I Survive in L.A. Because of Cleveland, And You Can Too

Hello. My name is Colleen Doyle and I recently moved to L.A. (that's what everyone calls it out here; Los Angeles takes too long to say when you're moving and shaking and new media-ing and making a vision board out of parking tickets and maps to the homes of the stars).

I moved to L.A. to do "comedy" (please email funny ideas to Scene Magazine c/o Colleen Doyle). The move was a questionable idea for many reasons, not the least of which being that every possible iteration of Jared Leto, as well as several actual Jared Letos, live here and they are all trying to merge into your lane.

I was born and raised on the westside of Cleveland. Not really the westside of the city, but in a middle-class suburb close enough to West Park to feel the slightest bit tougher than any kid from Bay. (All right, fine: it was Rocky River.) I grew up on Big Chuck and Little John and Mr. Jingeling and trips with my small but mighty matriarchal clan to the West Side Market.

Of course, the whole Cleveland experience also included the uniquely Cleveland brand of capital W weather that defined the mood much of the time. It seems as though every childhood memory I have of an adult is of them holding a rake or a snowblower or a middle-finger toward the god that did this to us. Our sports teams taught me a lot about hope, diminishing hope, fear, anxiety and tragedy. But like a lot of people my age, I grew up to become a true blue, dyed-in-the-wool Cleveland cheerleader. My identity had become hopelessly intertwined with the place and the idea grew on me. Despite the fact that my career (ha!) took me to Chicago and now L.A., it has never lessened the love and affection I have for my hometown.

And the truth is, you do gotta be tough. Cleveland isn't a great place for the weak, the delicate, or the superficial. It doesn't really give a damn that April is technically spring. It's not interested in dolling itself up for your out-of-town friends. In the movies shot in Cleveland, the first thing they do is destroy the place. And the toughness I developed growing up on burning river jokes and as an adult defending my home (to people who've never even been to our fair city, by the way) better prepared me to fail in L.A. with a smile on my face.

What are the anomalies you'll face in L.A.? How will you use your Clevelandness? What are the personal phone numbers of the Russo brothers? Let's take a look:

The Weather: One of the most jarring aspects of moving to L.A. from the Midwest is the weather. Actually, the lack thereof. There is no weather in L.A., just the feeling that you're in a tanning bed (which, with my Irish skin, feels like passive suicide). How does this work in our favor? You will be so appreciative of the sunshine that it will make the rejection a lot easier. The despair you feel walking out of an audition you blew for White People with Black Best Friends will be mitigated by the warm bath of Southern California sunshine. Our unique ability to marvel at temperate, sunny days that last year 'round will make you infinitely less likely to walk into traffic when you're told that you're reading for "Fat, and Also Sad, Friend."

The Entertainment Biz: Remember back home how everybody worked for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the USS Cod or was Dick Goddard? Out here everybody seems to work in the entertainment biz. Well ... not work so much as talk about working and then just end up going to a matinee. How will you contribute to those conversations? How can you relate to these weirdos? Just sit back, relax, and let the Cleveland come out. The Drew Carey Show? Hot in Cleveland? American Splendor? Hollywood loves the idea of Cleveland as Everyman. They are dying to know more about Parma and our wacky standards of beauty and rust (less so things that complicate matters like the Cleveland Museum of Art or Cleveland Orchestra or the Emerald Necklace). Dazzle them with talk of pierogis and Lake Effect snow and you'll have them eating out of your pasty, calloused, blue-collar hands.

Left Coast, Pinko, Obama-Juicing, Hemp-Worshipping Socialists: Casually mention getting hundreds of emails from the Sherrod Brown campaign. Say you read Parade for the Connie Schultz. Tell them you considered going to Oberlin long before Lena Dunham enrolled. Break out that Dennis! T-shirt and let the conversation come to you.

Earthquakes: What's a little seismic wave when you sat witness, embarrassed for all involved, as The Decision unspooled? When you saw every pitch of the 1997 World Series? When your tender child mind was forced to make sense of The Drive and The Fumble? The Cleveland sports epic has undoubtedly prepared you for, and led you to anticipate, the worst, whether it be manmade, front-office'd, or the shifting of tectonic plates.

So if you, like me, find yourself a stranger in this strange land — welcome to L.A.! If you see a lady in a Browns hoodie trying to memorize lines for Boyfriend Whisperer, please say hi. And if you ever get your hands on the Russo brothers' phone numbers, would you send them my way?

Colleen Doyle would really like to know if you like the Russo Brothers.

L.A. and Cleveland. They're basically the same thing, right?

Scroll to read more The Comedy Issue articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.