here. Not pictured in my quickly snapped photo is William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman’s husband, who for me personally was the much more exciting person to see because of my deep love for Fargo (a classic) and Mystery Men (not so much).
After my celebrity spotting, my friend Jerome met up with me to give me a member sticker he got for the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) so that I could get in for free. He had other plans he had to get to, so he couldn’t stay around to chat. Instead he just pulled up beside me and handed me the museum sticker out of his car window like the world’s least threatening drug deal. I was very grateful for the ticket, and even if it was just for a moment it was nice to see my friend.
With my contraband museum sticker in tow, I began making my way down La Brea to LACMA. One of the biggest disappointments in my research about LA was that there is no actual place called Muppet Studios, but as I was driving I was pleasantly surprised by a 12 foot dapper looking Kermit the Frog statue. Turns out in real life, it’s called The Jim Henson Company and maybe my research isn’t as thorough as it could be. In a whimsical bit of pop culture confluence, the reason that Kermit is dressed so sharply is a nod to the studio’s original owner, the lovable tramp Charlie Chaplin. I couldn’t believe that if I had taken a different route to the museum I may have missed this gem of a studio that not only houses my beloved Muppets but was also where they shot all of my favorite Chaplin films (The Kid, The Gold Rush, Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator, and Monsieur Verdoux were all right here!) and every episode of my mom’s favorite show Perry Mason (who is not a good lawyer just for the record). That’s a lot of Palana family memories generated by a single location! The studio is unfortunately not open for public tours, but it was very cool just getting to see it and being able to tip my hat back to my favorite frog.
One last pit stop I made before LACMA was to get some quick lunch at a trendy little spot called the Sycamore Kitchen. The restaurant just focuses on breakfast and lunch, and it provides all the quality of a fine-dining brunch place but at a faster rate and with more casual vibes. They also have outdoor seating, which really lets you enjoy one of the best things about LA: the weather. It was such a beautiful day to just sit and relax, and the food just added to the overall pleasant experience. I got a sandwich called a Double BLTA, which came with bacon, braised pork belly, lettuce, tomato, and avocado all on some really great homemade bread. It was relatively simple in appearance, but in execution it was exceptional, with fresh tasty produce and tender flavorful meat. It’s one of the best variations on a BLT I’ve ever had!
With a full belly, I finally made my way to the beautiful and expansive LACMA. The museum’s collection spans multiple buildings, but some of the best pieces are actually right outside for all to see. These include the iconic Urban Light by Chris Burden which arranges 202 vintage streetlights in evenly spaced rows that evoke both a solid temple and also create an optical illusion as if each Streetlight is moving through time. The piece has more recently been converted to solar energy so that when it gets dark every light can shine brightly with minimal environmental impact. Also outside was a cheeky traveling piece by Panamanian duo Donna Conlon and Jonathon Harker called Zincfonia Tropical which features a funny little surrealist video of a mango’s journey over zinc rooftops played on screens inside a little pod shaped like a giant mango, as a sort of intimate fruit-themed movie theater. The actual video is really silly and can be found here
My personal favorite of the outdoor pieces was called Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer (who also did the massive Double Negative in Nevada) which features a 340 ton boulder suspended over a small trench walkway. It’s absolutely ridiculous the site of this monumental block just seemingly there floating all by itself in the middle of a major city. The rock was so heavy that it had to be moved on a special custom built 196 wheeled transport system that could only travel at about 7 miles per hour. Because the transporter was so large and slow, the rock was only moved at night, and it took 11 days and cost an estimated $10 million to move it from the quarry it was found in to its current location. The piece and every part of its story is totally absurd (some might even think foolish) but I can say actually seeing it in person is oddly unforgettable.
