In late 2014, I was depressed. And I don't mean the type of depressed where it's like oh my dog died, wah, but depressed like life is pointless and the only reason I'm not ending myself is because the idea of death is even scarier. It was around the two year mark in Los Angeles, and along with my advancing age, it felt like nothing was materializing the way I wanted to. I was at the point most new actors to Los Angeles feel when they get here, the feeling of hopelessness, and that nothing is going to change.
If there was a checklist of things to do as an aspiring actor, I could probably go through them all. No stone was unturned, no small sliver of hope unslived. I probably wasted tons of money on things that were basically a tier up from being an outright scam in order to get an edge. Marketing strategies, headshots, acting classes, workshops, showcases, wardrobe stylist (wat), color consultant (yes, that's a thing), audition classes, subscriptions to trades, making a fake reel to get into the union, etc. ...I could be a damn good manager by now.
What was most frustrating was people who weren't in the industry giving me advice. Maybe I should do this. Maybe I should do that. People who had no clue what the fuck they were talking about thinking they had the magic solution as to why I wasn't succeeding. The most asinine suggestion I got was something like maybe I needed to work as a server at a restaurant to know what it was like to be a struggling actor. But the thing that annoyed me the most was the condescension in people's voices, as if I wasn't trying hard enough. Or I wasn't good enough. Or maybe, I should try something else. Sometimes their inane drivel would weigh on me because there would be a lot of days where I would be doing absolutely nothing, because I felt I had exhausted all the things I could do. I wasn't even really having fun, just sleeping in and mehing around, spending perhaps whole weeks without physical contact with the outside world save for getting food and running errands.
Lifewise, things weren't going so great either. Although I had managed to make a few friends, I still missed New York, being home with family and the familiarity of people back home. And romantically, well, I'm sure I've well documented my failings in that department for a while now. I just never felt a support system, it was mainly doing things on my own without a guide, a mentor, or a group of people to just bitch and moan to. Just this blog, really, and my friends thousands of miles away on tiny avatars of fb/google/whatever chat. (CAN'T A GUY FUCKING CALL A FRIEND ON THE TELEPHONE, MICHAEL)
There was a sense also, of just everyone really being out for themselves in this town. I felt that my trust and faith in people had been shaken, that what New Yorkers always say about LA is true, that no one has any real artistic integrity. While I know now that this isn't always the case, it was suffocating being in a place where it seemed no one was like-minded in creativity, especially in the Asian American community (more on this in a later entry).
One of my best friends, Bobby, is a very similar Indian version of me. We had all the same interests growing up, which mainly consisted of Starcraft, poker and generally surviving the pressures of elitist Asian standards of education. He was a year above me in high school (though he's actually a couple months younger than I am). During HS we shared the dread of being put on this track of becoming doctors, like it was a destiny chosen for us that we were to be force fed by parents who thought becoming doctors was the equivalent of becoming demigods. Our lives were not unlike those of Harold and Kumar, which is why the movie resonated deeply with both of us.
He had it a bit worse though, both of his older sisters are doctors, so it was more expected of him to follow suit, while my sister used her Harvard degree to pursue a career in fashion, giving me a little more leeway to do whatever I wanted (a few dollas in the bank also helps too). Bobby completed a 7 year program at Northwestern University and became an anesthesiologist. Throughout his journey, I commiserated with him about how much it sucked, taking board examinations, doing residency, having loads of student debt that wouldn't be paid off well into his 30s. For me, I empathized mostly with the seeming lack of choice that he had going into it.
But as we lived together as roommates in New York, me going into acting school and him doing his residency, it seemed that he had made his peace with the life that was chosen for him. It wasn't so bad after all, being a respected member of society and working at a job with a material benefit to others. We had made becoming a doctor such a heinous thing in high school because it was what our parents wanted us to do, but in reality, maybe our parents knew a thing or two about life.
In November of 2014, I stood at Bobby's wedding as a groomsman. He married another anesthesiologist in his program (who happened to be Korean, can't get away from our kind, it seems). At various times in the past decade or so, I always viewed Bobby as what "could have been" for my life if I had stayed the course and did what my parents told me to, and the outcome has not been as horrific as we anticipated. It was at his wedding that I became most acutely aware of the decisions I had made in my life, and wondered if I had made a terrible mistake. I wondered if I had traded somewhat assured happiness for a pipe dream that would never materialize, if I had squandered the prime years of my life doing something that had no future. The living vicariously tables had been turned.
During those long days and nights in LA in late 2014, I stumbled upon a show that I had never seen anything like before. It was an extremely meta show about a comedian, Louis C.K., that blew me away in terms of artistic quality. The show, Louie, starts off with Louie doing stand up sets interwoven with moments from his life that either highlight his jokes or colors them in a certain way from their juxtaposition. While the show is definitely surrealistic at times, there are moments he captures that are so visceral that you wonder if you're watching a comedy anymore. It's humor that hurts, but it hurts so good.
I felt like I was watching something revolutionary and started to examine television and the direction it was going. I looked into similar shows such as Girls, Togetherness, You're the Worst, Man Seeking Woman, and saw that the comedy genre was delving into how life is in actuality, instead of that perfect idealistic sitcom life that always feels so forced and disingenuous.
I started to think about my own life and how it could possibly be a comedy of its own, a Don Quioxte like tragedy of an overqualified person throwing away all of the talents he's built up his entire life and trying to pursue quests he may have no business pursuing instead. I started spending those days and nights coming up with ideas and vignettes of possible directions of what I could tell and what would be interesting about the failures I've accrued along the way. But I had a lot of research to do...