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Magnet Theater Blog: News and Ideas about Comedy, Improv Shows & Classes in NYC

Magnet Theater Blog

Thursday July 20, 2017, 10:04am - by Promo Team

Welcome to Magnet’s “Getting To Know” series! We’re using our blog to highlight our fabulous performers and writers and we can’t wait for you to meet them. Want to see them all? Click here.

What’s your name?

Chloe Metzger

Which team or show are you on?

Astro Tramps

Where are you from?

My birth certificate says Tecumseh, Michigan, but my aversion to change says a dozen different states at two-year intervals throughout my childhood.

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

My brother was in an improv group in high school, and I remember watching one of his short-form shows as a 14-year-old kid and truly believing they could read each other’s minds. It was honestly awe-inspiring. So I joined the group, learned telepathy—along with a ton of really, really bad improv habits—and then continued to improvise in college with a 12-person Harold team that competed in tournaments and hugged a lot.

How long have you been performing/writing?

Does the time I played Miss Fezziwig in a community production of “A Christmas Carol” count? I was 12. It was moving.

Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

Honestly, my ideal scene partners are my closest improv friends. I consistently have the most fun and the best scenes with the people I really love and trust. But if they were all busy, I’d settle for Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Zach Woods.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

I would love to impersonate Carol Burnett, because I’ve been told by exactly four people that we have similar mannerisms, and I’d like to put my wiggly arms to good use. As for writing, it would be a dream to work with Dan Harmon, or to get paid to write anything and everything for McSweeny’s.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Bits. I freaking love bits, especially when they occur in the middle of an ordinary conversation with a group of strangers at a party. A.k.a. most people’s worst nightmare. That, and super-silly tag runs—the ones where the entire team is breaking, and you feel like you’re being suffocated by a big ol’ cloud of happiness.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

My “soundtrack” is one song played on repeat, 37 times a day, for two weeks straight, until I vehemently hate it and can’t listen to it again for at least a decade. That’s generally a mix of stupidly catchy radio hits, or a favorite oldie from some 2005 indie band (what up, The Hush Sound).

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

“What’s your Myers Briggs personality type? Wait, you’ve never taken the test? Here, let me text you the link. OK, take it right now. I’ll wait. Done?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

At home, making burgers, and avidly avoiding peer-pressured texts to come out for “just one drink.”

If you could only watch films from a certain decade for the rest of your life, which period would you choose?

The early ’00s, because I miss living in a world of cotton-candy-colored velour sweatsuits, Limited Too, and Chad Michael Murray circa “Cinderella Story.” Actually, I would like to only watch “Cinderella Story” for the rest of my life.

Wednesday July 19, 2017, 11:35am - by Magnet Theater

Greetings, Magnet Theater Friends and Family!

This September will mark the end of the current Megawatt season and also the two-year mark of my tenure as Megawatt Director. With the changing of the season (and a baby on the way) I have decided to step down and hand the baton off to the incredible Hannah Chase!

Hannah will officially be taking over with the next round of auditions and start of the new season in mid-September. Dates for auditions will officially be announced on this blog at a later date.

I’m endlessly blown away by the talent, creativity, and camaraderie of the Megawatt performers and members of the community, and Wednesday nights are always a highlight of my week. It has been an honor and a privilege to get to watch and be a part of four hours of some of the best improv anywhere every Wednesday for the past two years.

Megawatt is the greatest, and it just keeps getting better. I plan on bringing my baby to watch when she is old enough.

Nick

Wednesday July 19, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

Writer, performer, and avid footballer, LORENA RUSSI, joins host Louis Kornfeld to talk about making the world a better, more evolved place through comedy and how old they both feel. Lorena and Louis discuss how people often put others in easy-to-recognize boxes, why slower comedy appeals to them more, and Lorena’s experience writing for The Kat Call on YouTube. Tune in to hear them shake hands at the end!

Our episode kicks off with Louis mispronouncing Lorena’s name, but it’s okay because it leads to a great conversation on identity and the importance of her name. Sorry, Louis – there’s no going back! Lorena describes her frustrations improvising as an “alpha female […] masculine center” person which gets them talking about how people very quickly and commonly put others into the most readily recognizable boxes available. Lorena touches on the common occurrence of having to be everyone’s source of information and how it can be exhausting to constantly explain things to people.