Upon entering the museum, I started with all the special exhibits, which unfortunately did not allow personal photography. Luckily with LACMA being such a huge and renowned museum, the exhibits were all either well known enough or critically lauded enough that some pictures for all of them were easy enough to find online. The first one I saw was a massive kinetic sculptures by the same artist who made Urban Light entitled Metropolis II, which is a hulking 200 sq. ft, 12 ft. tall sculpture of an imagined city with a dizzying array of criss-crossing highways and train tracks and fully automated custom built cars and trains zipping along in constant motion (sometimes getting as fast as 240 mph). The piece is stunning to look at, and it’s easy to get sort of hypnotized by the blur of miniature traffic. Between this and Urban Light, I was really impressed by Chris Burden and when I looked up more about him I was very surprised to learn that the man that made these light hearted whimsical sculptures initially rose to artistic prominence for controversial violent performance art pieces including one where he had someone straight up shoot him in the arm and one where he crawled around on broken glass. It’s a pretty drastic change of tonal pace, but I suppose he’s a good example of an old dog learning new tricks… and also not wanting to get shot anymore.
The next special exhibit was a showcase of the artist David Hockney with the simultaneously very honest and kinda cheeky title, 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life. Hockney, who rose to prominence with the pop-artists of the 60s and 70s, was 80 years old at the time of these paintings, but to look at them you’d never guess as they have the vibrancy and skill of a young virtuoso. Every painting was done in Hockney’s home studio using the same chair and blue backdrops, and every painting was drawn from life in no more than three days. All subjects were his friends or acquaintances because he felt non-professional models would give more interesting and authentic poses and expressions, and that combined with the short time-frame he gave himself to complete each piece would give the works an air of spontaneity and liveliness. The fact that so much was similar about each painting might make the exhibit seem tedious, but it actually served to highlight all the differences and individual personalities in each subject with ever bit of body language (down to how different people approach sitting in the exact same chair) becoming much more pronounced and meaningful. As to the one still life, the very silly “Fruit on a Bench” may have been planned from the start, but the story goes that one subject had to reschedule last minute so Hockney didn’t want to waste having the studio all set up and made this one instead.
The three above are my personal favorite, but there is something to be seat about the net effect of seeing all (or in this case almost all) the portraits at once. It’s really dreamy, and I think his choice of colors creates a very serene and relaxing effect.
The next two exhibits were similar in that a big reason they didn’t allow photography was because of the age and sensitivity of the key pieces. First up was an exhibit focused on ancient Chinese beliefs in fantastic and magical stones. Complex and beautiful stones were thought to have mystical properties and contain ties to the same primordial energies that shaped the mountains that feature prominently in Chinese landscapes and in Daoist and Buddhist traditions. The incredible centerpiece to this exhibit was a hand scroll from 1610 of 10 views of single stone from a site in Lingbi by an artist named Wu Bin. The paintings were so delicate with lyrical swirling brushstrokes that reminded me a lot of Van Gogh but 200 years earlier! It was really breathtaking, and I thought the curation around the piece was very well done with the scroll being circled by actual ancient stones from different Chinese Provinces as well as more contemporary approaches to representing stones, so you get to see both where the tradition began and where it’s gone since that scroll was made.
Up next was an exhibit entitled, A Tale of Two Persian Carpets, which featured (shockingly) two Persian carpets. These massive intricately woven carpets from 16th century Iran are actually part of the museum’s permanent collection but are rarely displayed both because of their gigantic size and their sensitivity to light. Both carpets, the Coronation carpet (left) and Ardabil carpet (right) were made in royal factories and feature lavish designs and fantastic colors that must have been extra impressive back when dyes were not so easily made nor imported. Because of their highly sensitive nature, the carpets were only displayed together for one week in February and before and after that week only one carpet was on display. While I was there, it was the Coronation carpet, and I know these photos online can’t even come close to capturing its splendor.
From there, I was out of the special exhibits and so now you’re back to dealing with my crummy photos. The permanent exhibit started with a bang with a collection of vintage movie posters in the lobby. The only movie I’d actually seen was Casablanca, but I just love that pulpy-noirish style.
The first gallery of the permanent collection I saw was on art of the Pacific. This mostly included wood carvings of practical, musical, and/or cultural items both ancient and modern as well as some more modern abstract arts. Naturally my favorite piece was a drum that you slowly notice is in the shape of a whale with the goofiest grin in the world.
