I am in Los Angeles, blogging from my buddy Ben Baker's crib in west Hollywood. Ben played the title role in Macbeth at Richmond Shakespeare Festival this past summer, and has graciously (Or insanely) offered to let me crash at his place while I look around & see what LA is like. So far-- I LIKE IT. I REALLY LIKE IT.
I would even venture to say that I love it.
There's a real sense of possibility here, a kind of upward enthusiasm that is very inviting. I love LA because it's almost like you can speak it aloud and it can HAPPEN. One can almost hear the song of fame and fortune whispering its' tune in the smoggy-ass air. That's very weirdly naive, but it's just a feeling I get.
Of course, I think what I've heard is the same siren song that calls to people from all over the country, telling them to steer their ship of dreams westward in a rapturous voyage of discovery and fearlessness, only to eventually lead them to die slow, painful deaths on the sharp, morally and spiritually bankrupt rocks of misery, disillusionment and failure.
HONEY, PACK THE CAR!!
Yeah-- The world of comedy is centrally located in Los Angeles, methinks. Comedy is VERY big here, and while it is hard to break through, it is certainly possible to do so, and potentially very rewarding. I've met some very funny and talented people during my brief visit.
It isn't just the people in the comedy industry that I find funny-- I've seen some folks on the street who are so outrageously trendy that it is almost laughable. My favorite current trend is the 'Paris Hilton Look' preferred by lots of the ladies... I've seen waify, seventy-eight-pound blonde women wearing what look like oversized protective NASA goggles smacking their gum and talking loudly on cellphones while carrying little designer dogs. These women have tatoos written in chinese characters on their lower backs, yet the gals are so skinny that you can almost see the reverse of the tattoos peeking through their stomachs. These gals wear $200 jeans with garish sequined belt-buckles and flip-flops everywhere and they look like they haven't slept in eight days. Yikes. Thank God I wouldn't have to worry about dating if I moved out here.
Of course, if I were single, I'd be too broke to date. Because I'd probably be at the Spearmint Rhino all the time.
The cars on the roads are a trip. Lots of mini-coopers. And I've noticed that For every Prius, there's a Hummer-- How's that for ecological balance?? I've also gleaned that every overpriced designer furnishing store sells a wide variety of expensive buddha statues. This makes me chuckle, because the Buddha taught a method of eradicating our illusions, yet illusions are the main stock-in-trade of the Los Angeles area. One can buy a seven-thousand dollar Buddha statue to perpetuate the illusion that one is a Buddhist.
... Whatever being 'Buddhist' even means... I am smiling mischeviously as I type...
I have been running SantaLand Diaries for almost three weeks now, and the people at the Villa Resort in Palm Springs have treated me like part of the family. The meals ae great, the accomodations first-rate, and the two owners, Reuel "Yule" Olin and Bob "You're a mean one, Mister" Grinchuk are really fantastic people who have carved a virtual oasis out of the desert.
The show has been received very well, and I've been on the Bobby English Radio Show a few times to promote it. I've also found myself on the cover of more than a few Palm Springs area desert entertainment guides, including one which contained a feature story on the show-- the coolest part is that on the flip side of my story there was a feature on TONY FREAKING BENNETT!! Upon seeing that, I said, "Tony Bennett?? Gee-- That ain't bad now, is it??" I kept flipping the page to make sure Tony's picture was still there and I wasn't dreaming.
I was like:
"Tony Bennett." (Flip) "Scott Wichmann." (Flip) "Tony Bennett." (Flip-Flip-Flip) "Tony Bennett." (Flip) "Scott Wichmann."
That's a good way to kill three hours. But for me, it never gets old.
Last week I went to a taping of JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE, where I did a monologue from 'SantaLand' between set-ups During an impromptu audience "Talent Show" designed to keep the crowd on it's toes. One guy did 'The Worm' dance, another guy Rapped, two other guys sang, and I did my monologue. I only had two minutes to squeeze the monologue in-- I was pressed for time, so I had to make it quick.
I launched into the monologue with an almost savage intensity, and the audience was like "Who the hell IS this guy??" They didn't laugh a whole lot, because they were still trying to figure me out, but I didn't care. I won a bright orange 'Jimmy Kimmel' XL T-shirt which makes me look like a walking packet of TANG. I look like the Kool-aid man's sick nephew. Astronauts absolutely love me now. They stop me on the street and make me pose for pictures with them.
Then they try to drink me, but I flee and escape. I look behind me and see them bouncing along, slowly lumbering after me.
Okay. I'll be truthful.
That's only happened once.
Anyway-- OOOH!! I got to meet Dickie Barrett, front man for THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES. Dickie is Jimmy Kimmel's announcer and New England ROYALTY as far as I'm concerned. I also had the distinct pleasure to meet the inimitable Uncle Frank, who afterwards shook my hand firmly and told me "You're a very, very talented young man." I said, "Thank you, Uncle Frank."
To top it all off, Sly Stallone was the guest that night on JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE. I cheered for him until I was hoarse.
I'm a complete and utter geek.
But I had lots of fun.
I've also seen two performances from The Groundlings, the LA Based comedy troupe which was home to such comedic luminaries as Paul Reubens, Will Ferrell, Julia Sweeny, Kristen Wiig (My new Personal Favorite), and Chris Parnell, among many others. I watched the long-form improv show on wednesday, and last night I went to see the 'Sunday Company' which is like the Pawtucket Red Sox of the Groundlings Organ-Eye-Zay-Shunn.
Former Richmond actor Cliff Todd is the Groundlings office manager, and he gave me a brief rundown of the Groundlings training program. It features a rigorous course of improv and writing workshops, plus a placement audition and hours upon hours of character work & story-shaping exercises. The training can be expensive, and the competition is stiff, but the results can be downright astonishing. There were moments during both shows where the audiences were rolling and the energy was electric.
I had dinner with Cliff and his wife Michelle Carter, who looks and feels fantastic after whiping cancer's ass. Michelle was celebrating a birthday and graciously allowed me to tag along to her party. Those two are doing GREAT. Cliff has been seen in a national ad for RE/MAX realty agency (the one where the couple is blindfolded by the cheapskate realtor as he drives to look at houses) and Michelle has been doing great too, working on several TV Shows and Game Shows.
Also present was my friend Rodney Hobbs, a very talented actor (I directed him in Topdog/Underdog) who has been doing quite well for himself as well. Rodney does the voice of 'Orlando' in an online cartoon called Orlando's Joint, and he has also been seen on The Bernie Mac Show. Rodney will soon be seen in the upcoming film Dreamgirls.
After the movie comes out, Rodney will then hire me to write his damn bio.
I caught up with Foster Solomon & Susan Sanford (Plus two year-old Trey) and they are dong quite well. Foster is teaching at a prestigious middle school whose name I forget (urgghh!!) and Susan is a full-time mom to the boy genius that is Trey Solomon. I bought them the movie ELF for Christmas, and we all watched it before I went to the Groundlings show with Cliff. While watching the film, I commented on the young girl in the film, Zooey Deschanel, saying how talented she was & how she should put out an album-- since she does all of her own singing in the movie.
After the movie was over, I bid Foster, Susan & Trey a heartfelt goodbye and met Cliff at the Groundlings theatre. Cliff and I took our seats, and Cliff asked me what I did that day. I told him how I went sightseeing and then watched ELF at Foster's house. I again remarked how great I thought Zooey Deschanel was in the film.
Two seconds later, Zooey Deschanel sat down in the seat directly in front of me to watch the Groundlings perform. As The light dimmed, I looked over at Cliff wih a huge, Chesire Cat grin on my face.
I love LA.