Chicago’s loss is L.A.’s gain as director Willy Laszlo sets out to conquer comedy

Comedy genius Willy Laszlo says he had the time of his life in Chicago. He had creative freedom. He had a good full-time day job. He worked hard. But he was always broke.

“So why not work hard and be broke in Los Angeles,” he rationalizes. And everyone who appreciates his vast talent agrees the move was long overdue.

Laszlo, the prolific writer/director of a remarkable 40 comedy shorts over an eight year period, quit his Comcast job, wrapped his last Chicago comedy, bid goodbye to his family, friends and supporters and headed for L.A. in mid-November.

More importantly, Laszlo was driven to know if he has what it takes to make a living as a writer or director of national television comedy shows.

He calls this goal his game plan, and his body of work his “most valuable assets” in demonstrating his stretch of talent to a producer.

For the past five years, Laszlo worked for Comcast as a director of local commercials. Comcast was also generous in providing resources and people to work on his films and he says “I’ll be forever grateful to them.”

Laszlo hoped he could transfer to Comcast’s L.A. operation to assure that essential day job. Unfortunately, the L.A. division had just undergone a series of layoffs and there were no openings.

While his “one and only priority is to get a job,” he reiterates, just two weeks after arriving in L.A. Laszlo a friend called and hired him to work on an independent feature shooting on a canyon outside of L.A.

His friend was a producer on the film, which is being directed by a professional poker player, who is also financing the venture. An earlier crew had been either been fired or quit and Laszlo’s friend had to rehire a new crew, which included him.

“They had a week to prep a feature and they pulled it off,” he says with admiration.

“I’m going to write a book about my first three years in L.A. and this is going to be the first chapter,” says Laszlo of his experience on the indie. The name of the film he worked on is “Nightmares.”

While in college, Laszlo got his first view of the potential of a comedy career when he worked nights at Second City, hosting and waiting on tables. As he watched the shows he knew he wanted to perform, but he also realized his limitations as a live performer.

“I had visions of what I wanted comedy to be, but only as portrayed through a camera lens,” he says.

In 1996, a year after having formed an improv troupe, Laszlo began making innovative comedy shorts. The first was the wonderfully weird, award-winning “Boogie Man,” still going strong in festivals. He collaborated with writers, produced, directed and edited a huge body of work over the next eight years.

“As the shorts became better known,” he says, “I had the honor of friends from different professionals, editors, cameraman and actors, offering their services” on the films, also relieving some of the budget pangs that kept him broke.

In 1998, Laszlo co-founded the Chicago Short Comedy Video & Film Festival with Marion Sours of Wit’s End Production. Laszlo served as festival coordinator pulling in the offbeat comedies from his underground filmmaker connections and friends in comedy theatre as speakers. He will continue to be a festival advisor.

Sours told Laszlo she was “a little shocked” over his leaving. “She said she knew one day I would leave, but not this soon. I told her, ?Marion, this is years overdue.'”

Laszlo would have left Chicago one year earlier but he needed to complete his last Chicago short, “Table.” (Logline: When a lonely man is unable to find a woman that can fit his needs, he does what any of us would do ? he marries a table. Yes, folks, a table.)

His patience was rewarded when “Table” won 2004 Best of Chicago Community Cinema and Laszlo won as best actor.

Laszlo and L.A. could be a match made in heaven. You’d scoff if someone else says this, but Laszlo’s sincerity is unmistakable as he says he “feels deep joy and happiness” in being there.

“Even if I fail I’ll be happy.” Given his talent, drive and humility, it’s a good bet he won’t fail. Finding a good day job, however, may take a little longer.

Willy Laszlo’s cell phone is 323/316-3725, Email, emailme@willylaszlo.com.–Ruth L Ratny

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