In the stairwell up to the next galleries was a gigantic aluminum statue by Tony Smith entitled Smoke. The piece is highly geometric creating what the artist describes as “the skeleton of a cloud” because it suggests the fleeting nature of smoke in it’s billowy emptiness as much as anyone really could sculpt anything so ephemeral. It’s big and abstract, but somehow it just seems to fit right into the atrium to the point where if you don’t look up and really take it all in, you might think it’s an architectural flourish. I love that something so massive and impressive can also sort of fade into the background, as evidenced by the people (like that guy on the staircase) in this photograph who clearly just walked right by.
Past the Smoke, the second floor of this building had most of my favorite pieces because it contained the 20th century American and European art. While I was there, this wing was arranged to highlight recent acquisitions from post-war periods (post war being used loosely though generally referring to WWII). For the Americans, my favorite paintings were: Ed Ruscha’s Actual Size, which take familiar imagery to surreal heights by reimagining the night sky as a giant can of Spam complete with a little spam shooting star; a chillingly lonely comic portrait by Roy Lichtenstein; a beautifully cubist swirl of lines and colors by Stanton Macdonald-Wright called Synchromy in Purple; and a really creepy untitled piece by Lynn Hershman Leeson that blends simple painting monochromatic painting with a very creepy sculpted face slowly emerging out of it.
For Europeans, my highlights were: an abstract portrait called Woman in Hat by Alexander Archipenko that blends painting and wooden sculptural elements; two beautiful and disturbing surrealist paintings by Victor Brauner called La Porte and Suicide at Dawn (the second one in particular is hilariously off-putting); a cubist assemblage of different disconnected images by Fernand Leger; two minimalist collages of lines and color by Paul Klee and Fernand Leger; and a painting by our old buddy David Hockney of a lawn with sprinklers going off that somehow looks sort of abstract despite perfectly capturing the subject.
Amongst all these pieces were several modernist sculptures which were really incredible. These included a vaguely haunting plastic sculpture of a fish by Lee Bonteceau; a very rectangular wooden Dancing Man by Joel Shapiro; a surrealist sculpture cryptically called Xmas by Dorothea Tanning made out of combination of wool, metal, and other fabrics; and a really lovely plastic carved silhouette with a glowing neon jump rope by Idelle Weber called Jump Rope.
Some big big names I was excited to see included Rene Magritte (with the one his most famous paintings, and one of the most parodied images of all times, The Treachery of Images), Jean Dubuffet (with hilariously small face on a monstrously large head); and Pablo Picasso (with an emotionally charged cubist portrait called Weeping Woman with Hankerchief).
At this point, my phone died so I went back to my car to charge it, and then also ended up taking a small nap.
With both my phone and my self recharged, I tackled the rest of the museum. The first thing I noticed was that I had almost missed out on one of the best of the outdoor sculptures a giant shiny stainless steel Balloon Monkey by Jeff Koons perfectly placed over a reflective pool in the plaza between different museum buildings.
I went back to see the rest of the modern and contemporary American and European pieces that I missed out on pre-nap. The first thing that really leapt out to me were some more sculptures including: a large series of classic creepily elongated figures by Alberto Giocometti; a fantastically simple and complex cubist Centaur by Pablo Picasso; a piece called Topanga Seed by Wallace Berman in which the artist grafted Hebrew characters onto a big ol’ chunk of rock in an impressionistic way in that the characters were chosen aesthetically not because they form any meaningful words or sentences which was intended as an homage to the Kabbalah and the Judaic mystical belief of letters being building blocks of the world; and a bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro called disc that features a perfectly smooth disc shattered to reveal a complex web of structures underneath.
The rest of the wing was more of the museum’s vibrant collection of surreal, abstract, colorful, and beautiful modernist pieces. I know this stuff isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but this was so up my alley in terms of the marrying of weirdness and genuine artistic talent, and it made LACMA one of my favorite art museums so far.
My favorite pieces from this stretch of the wing included: A piece by Lorser Feitelson entitled Life Begins that combines collage, oil painting, and a non-traditional frame to draw surreal psychological links between birth, outer space, and a peach (obviously); a lovely minimalist village by Lyonel Feininger; and a surreal German expressionist woodcut of dangerous looking crowd-scene.
