The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdowns have motivated people to reassess their lives and futures. For some, particularly in the entertainment scene, that means leaving L.A. for less-crowded, less-taxed parts of the country.
Shortly after landing his $100 million Spotify deal, Joe Rogan left L.A. for Austin, Texas. Comedian Tom Segura did, too. Joey Diaz returned to New Jersey. Even North Hollywood native Adam Carolla is talking about a move to the Lone Star State.
Greg Fitzsimmons has lived in Venice for over 20 years but he’s not going anywhere.
The standup comedian and podcaster lives with his family near the “walk streets” that cross Oakwood Avenue.
“It’s one of those neighborhoods where there’s no fences up, everybody plays with each other’s dogs and kids,” the Tarrytown, New York, native said. “To this day, I feel like I know every single neighbor in a three-block radius.”
For a working entertainer, it wasn’t hard for Fitzsimmons to make the move from coast to coast. After attending college in Boston, Fitzsimmons honed his standup in New York City for 10 years. He started traveling to L.A. more and more for work, so he decided to move. After a year in Santa Monica, he and his wife, Erin, moved to Venice, where they’d often visited friends.
“It felt like this little paradise,” Fitzsimmons, 54, said, adding his early visits to Venice reminded him of the scene from The Doors’ movie when a young Jim Morrison follows his future partner Pamela Courson around the Venice canals.
The Fitzsimmons bought a house and raised their son and daughter there while Greg toured as a standup comedian and wrote for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Cedric the Entertainer Presents and The Man Show (co-starring a pre-Texas-bound Carolla).
Although Venice lacks a dedicated comedy space, Fitzsimmons has performed in his adopted hometown at the Venice Underground weekly show in the basement of the Townhouse bar plus at some pop-up shows.
In addition to his nationally touring standup, Fitzsimmons has three podcasts, which he records from his office near the Santa Monica airport.
Fitzsimmons’ gift of gab comes naturally: his father, Bob, was a New York radio personality and Greg spent years hosting a show on Sirius satellite radio.
Besides his long-running FitzDog Radio podcast where he chats with fellow comedians, he also co-hosts Sunday Papers, where he and writer Mike Gibbons riff on news stories. On Childish, he and Alison Rosen explore what’s funny about parenthood.
Somewhere in the basement of a Silver Triangle house, Charles Rosin will be talking about th…
Aside from work, Fitzsimmons finds plenty to do within Venice’s three square miles.
“I don’t feel like I need to leave Venice very much. I stay pretty busy right here.”
He hits the paddle tennis courts on the boardwalk often, bikes to the beach, golfs at Penmar, plays poker with neighborhood guys and had a weekly beach volleyball game, at least until the pandemic hit.
While he’s still doing a few live standup shows that are sold out and can’t be cancelled, Fitzsimmons said he is cancelling most dates for February and March, saying the continued pandemic is “too crazy” right now.
“People keep saying we’re taking ‘draconian measures,’ but the hospitals are full, so what kind of measures should we take?”
As for other entertainers who are leaving the Los Angeles area, many his friends, Fitzsimmons said he understands.
“I get it,” the former Crashing writer said. “Some people are very affected by having their freedoms curtailed, and obviously the taxes are high, but for me it just feels like I don’t care what the taxes are, I don’t have a second choice of where to live. This is where my friends are, this is where the history is for my kids.”
He acknowledged the problems Venice is facing.
“This is my world,” Fitzsimmons said. “I’m concerned about the homelessness. We try to help out.”
He said he and Erin volunteer at the People Concern, a homeless services center in Santa Monica, and help people on the street however they can.
“I’m not going to leave because it’s bad,” said Fitzsimmons. “I’m going to try to see what I can do to make it better.”
With their son away at college and their daughter in her senior year of high school, Fitzsimmons said he and Erin are considering in a year or two renting their house out for the summer or winter and using the proceeds to travel internationally.
However they spend their empty-nesting time, Fitzsimmons said they’re staying in Venice.
“People complain about L.A., and I’m like ‘Ok, L.A. may suck but Venice Beach is probably the best place in the country to live.’”