When Matt Walsh settled in Los Angeles around two decades ago, he set his sights on making it onstage, not on the big screen. As a cofounder (with Amy Poehler and Matt Besser) of the influential Upright Citizens Brigade, he helped open the comedy troupe’s two L.A. locations, which offer up a nightly menu of live improv, sketch comedy, and stand-up. (Ed. note: both were forced to close at the onset of the CIVID-19 pandemic; it’s been reported that the Franklin Ave. location will be reopening soon.)
But the big screen, and then the little screen, beckoned. He went on to become a scene-stealer in movies such as Ghostbusters, Ted, and Old School, and then got a big role as the ill-prepared spokesman Mike McLintock on HBO’s Veep. Along the way, Walsh has found a home in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley with his wife and three children. We recently spoke with Walsh about his Golden State favorites.
Where do you live? Toluca Lake.
Why there? All by work, with gorgeous, wonderful little downtown shops. [There’s] coffee, juice, a little village. There’s a Bob’s Big Boy, if you want to kick up your heels. There’s a small-town feel.
Who or what is your greatest California love? Nature slash hiking. The fact that I can literally drive five minutes and be in solitude. I do the mountain trails. Wildwood Canyon in Burbank, or Griffith Park, which is in our backyard. We like to sneak out to Santa Barbara, where we even go glamping.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we’re all rich and drive Teslas. People think we are all radical environmentalists. At least that’s what my family thinks. I think we are practical environmentalists. [And] I do drive an electric car.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? We have world-class sushi in L.A. My wife and I take the kids. Not all the time, but sometimes they get sushi. There are a few great sushi spots on Ventura Highway, in Sherman Oaks. We like The Little Izaka-ya.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? Glamping. We really do love Santa Barbara. We had our wedding there. Our last road trip was to El Capitan Canyon. My wife organized it for us. It’s 20 minutes above Santa Barbara. You can hear the water below. Crystal-clear nights. The stars are just stunning when you’re sitting around the fire. You hear the train go by, kids ride their bikes. There’s a country store.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I have been eating a lot of Thai food lately. It’s just so good in California. You know how you have to have an office lunch place? Mine is called Summer Canteen. Just a mom-and-pop-type diner. I get the crispy pork.
How do you define California style? Like you just came off a hike. Gym shoes with a suit. You wear shorts more often. I wear sneakers everywhere. But I wear grown-up pants.
Best California song? “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas. Or tied with that, if I can have two, “A Long December” by Counting Crows. That one mentions the canyons and it captures the California nights in the Valley for me.
How would your California dream day unfold? Get a hike in with the family. Go to Patys in Toluca Lake, where I get some corned beef and hash, and the kids get a waffle. Or maybe a cheeseburger, which isn’t good parenting. Then maybe a date night for mom and dad. We love to see a little theater at the Ahmanson or the Hollywood Bowl.