Up next, I took a brief art pitstop to see the La Brea Tar Pits (made famous to me in several Far Side Cartoons). The tar pits are naturally occurring asphalt that comes from a blend of natural oils melting and seeping to the surface. While the tar itself in La Brea is naturally occurring, most of the pits that led to the tar bubbling up to the surface were created by man made excavations, initially for mining and then later for large mammal bones once archeologists realized what a gold mine these pits were since they preserved the bones of animals that died by falling in them in near perfect condition. The pits are part of a public park adjacent to LACMA, and there are also a number of sculptures of giant prehistoric mammals adding a nice surreal edge to the proceedings.
The sculpture that absolutely cracked me up at the tar pits was this totally unnecessarily ghastly scene of a baby elephant watching its mother drown in a tar pit. It was just so grisly, I couldn’t stop laughing because it was a made up scene (the fossil record would just show that animal died, not that it died screaming in front of its baby) so that means that not only did some artist just decide that this was what he wanted to make, but the city of Los Angeles was just like “yeah, that’s fine, not nightmarish at all”. They could have done anything, but this is what we got and it made me so stupidly happy.
After my jaunty stroll through the tar pits, I made my way back to LACMA because there were more buildings I hadn’t checked out yet. Along the way, I met a plant named Kevin. I don’t know why this was outside, why it had such a normal name, or anything else at all about it, but I sort of like the mystery.
The next building I checked out had the museum’s collection of modern art from Asia. My favorites included a deceptively simple photorealistic painting f several drops of water on a wooden backdrop by Kim Tschang-Yeu; a beautiful massive impressionistic (terribly photographed) picture of towering rocks over a jagged stream called Diamond Mountain by Park Dae Sung; a commandingly intense piece of abstract painting over violently cut up painting called Turbulance by Zheng Chongbin; and some tranquil richly textured abstractions (that definitely grow on you the more you look on them) by Youn-il Ahn who became obsessed with trying to capture and refine the many different appearances water can have after he was briefly stranded alone on a boat on the pacific ocean in the mid-80s (what a crazy life).
My favorite piece here was called Translated Vase by Yee Sookyung who took collected discarded pieces of fired clay, painted them with beautiful turquoise and gold colors, and reshaped them into a-not quite perfect sphere, thus taking what other people had thrown away and making something impressive and beautiful with it.
Lastly, I visited the Latin American wing which was doing a special exhibition of art from the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. The city in the first century CE was the a largest urban center in the Americas, and the site of three monumental pyramids. Most of the pieces from this exhibit were found in excavations of these pyramids, and they help to paint a portrait of a thriving, bustling city, capturing artifacts both commonplace and royal. I also loved the bizarre curatorial choice of placing the displays on a amorphous slatted wooden structures, because it does lend a sort of otherworldiness to each gallery which actually kind of helps with the sense that you are literally walking into a another time.
While some of the jewelry (which you can see above) was ornate and beautiful, I was as I usually am much more drawn to the quirky characters and mythological figures that were made of clay and bronze for different effigies used in various religious ceremonies and day-to-day superstitions back then. Again it’s that sweet spot of bonkers imagery with incredible craftsmanship that always gets me.
The wing then jumped forward several years in latin American history with the forced introduction of Christianity adding new devotional imagery into the mix, even though certain stylistic flairs of the ancient cultures were still very much present.
Those sensibilities then continued into modern and contemporary Latin American art with with a wealth of surrealist paintings I really loved. My favorites here were: a cubist blend of human animal hybrids by Wifredo Lam; a piece called Construction with White Line (Construcción con línea blanca) by Joaquín Torres-García that takes an abstract approach to symbols inspired by ancient cave paintings and carvings; a beautifully noir-ish expressionist street corner scene by Jose Clemente Orozco; and a dream-like painting of a sad flying crying cloud woman called Messengers in the Wind (Mensajeras en el viento) by Rufino Tamayo.
One of my favorite pieces was a mind bending piece called Mural: Virtual Circles by Julio Le Parc which features subtly changing abstract black and white circles combined with three dimensional reflective aluminum to make the piece each little entry point seem to extend into infinity.
