According to Woody Allen, Los Angeles’ only cultural advantage is that you can take a right on red. But here’s the thing: fuck Woody Allen. If you want a fair assessment of LA, you need to talk to New Yorkers that actually live here. And where better to find East Coast transplants than at Los Angeles’s Upright Citizens Brigade theater, home to countless writers and performers who have relocated from UCBNY to work in film and television? We recently talked with two such members of UCBLA’s hilarious improv group The Smokes, actor Eugene Cordero, and writer Chris Kula, to find out how LA and New York really compare.
The People EC: There’s that classic “New York’s got the grittiness, LA’s got the fake people.” But it’s all the same thing. In LA, you’re trying to put that fake, best foot forward so you can show people who you really are. And in New York, you put that fake, hard facade forward so nobody messes with you. Both places, New York and LA, are such hard places to live that it’s just two different ways to deal with the same problem: insecurity. CK: Not being so close in proximity to people is a huge thing. Maybe people aren’t necessarily nicer in LA, but just the fact that they’re not on top of you makes you think, ‘Oh, everybody’s so great here.’ Yeah, when they’re in their car and you’re in yours.
The Energy EC: In New York, you can stay up until 4AM every night, but when you wake up, you see business men, actors, ad people. You just see this hustle and bustle and that makes you go, “Fuck, I gotta do something! Shit!” I don’t think I’d be doing as well out here if I hadn’t been in New York first. That laid back mentality would have eaten me up, like “Oh, I can just hang out?”
Comedy EC: The sketch out here is great: Birthday Boys, A Kiss From Daddy. In New York, improv takes the precedent and in LA, sketch does. CK: LA audiences are less apt to really give it up for anything that’s risqué or controversial. You tell a rape joke, you get way more of a “Ooh, I can’t believe they would do that,” whereas a New Yorker will laugh at anything. We have some theories as to why that is. One theory is that people in LA are too image-conscious or worried about what the agent three seats over is doing at the show, so rather than just laugh, people look around to see what everyone else is doing.
Sports CK: [At a Los Angeles Clippers home game] LA fans were outnumbered by Pistons fans. In New York, you definitely see pockets of other fans, but if you’re rooting for the other team, you’re going to get your ass kicked. Clippers fans don’t give a shit. If you root for the other team, they’re like, “No, you’re right.”
Food EC: I like LA for what they’re good at and New York for what they’re good at. The Corner Bistro in New York is great for burgers, but [LA burger institution] Father’s Office is so good too. They’re different. CK: For breakfast and lunch, LA really has it because people take lunch [meetings] every day. What do I miss? The New York slice. Pizza in general. And then there are a few specific places in New York that I miss. I lived above a Chinese restaurant on 8th called Home that was awesome.
Architecture CK: In LA, people say, “When I make enough money, I’m going to build the kind of house that I want and I don’t care how it looks.” I love that about LA. On any given street, you have the classic ‘60s apartments and then Mission-style things and then a ski chalet. If you go for a walk in Park Slope, you know you’re going to see brownstones everywhere. It’s nice to go for a walk in [LA’s] Griffith Park and say, “Why is this bungalow next to this mansion?”
Which city is better? EC: You can’t compare New York to LA. They’re two different fruits: literally, apples and oranges. Every once in a while you want to fucking eat an orange and every once in a while you want to eat a fucking apple.
Seriously, which is better? EC: I prefer LA. In New York you can always be a kid. Bars are open until 4AM, people are around. You walk down the street once and see a bunch of people and walk down the next day and see all different people, so you can constantly change who you are. But in LA, you can’t hide amongst the crowd. You can only be more of what you end up being. I’ll always love New York for making me who I am. But what do I miss about the city? I don’t miss anything, just my friends. I think after a while, it just started to bum me out. I can’t wait to visit New York, but I’m glad I don’t live there. CK: It makes me sound like a traitor, but yeah, I would pick LA over New York. I’ll make the case for anyone considering moving out. It’s not as intimidating as you might think, you get used to the driving and the weather really is that nice.