Lorena and Louis discuss improv as sport versus improv as theater and which parts of each tend to produce humor. Find out why Lorena prefers watching slower shows and why it’s harder for her to enjoy improv shows these days. Our heroes get to talking about entertainment overload and how digital platforms simultaneously wear us out and provide a higher level of accessibility to performers of color than ever before. Lorena calls out Master of None for not being very good and Louis calls the internet the cigarette of our generation. Wow. Hot takes all around! Contrasting the rapidity of the internet, Lorena and Louis chat about needing time to process things, a conversation that involves acknowledging sadness, using power words, and not allowing “darkness of the soul” to creep in too much.

Talking about Lorena’s experience writing for The Kat Call, we hear about what a great environment it was to work in and how it was a part of an overall arc within Lorena’s comedy career of asking the question, “What are we trying to say?” After mentioning how old she feels for the third or fourth time, Lorena wonders how she might accomplish being less angry at the world. Stay tuned for further critiques and assessments on social media! She and Louis also tackle the concept of playing flawed characters on stage and how there is a responsibility to make sure the audience knows they’re flawed. This leads to discussing the responsibilities of making the world a better, more evolved place in general, but particularly for communities that are threatened. We almost go down a Trump rabbit hole, but pull up just in time! Louis says something mysterious and cool: that we have to “grieve the result of our nightmares.”

Finally, our host and wonderful guest attempt to end this episode on a positive note, but you’ll have to listen to see how they do. And of course, Evan takes a picture of Lorena and Louis for social media purposes!

Monday July 17, 2017, 3:57pm - by Magnet Theater

Ringers Newsletter

Monday, July 31st at 7:30 is Ringers, a tri-annually sketch show produced by Armando Diaz and Amanda Xeller. Ringers features sketches written by new and seasoned writers, fresh acting from improvisers, and direction by eager and practiced sketch voices. The show as a whole showcases both recognizable and up-and-coming talents of the Magnet Theater.

July’s show will feature:
Sketches by Aidan Daley-Hynes, Annemarie Cullen, Catherine Elder, Levi Friedman, Maya Danzig, Michael Ganley, Phoebe Torres, Valerie Wang, and Will Arthur

Direction by Alex Stark, David Fried, Gina Cucci, Katie Sicking, Lauren Faylor, Matt Abedi, Matt Morea, and Patrick Grizzard.

And starring Alessandra Calderin, Amanda Melhuish, Ann Herberger, Arthur Velwest, CJ Watrobski, Dorrie Jankowski, Eric Noreen, Garett Press, Isaac Jiminez, Isabella Way, Jennette Cronk, Joe Lemonik, Josh Schiavone, Kristina Stasi, Matthew Sellitti, Melanie Rubin, Olia Toporovsky Gomez-Delgado, Rachelle White, Saidah Dunston, Veronica Venture, and Will Cybriwsky.

CLICK HERE FOR RESERVATIONS

Thursday July 13, 2017, 10:03am - by Promo Team

Welcome to Magnet’s “Getting To Know” series! We’re using our blog to highlight our fabulous performers and writers and we can’t wait for you to meet them. Want to see them all? Click here.

What’s your name?

Kristen Loe

Which team or show are you on?

Trouble Town

Where are you from?

New Jersey

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I grew up watching comedy but other than some comedy videos I would make as a kid, I didn’t write or perform much. When I moved to NYC, a friend convinced me to take an improv class and I was hooked. I’ve been steadily depleting my bank account in the name of comedy ever since.

How long have you been performing/writing?

About four years.

Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

This is a hard one to narrow down! Tina Fey, Amy and David Sedaris, Donald Glover, the cast of Monty Python, and George Saunders. I did a poor job narrowing this down.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

Dr Leo Spaceman from 30 Rock.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

I love a high status idiot. I also will never say no to watching an epic fail video compilation.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

A good mix of classic rock, rap, punk for nostalgia, and unabashedly some Pitbull because damn, he can crank out a good summer jam.

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

Do you have a dog? If so, can I play with your dog?

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

I know it sounds both lame and cliché, but probably at home watching a show or reading a book in bed.