That was the last exhibit I saw as some of the other buildings were going through construction, but I did just want to shout out the architecture of the upper level balconies on the Latin American Wing for being a work of art in their own right.
After the museum, I got some coffee at a place called Joe and the Juice, because it was too good a name for me to resist. As the name implies, they are more known as Juice place, but I needed to stay awake more than I needed to be a trendy mom so I bypassed the smoothie option for something more caffeinated which I was quite happy with.
From there on in, I had my first brushes with the LA Comedy Scene signing up for the lottery at the world famous Comedy Store. It was very cool getting to see the store in person, but it was a little disheartening seeing over a hundred comics in line to sign up for 25 spots. One great thing about LA comedy is that there are a ton of mics an aspiring comic can hit up, but one down side I quickly learned was that a great deal of them are lotteries so stagetime is not always guaranteed. At a place like the Store, I get why they have to have both a lottery and a hard cap on number of performers, because it has such a reputation that if they didn’t they would be truly flooded by both legitimate amateur comics and also anyone who ever even once considered trying comedy and picked the first club they heard of (a very real problem, especially in big cities like LA and New York where there’s a decent contingent of performers who just want to be famous for SOMETHING and comedy is just their latest attempt at that).
I did not beat the statistical odds, and ended up not making this lottery. But in the time, I waited for the line to clear and the names to be drawn for the 25 spots, I did get another coffee and do some writing at a local chain called The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. It was cozy, and slightly nicer than a Starbucks, but it was still pretty much what you expect from a chain coffeeshop.
Undaunted by my defeat in lottery #1, I ventured to a smaller but pretty still well known theater called Flappers for lottery #2. They have pretty great shows on the main stage, but the open mic was held in the bar which had the pro of being more intimate and the con of being more chaotic.
The nicest thing about Flappers though was that another one of my friends from my college improv team, Eli. was able to come by and hang out because it wasn’t too far from his work. It was great to see my buddy, joke around, and catch up. He’s still writing a lot, but he’s performing less because he has that one thing that’s very dangerous to all performing arts: a day job that he actually enjoys that pays him well. His job is still arts adjacent, because to be fair most things in the Hollywood area are, so he’s still getting to scratch his creative itch which makes me happy, because he is one of the funniest and cleverest people I know.
This mic was more of a random lottery but because it was much smaller they just drew names as they went, so I sat and watched the whole thing with anticipation while sharing laughs and drinks with Eli.
Amy Jan (host) - I have a part time job, and it takes so much effort… trying to hate it. I really like my job! (very sweet and earnest delivery)
Vinny Brouard - My jokes are clean, so none of you are laughing but you’re not offended
Patrick (didn’t get a last name)- It’s weird being a black guy named Patrick. Cut my name in half, you’ve got two white names.
Dave Gregory - I like Biggie Smalls because he sounds fat.
Unintentional Highlight- An exceedingly white comedian doing terrrrrrible comedy rap
Favorite comics of the night: I saw Anthony Decimito, who you may remember came in first in the Phoenix One Liner Competition, who was still really hilarious. He told my favorite one liner from that night as well as some new jokes I was really into including “I’m on a plant based diet. I plant burritos all over my house. They’re endless!” and “My senior quote was ‘Actually, you’re gay!’”
I also can’t really translate my other favorite comic of the night into writing, but there was an actually very funny and talented musical comedian (which is like seeing a unicorn at an open mic) named Zachary Aries. Without the music, I can’t do any of his jokes justice but he was very funny and could do a flawless Tracy Morgan impression.
As for myself, this was lottery #2 that didn’t pan out. I asked the hosts if there was any way I could go up since I had traveled so far, and they said I should have mentioned that at the beginning of the mic. This is very good advice and something out of town comics should always at least try in new cities Unfortunately for me I had already tried that which I politely reminded them of to which they replied “Oh shit you did! We’re really sorry but we do have to clear out at a certain time, we can’t do anything for you tonight. ” Sometimes you’re just not lucky and it’s nobody’s fault. Hosts do have a lot to keep track of so I don’t blame them even a little, and I would say some good advice to new comics is never make a stink if a lottery doesn’t go your way. That’s the name of the game, and it can suck sitting through lots of comics (especially if they happen to be really really bad comics which does happen from time to time), but if you get mad at hosts and are generally disagreeable then that’s a good way to guarantee even less stage time than random chance will provide. It’s just as important to give off good vibes and social energies at a mic as it is to actually perform well (maybe even more so since trying out new material doesn’t always pan out even for the best comics), and if you’re a good audience member when you’re not on stage and you also perform whatever random lotteried spot you get like its the best possible spot (even if it’s late and there’s no crowd) then you can at least make a good impression on your fellow comics and the hosts which can go a long way to getting booked and not having to deal with lotteries any more.
