Dear San Francisco,
In my 25 yeas of performing, I've learned this: No matter how good you are at what you do, it's almost impossible to see your own value. This often manifests in the slagging of another comic in order to make yourself feel better. It takes a long time for a performer to know “I've got this.”
Which brings me to the longstanding San Francisco vs. Los Angeles thing. Now before we get started, let tell you a little about me. I am a third-generation San Franciscan. My grandmother Bernice Bertha “Babe” Behrendt was born just days after the San Francisco earthquake; she was baptized by actual fire. My father went to Lowell High School, then to UC Davis, married a Portland girl from Stanford, and eventually worked his way up from cameraman to station manager of then-NBC affiliate KRON.
I was born in 1963 at Mt. Zion Hospital, baptized at Grace Cathedral, and attended Town School Elementary until the family picked up and moved to Marin in 1973. After taking seven years to nail down a theater degree from the University of Oregon, I returned to San Francisco in 1987 with a bunch of wet sweaters and the hope of becoming an actor. I lived above the Ben and Jerry's on Haight and Ashbury, worked at Chevy's Mexican restaurant, failed at acting, and joined an improv troupe called Crash and Burn. It was there that I met Margaret Cho, who told me I should try stand-up. I gave it a shot, I loved it, I honed it for five years in San Francisco. And then… I moved to Los Angeles.
Now for a lot of San Franciscans, hearing that you left the splendor of the bestest city in the world for Los Angeles is like making a new friend at a bar who, after pounding some drinks, suddenly asks, “How do you deal with the Jew in Hollywood on a day-to-day basis?” (Which happened to me in a Sacramento bar once, but that's a story for another time.)
Most San Francisco natives, and many transplants, have a seething hate for the city six driving hours away. I have always found that odd. It's like hating cinnamon. You don't have to like it, but it's not hurting you. Sometimes when I'm performing stand-up in S.F., I'll say, “I now live in L.A.,” and people boo.” Loudly! And I always say, “Why are you booing? You live here, you win!” It's like you all are at the top of the mountain with your favorite people and a beautiful view, and you are booing the people down below.
Having now lived there for 20 years, I can tell you that Los Angeles is a factory town. Not unlike Pittsburgh and Detroit. Only our factories make show business. If you want to be in show business, it's the place you have the best chance of getting a job and getting paid. Period. Sure, there is the false glamour of the Movies, TV, and Music, but that's all it is.
In L.A., there's no historic bridge, no beautiful sprawling park, no walking. We have two seasons: blue and brown. We have no pro football team. And Los Angeles, like the big dumb happy dog it is, thinks San Francisco is amazing; we wag our tail every time we see you.
We're not your competition, San Francisco, you dazzling progressive mass of architecture and cultures, you've won. You've got this.
Hate Portland instead; they're a bunch of assholes.
Greg Behrendt has written for Sex and the City and introduced He's Just Not That Into You to the culture via book and film. He performs Feb. 8-9. sfsketchfest.com/x/performers/greg-behrendt