This is a guest post from Connected Comedian Ryan Budds, a comedian who moved from Chicago to Los Angeles recently and has learned a lot in the process. Below are his thoughts on the 10 lessons he’s learned in his first 500 days in Los Angeles – you can also hear him talk about it in more detail on a recent episode of the On The Page podcast.
If you’d like to write a guest post for Connected Comedy, please email me.
1. Get A Partner
It’s important to have someone to help balance out the LA transition. For me, it was my wife, who has been part of my career since we met in college. She was there the first time I did an open mic, and she’s the first person I turn to when I need help with anything creatively. With her steady full time job and me trying to make connections in a new city, we really succeeded in being able to afford the higher rent, gas, and living expenses.
This partner doesn’t need to be a significant other; it can be a friend you’re sharing an apartment with, a parent supporting your relocation with monetary help, or even a nest egg you’ve saved up for this huge move. Who/whatever it is, make sure it’s reliable and supportive.
2. Have A Side Business
When I first moved to LA, I had no steady income. My comedy career in the Midwest consisted of standup gigs on the weekend and trivia nights I ran at bars on the weekdays. In LA, I knew I would have very little comedy income because of the massive talent pool and almost non-existent comedy club paychecks, so my big plan was to host trivia at bars around LA to stay afloat at first.
I had a slow start with getting bars to sign on, but this side business really helped me match my wife with income after a few months. And, having just a two-hour, late night commitment to these bars each week left my days open to pursue acting auditions, classes, extra work, production jobs, and all kinds of other random “side missions” to the LA game.
Additionally, this particular side business keeps me fresh on crowd work, testing jokes, networking with players on a weekly basis and helps build my brand. Hopefully, this side business will turn into a real business – in my case in the form of a game show pitch. Try to make your side business lucrative for both your wallet and your career goals.
3. Evaluate How You Spend Your Time
As a new comic in LA, I was eager to take my stab at the ever-spreading comedy scene. I wanted to make an impression and do all the best shows I could, and I wanted to mingle at open mics and get to know everybody.
This is a great plan, but LA is seriously MASSIVE when it comes to how many comedians, mics and showcases exist. There are hundreds, seemingly, in every regard. It’s hard to get decent stage time consistently at mics, so I found myself quickly strained to hang out for four hours only to get three minutes in front of the sound guy and two comics waiting to go up after me.
Sure, open mics are great, especially when you’re starting out, but I think it’s important to make sure you’re getting what you want out of these nightly segments. Think about what you can do with that four-hour stretch rather than just conforming to this idea that “more open mics = better comedian.”
Mics are crucial for comics at any level, but evaluating that time is much more important. If you’re not growing in some way, don’t waste your time.
4. Repeat The Good Stuff
Try lots of things and do the best ones over and over again! I started making sketches with some other comedians in a group called Bitsville U.S.A. over the last year or so, and the finished products were exceptional. After seeing the final cut, I knew these were guys that I would like to work with again and again.
I think it’s important to always try new things, but you can’t deny quality if it’s consistent, and you need to embrace those instances whether they be a great acting/writing class, a particular stage around town, or even notes from a new friend on a script you’ve traded. Find people that motivate you in some way and make these people your best friends – both socially and professionally.
5. Embrace New Opportunities
Welcome the possibility of humility, try it all. One time, Central Casting called me up and asked if I could roller skate (documented on my website in my #30DaysLA blog). I couldn’t, but I said I could, because I had two days to prep and knew I could learn it if I tried hard enough.
I did, and I never fell, and I got some great screen time on How I Met Your Mother, and a great commercial spot featuring my face during the Super Bowl last year advertising that episode. NONE of that would have happened if I just politely whispered that I didn’t know how to skate and hung up the phone.
The same thing happened more recently when an agency called and asked if I had teleprompter experience. I didn’t, but I knew there was a free app called “Teleprompter” on my iPad that I could practice with for the weeks leading up to the industrial commercial taping, so I told them I could and made some very easy money for what turned out to be a three-session shoot totaling over $1,000.
Little decisions can really lead to much bigger accomplishments, and I work best under pressure, so I embrace it. Maybe you can, too.