If you could make up an AOL Instant Messenger-esque acronym (G2G, BRB, LOL, etc.) that would apply to you, what would it be?

AOL acronym: LOF – let’s order fries 😎

Wednesday July 12, 2017, 6:50am - by Magnet Theater

 

Opera singer turned full-time musical improviser, KIKI MIKKELSEN, joins us to talk about all of her shows, Edinburgh Fringe, and the challenges of writing. You can see Kiki doing musical improv nearly every day of the week with her teams and shows Vern, Public Pool, Happy Karaoke Fun Time, Premiere: The Improvised Musical, Blank! The Musical, and Baby Wants Candy. Kiki is a bonafide musical improv all-star and we’re so happy that she’s on the show!

Kiki and Louis settle in for the first real conversation they’ve ever had and they don’t know it at first, but they’ll cover a lot of ground. “Tell me about yourself,” Louis begins. We hear about how Kiki came to be a full-time musical improviser and a bit about her upcoming trip Edinburgh for its Fringe Festival, which will be her first time participating. With so much improv in her life, Kiki and Louis both wonder if she can possibly keep friends outside of improv. Don’t worry, it’s a question we all must face when confronted with the obsession that is improv!

We backtrack a bit to discover where Kiki hails from (PA) and where she went to school (OKC). One of very few improvisers with an opera degree, Kiki gives Louis a crash course in opera voice types and tells us a bit about how long they take to develop. She talks about getting into improv and comedy while still working on her opera dream and she throws down this hot take: improv people are more fun than opera people! Her story starts with discovering short form and comedy in general with her best bud Lindsay Calleran. It wasn’t long before Kiki was jumping into classes at UCB, The PIT, and Magnet. Within her expansive improv education, she speaks fondly of her very special Level One Musical Improv class at Magnet with instructor Michael Martin, leading Kiki and Louis to discuss the various overlapping micro-communities within the greater improv community.

Louis asks Kiki to talk about the litany of different shows she’s a part of and they begin with Baby Wants Candy, which is about as big as it gets in musical improv! She’ll be heading to Edinburgh Fringe with BWC and talks about what she’s expecting. She also talks about her house teams Vern and Public Pool, as well as the shows Premiere: The Improvised Musical, Happy Karaoke Fun Time, and Blank! The Musical. Find out what excites her about each show and how are they all different.

Exploring beyond her current penchant for musical improv, Kiki and Louis discuss the roots of her humor and desire to perform comedy. Kiki recalls that she didn’t grow up watching a ton of comedy but then found Christopher Guest movies. Plus, Louis shares his secret dream with us. After revealing to Louis that she finds writing to be difficult to break into, he gives Kiki some inspiration for writing and they talk about how to stay motivated. Finally, Kiki expresses her belief that building something together is always funnier than working alone.

Thursday July 6, 2017, 1:13pm - by Promo Team

Welcome to Magnet’s “Getting To Know” series! We’re using our blog to highlight our fabulous performers and writers and we can’t wait for you to meet them. Want to see them all? Click here.

What’s your name?

Camber Carpenter

Which team or show are you on?

Wonderland Musical Improv

Where are you from?

Jacksonville, Illinois

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

When I was in college (on a “foreign exchange” to NYC from South Dakota State) I found out about the free show ASSSSCAT at UCB and went almost every week…so when I actually moved to NYC as an adult, I wanted to try it out myself!

How long have you been performing/writing?

Improv for about 5 years, musical improv for about 3 years. Before, I did theater and scripted stuff! And lots of writing.

Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

I know it’s not possible because she is dead, but Lucille Ball. I think she’s so wonderful and silly but also a smart and hard working.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

In 2008, I liked to impersonate Sarah Palin, but Tina Fey really had it covered. Now–maybe this is sad–I like to impersonate my cat. I give him a ridiculous French accent and make him say pretentious things.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Sometimes my teammates make me laugh so hard from the sidelines that I forget I’m in the show and need to do something in the next scene. Also, I used to teach in Hong Kong and kids there would give themselves an English name at around age 10. So I had kids named Pinky Pinky, Money, Uncle, and…My Little Pony.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

Started with ’80s musical theater, morphed into DMB in college, then got so gritty in later college with lots of 90s rap, now it’s more like an unrecognizable classical melody.

