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LAist Interview: Seth Greenland

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It used to be that fiction writers came to Los Angeles to live out their remaining days as screenwriters. Like most LA "truths," this is no longer the case. More and more screenwriters and other creative professionals are turning to fiction to satisfy their expressive urges. Seth Greenland's career has taken a similar turn. Greenland is a screenwriter and playwright who uses the Los Angeles stand-up comedy scene as a backdrop for his first novel, called "The Bones." David Ulin profiles the novelist in today's Los Angeles Times. Seth Greenland reads from his new novel on Wednesday, March 16 at 7:00 at Dutton's Brentwood. 11975 San Vicente Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90049 Tel: (310) 476-6263 Fax: (310) 471-0399
1. Tell us about your first novel, The Bones

My first novel is about a comedian whose various demons keep him from achieving the success he rightly believes is his and his relationship with an extremely successful (but undeserving) writer of sitcoms who is tortured by his success. They create all sorts of problems for each other. Comedy and tragedy ensue.

2. Have you ever been a comic on the LA comedy circuit? What is it like?

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I have never been a comic on the L.A. circuit but have known many comedians who were on the circuit at one time.

3. What inspired you to write this novel?

I was inspired to write the book because I wanted to read a literary novel about the comedy world but no one had written one. I thought I’d step in and fill the gap.

4. What’s the best theater experience you’ve had in LA as a writer and or as a member of the audience?

I have never had a theatre experience as a writer in Los Angeles since my plays have never been produced here although I’ve had some readings that have been enjoyable. As an audience member? I saw a Mike Leigh play at the Odyssey done by a Chicago company whose name I can’t recall that was great. Also, Steven Berkoff’s one man show Shakespeare’s Villains (also at the Odyssey) was quite good.

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5. Which is better, being a TV writer/entertainment industry worker or being a novelist?

Being an entertainment business worker is not unlike being in the sex industry -- someone gives you money and you pretend to enjoy what you’re doing to get it. When you’re a novelist you feel better about yourself in the morning.

6. Could your novel have taken place in a city other than LA? If not, what is so unique to the LA experience that lends itself to the absurdist sensibility of your story?

The Bones could only have taken place in Los Angeles because this is where the comedy sausage factory exists. There are sitcoms occasionally done in New York and comedians do reside there but the comedy business such as it is does not infect the zeitgeist in New York the way it does here in Los Angeles, where it represents a far larger share of the economy. Simply, the pornographic amounts of money potentially available to those practicing the comedy arts here make Los Angeles sui generis.