Jul 7, 2014

Moving to LA & The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail

By Josh Oakley

I’ve always felt that there was something more. It’s an impulse intrinsic to human nature, to a certain extent, though it affects some more than others. I am, unquestionably, one of the “some”. That isn’t to say that I’m ungrateful for the life I've lived or the people I’ve met or the experiences I’ve had. But none of them have made the yearning subside. Perhaps, I both fear and hope, it is a thing that never truly fades.

A piece of that forward-driven persistence stems from wanting to be around a tidal wave of culture. My hometown, Wheaton, a nice suburb that I’m happy I was able to grow up in, lacks that sort of active drive. I’ve resided in Chicago, and though it contains a powerful alternative theater scene, and provides the rest of the country with plenty of talented individuals, it doesn’t feel like a tipping point, at least in the way I’ve been able to utilize it. I long for something to rival the New York scenes of punk music in the 70's or literature in the 90’s (as captured in this, one of the best pieces I’ve ever read). I’ve always wanted to be somewhere that felt unpredictable.

I don’t know, in the modern day, driven so much by the Internet and its bedfellow, argumentation, that we have something quite like this. The culture is fractured, for both better and worse. Maybe the closest we have, at least in the way I perceive what the online world tells me, is the comedy field in Los Angeles. New York and Chicago, and other spots throughout the country, have vibrant comedy communities that deserve celebration. But at least in my estimation, they don’t match the electricity of Los Angeles’. This is the place where Tig Notaro’s stand-up concerning her cancer occurred, a set that may be the best piece of art in any medium of the last five years. This is where Comedy Bang! Bang!, a centerpiece of the field that embraces talent both established and upcoming, is located. Again, none of this is to diminish the great work people in other cities are accomplishing regularly. Just to speak to what I find so invigorating about a place I haven’t visited since I was a child.

When The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail television show was announced, I was not yet sure where I would be going after college. I was thrilled that a show that had seemingly already become an LA staple would make its way to my TV screen, even in a truncated format. Since then, I’ve made my plans, and will be moving to Los Angeles with one of my best friends in September. Before that happens, earlier today, I got a preview of The Meltdown, in the form of the first episode premiering early online. It’s a great half-hour, featuring funny stand-up (especially from Neal Brennan) and the biggest laugh that the word “Aladdin” has ever gotten. But what I love most, the inclusion of which was a stroke of genius, is the backstage footage.

Those backstage sequences are the proof that The Meltdown in television form is fully committed to its audience; why else show Moshe Kasher and Natasha Leggero talking about Rory Scovel? It’s a show where flashing the names of those onscreen feels almost unnecessary, not because of exclusivity, but because the community feels so fleshed out and the intended audience so clear. Those conversational bits were my favorite aspect of Kroll Show’s most recent season as well, adding a layer of how well these people know and care about each other. This tenor has been rising in the world of comedy for years now. It may have always been present, and stories bandied about make that seem like the case, but the rise of comedy podcasts aided the notion of comedians working with each other even the field of stand-up which, to the outsider, can seem so singular.

All of these things working in tandem have made the entire comedy field feel more and more like a community, no matter the city at hand. But Los Angeles, for a number of reasons, still feels like a large beating heart in the middle of it. A large part of the reason I’m moving there is to get closer to this community, so I can see The Meltdown or tapings of Doug Loves Movies whenever I wish. I’m not going there to be part of that world, per se (comedy is my love, not my personal talent), but to be around it and hope to suck up at least a little of its electricity. In Chicago I was treated to friends that invigorated me, and helped assure me that I wanted nothing more than to be an artist. Now, as I ready to move, I look for an even more insular community; friends to write scripts with, a place to hone my personal skills. And, surrounding me, the voices of those I admire and appreciate. Maybe I won’t find what I need in Los Angeles. At the very least, I just want to find something more, even if it’s just a pulsating energy that will point me even more precisely in the direction I need to head. The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail helps to prove that this idea does exist and gives me hope that I’ll find the version of it that I long for.


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