6. Keep Reaching Out To People
On my 500th day in LA, I got a job as an Associate Producer on MTV’s Ridiculousness. I had interviewed for several jobs as a segment producer with the shows Wipeout and Mud, Sweat, and Gears, and I didn’t get either job, even after feeling like I had some of the best interviews of my life.
I was discouraged, and when I’m discouraged, I do this thing where I text everybody in my phone. Something. Anything. Just a “Hey, what’s up” or a quick joke or something and if they respond, I see where that can take me.
Around day 480 (after failing on both those interviews) I randomly text a friend of mine named Rob O’Reilly, who I knew worked on Ridiculousness. I asked if he knew of any jobs opening up, and he did. He asked for a resume, I spruced it up, sent it through, and got an interview later that afternoon.
The next day I had the job, and that next Monday, I started. NONE of that would have happened if I didn’t simply reach out. Always throw stuff out there and see what bounces back.
7. Explore The West Coast
When you get out here, LA is the hub for everything. But, the whole coast is amazing and a must-see experience. And not just the coast. Vegas is close, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Seattle, they’re all out this way and they’re all filled with possible opportunities you could discover in one adventurous weekend.
As a writer or creative person, you need to see some of the areas where your characters are supposedly from. Even if nothing happens from this travel for your career, you’re bound to be inspired in your surroundings
8. Share Other People’s Creations
Your work is super important, but so is the work of your peers. It’s never going to hurt you to promote someone else’s work. Find people who make stuff that appeals to you and reach out to them with a note or a critique or any response to recognize their work. They want to hear it! That’s why they’re posting stuff.
Posting links to content keeps me searching for ways to stay fresh and it really promotes the sense of community that can be lost when moving to a new city. Like a video you saw on Funny or Die? Message the uploader and see how you can be a part of the next one.
9. Buy Someone A Pizza
When my friend Ken Garr has a great comedy club weekend, he has a pizza sent to the booker’s office, thanking them for the good time. As he claims, no one is ever upset to get a free pizza.
When I interviewed for Ridiculousness, I made a connection with one of my now-bosses about his wife being from Chicago. The day after my interview, I had a Chicago-style deep dish pizza sent over from a nearby place called Taste Chicago with my boss’s names on it and the note “some Chicago love from Ryan Budds.”
Even if I didn’t get the job, maybe they’d remember me for the next opening as the “pizza guy.” Fortunately, I did get the job, and maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if I hadn’t sent a pizza but it definitely didn’t hurt. If you have an opportunity coming up, figure out how you can add a pizza (real or figurative) to the situation to better your odds
10. Pay It Forward
Do podcasts! Reply to emails! Let people take out you to lunch! Take the time to embrace all the people that took time to embrace you.
I let a guy named Jared Iverson take me out to lunch because he really enjoyed my last appearance on the On The Page podcast, and now we’re friends. Jared then came to one of my trivia nights and made more friends, including some actors that are appearing in tons of new movies and projects. I love interacting with people that like what I’m doing. As a performer, I’m looking for attention, and until I’m TMZ-status, let’s keep it coming.
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12 thoughts on “10 Lessons Learned From A Comedian’s First 500 Days In Los Angeles”
Great post! I plan on making the move to LA or NYC within the next year or 2 & this post had some great advice for even the location i’m at now. Thank you!
This is one of the best articles you’ve ever published. Lots of specific, detailed, and actionable advice.
Great insight Ryan. Hope to meet ya in the new year perhaps. Planning on going for a bit.
Excellent information!! Great detail! I can’t make that type of transition but if I do, I have some good tips.
Thanks Ryan, good stuff!!
Great Post! This advice is very applicable to any profession that is extremely competitive. Keep up the great work!
Are there people who will critique jokes and give advice on maybe saying it differently?
As co-producer of The Joke Gym open mic, I’ve met a lot of comedians who were new to Los Angeles (and a bit shocked at how big it is). This is a great article for anyone who wants to take on L.A.
Great post Ryan! I’ve been in LA now 15 years. I’m happy with the progress I have made but I’m sure I could have made much more reading your post. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you, Ryan, this is great! As someone else said, this is applicable to almost any career where networking is important.
Nice read Ryan, happy to see you doing well out west! Keep it up bro.