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Comedy in LA

By: Camey VanSant

By Quinn

“Hi, my name is Quinn, I’m from NJ, and I am taking this class because Ryan Reynolds shared in an episode of Smartless that he, at nineteen years old, spontaneously moved to Los Angeles to take classes at The Groundlings. It appears that choice ultimately worked out for him, so I decided to do the same. And my favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip.”

“Hi, Quinn,” my new classmates echoed in unsettling unison, and the introductions continued around the circle with Mark to my right (Honolulu; in the class because he wants to improve his comedic acting skills; heath bar crunch.)

This class, Intermediate Improv at the Groundlings, is the newest of many comedy/ acting classes I have taken since moving to Los Angeles in mid-January. My self-introduction to the class is based in fact—I decided to move to Los Angeles in early January after listening to Smartless interviews with some of my favorite actors/ comedians (including Ryan Reynolds), many of whom attribute their career success to the fact that their immersion into the entertainment industry occurred during their teenage years. I have wanted to be an actress for my whole life, and, in high school, I developed a deep love for comedy (specifically sketch and improv— I had performed stand-up before, but it terrified me). My goals in moving to LA were to immerse myself in the entertainment industry, take improv classes at the schools that trained my comedic idols (specifically Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade), and hopefully book a few acting gigs—just to get my feet wet and determine if acting is truly a career I would like to pursue.

When I first moved here in January, I felt tremendously over my head. I didn’t know a single person in Los Angeles, was living entirely alone for the first time in my life, and had a difficult time distinguishing legitimate offers for acting jobs from scams. Upon first moving to LA, I self-submitted to a lot of acting jobs online and booked a few jobs—a music video, a few online ads, and a super cool USC student sitcom. These roles were great ways to meet people, although occasionally odd jobs (if you ever see me in a TikTok commercial endorsing mobile video game ads or online dating sites, no, you don’t…).

Initially, my goals were to focus on acting and improv rather than stand-up. Honestly, the times I had performed stand-up in high school were some of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I rarely get stage fright, but anticipatory nerves for my first-ever stand-up performance in 2021 caused me to break out in hives for the entire week before the show. I hardly even remember the performance, as fear/ adrenaline caused me to essentially blackout onstage. However, in January, I was eager to take as many comedy classes as possible, and my improv teacher at the Groundlings recommended an all-women’s stand-up comedy class, which would meet once a week and finish with a graduation showcase for an audience of approximately 150 people. To prepare for this showcase, we were expected to write new material every day and try it out at least once per week at an open mic. My first open mic nearly sent me into a panic; not only did I feel extremely vulnerable telling jokes to strangers, but open mics are often quite… strange. Dark rooms/ basements in random nooks of the city, in which I am always the youngest and often one of few (if not the only) females. Further, I quickly learned that, although my comedy class peers or audiences at booked gigs are very supportive and want to enjoy themselves, everyone at open mics is a comedian wanting to test their own material (rather than wanting to listen to/ be entertained by yours), and these comedians have no interest in what you are saying. So in January/ February, performing at open mics was my worst nausea-inducing nightmare. However, sometime over the past few months, performing at open mics has become one of my favorite activities. From my comedy classes I have made some great friends, with whom I often attend open mics–which is FAR preferable to attending alone. Although I initially moved to LA with plans to devote myself to acting (with little interest in stand-up), I have realized over the past few months that I much prefer stand-up comedy and improv to acting— or at least to the acting jobs I have been booking… (once again referring to the Tik Tok video game ads).

I have booked three gigs at real stand-up shows (rather than open mics), the first two went decently well and the third I am very excited for! It took quite some time, but I have made some friends here (many of whom are also in the comedy sphere), and I am a member of an improv team in Burbank, with which I rehearse and perform regularly. I am still taking acting classes (starting with a new studio this week), but I have decided to focus my efforts more towards open mics/ improv rather than auditioning. Outside of getting involved with comedy/ acting, I have loved living in Los Angeles. When I am not in classes, I love to spend time at the beach, rollerblading, or going to comedy clubs to watch other comedians perform. I am grateful for the experiences that I have had thus far in LA and looking forward to my final weeks here!

Categories: Quinn