After the mic, I decided to drown my lottery woes with burgers, beers, and buds at a place Eli recommended called Stout Burgers and Beers. As the name suggested, this place specialized in two things and oh boy did it do them well. They had some of the most decadent burgers I’ve seen anywhere at reasonable prices (super not guaranteed in LA) and complimented by an expansive beer list. I got a burger called the Goombah so I could get in touch with my Italian heritage. This little monster came with smoked mozzarella, parmesan flakes, prosciutto, a lemon-basil aioli, and of course, the house ground fat juicy all-beef patty. To wash it all down, I got a delicious but dangerously strong beer our waiter recommended called the IX, a traditional Belgian tripel from a farmhouse brewery in Santa Barbara called Third Window. It was a nice balance of maltiness and more citrus-y hops, and it was 8.7% abv because those old Belgian monks didn’t mess around. We also split an order of sweet potato fries, and if you’re wondering if we enjoyed our meal, just take a look at Eli’s look of pure contentment:
After a delightful dinner and a hilarious story about Medieval Times (the restaurant, not the times) that I won’t repeat for Eli’s benefit, I said goodbye to my friend. He said that as much as he may like to host me, he and his girlfriend live in a one bedroom that is already small for the two of them, but he had told his mom I was in town and she was excited to host me. As I’ve already made a bit of a habit of staying with friend’s moms without them there, I couldn’t resist this generous offer so I made my way to his childhood home in Hermosa Beach which was just a ways down the 405.
When I got to Eli’s house, I ended up not going to bed right away, but staying up and chatting with his mom for hours. I can see where he gets his sense of humor, and she had plenty of funny stories to tell and also some helpful tips in the writing and self-promotion departments since she’s had a successful career working as a ghostwriter for various autobiographies which was in and of itself a fascinating profession to learn more about. While we were chatting, we also discovered that one of the comics I met from Tuscon, Roxy Merrari (who was one of my favorites) is actually her cousin who was really close with Eli growing up. What a crazy small world!
Favorite Random Sightings: One Down Dog (I think it’s a yoga place?); “Flat whites are a construct” (a strange sign at a coffee shop); Grow Kid Grow (a very demanding store name); Le Gout (i don’t know if this restaurant knows what that word means in America, but its not as appetizing); The Shrimp Lover (no explanation necessary)
Regional Observations: Some Hollywood stereotypes are true, these guys do a LOT of a business out there:
Albums Listened To: Small Change by Tom Waits (a fantastic album right about when Tom Waits starts to make the transition to his current gravel and whisky singing voice); Smiley Smile by the Beach Boys (just Good Vibrations); Smoke Signals by Resignated (just Waiting); The Snails Meet the Heavy Beat by the Snails and the Heavy Beat (fun soul tinged split-LP); The Snake by Shane Macgowan (an uneven but occasionally brilliant solo outing from the Pogues frontman); Sniperlite by Dilla Ghost Doom (a single track of DOOM and J Dilla together); SNL 25- the Musical Performances (just the Beastie Boys doing Sabotage live); So Long & Thanks for All the Shoes by NOFX (just their ridiculous cover of Les Champs Elysee); A Soap Opera by the Kinks (just Have Another Drink); Social Distortion by Social Distortion (just their cover of Ring of Fire); Some People by Undercovers
People’s Favorite Jokes:
What did one bird say to the other? This year just flew by
Songs of the Day:
Bonus Picture of a Cool Building I Couldn’t Remember Any Other Context For:
Bonus Bonus Video of Charlie Chaplin because Why Not?