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

I always ask where people are from…I feel like most people who live in NYC are not from here. Plus I love to travel, so if I know where someone is from, I can perhaps later use them for travel tips or a place to stay.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

Either working as a tour guide for big student groups, going to a show, or, if it’s after 11pm, home in Harlem with my cat and fiancé, watching VEEP.

Who is an actor/actress (outside of the comedy genre) that you would like to see in a comedic film or play?

Cate Blanchett

Wednesday July 5, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

Chillionaire and youthful human, ADAM PASULKA, joins host Louis Kornfeld to talk about cruise ship comedy, why hosting the Mixer is such a joy, and his recent brain surgery. We also hear about Adam’s circuitous path to becoming an entertainer, how he met his hometown girlfriend hundreds of miles away, and theories on coaching improv. Ready? Set. Listen!

We begin this episode talking about improv jams and Adam’s recent takeover of the Wednesday Mixer hosting duties. Louis gives us a little history of the Magnet Mixer and they discuss what makes jams horrible and what can make them great. One thing they both value for sure is learning-by-doing with other people of various experience levels. Before we go any further, we back up to find out where Adam comes from and how he got into improv and comedy. A native of the Chicago area, Adam studied art and psychology at NYU Gallatin before running a youth-culture magazine for fives years. Like so many, he found himself taking an improv class and simply got the bug for it. After working his way through classes at UCB and Magnet, Adam made his way onto a Second City cruise ship cast, performing improv and sketch comedy for the masses at sea!

With Louis having also done a stint on a Second City cruise, both he and Adam are able to dive into talking about the type of comedy and the type of people you see on the cruise ships and what life is like for the workers on those ships. They also talk about magicians and the different types of stand-up comedians on cruise ships, offering strong praise for the great Jeff Harms. Additionally, Adam shares the story of how he met his girlfriend on the ship and how they were connected even before they’d ever met.

Back to the present day, Adam and Louis talk about coaching improv, a topic near and dear to Adam’s heart. They reflect on working with a team as a coach and about the other side, from the improviser’s point of view. Louis likens the process of finding the right coach to dating and they lament over the difficulty of breaking up with both coaches and teams.

Finally, Adam talks about his recent brain surgery and his overall health (which, if you’re already concerned, is a-okay). He walks us through the experience of having a seizure, discovering that he had a fairly large mass in his brain, and getting it removed a few months later. It’s quite the tale and we can hardly believe he’s back on stage, delighting audiences with his wit and performance, so soon after doctors messed with his brain. Hats of to Adam and cheers to his good health!!

Saturday July 1, 2017, 12:01am - by Magnet Theater

 

Sign up in July and get $50 off your Level One!

It’s the classic 12th Anniversary gift – $50 bucks off.

This sale is for all Level One classes throughout the month of July. That includes Improv, Musical Improv, and Sketch Writing. Sign up for all three and save $150. Or sign up for 10 of them and save $500. Unreasonable? Hell yes. But signing up for one is not only not unreasonable – it’s smart! Save money while falling in love with the most inspiring creative pursuit you can imagine. And while gaining skills that just might change your life.

When we began our theater in 2005, we never knew we’d grow into an organization with 250 performers, 22 teachers, and 80 million students annually. We tried not to, but it happened anyway. We started with Armando Diaz teaching one improv workshop and now we offer comprehensive training in improv, musical improv, sketch writing, storytelling and more. We think that studying with Magnet instructors is simply one of the best ways to improve your comedy, your art, your relationships, and your life.

That’s why we’re offering $50 off any Level One class (improv, musical improv, sketch comedy) when you register between now and July 31st, 2017. Our normally priced $399 classes are now $349 for the month of July. We ran the same sale in May and June and so many people took advantage of it, that we wanted to keep the good times rolling. We know that our entire community benefits from more people improvising and we want to make it as easy as possible to get started.

To view classes currently enrolling, click on the appropriate link below:

Improv Level One

Musical Improv Level One

Sketch Writing Level One

Our Level One Improv and Musical Improv classes are eight sessions with an additional graduation show at the end (no grad show for the sketch class, but it’s still amazing).  And as always, free Intro to Improv classes are also available on a regular basis. Click here for details.

Happy Anniversary!

Friday June 30, 2017, 10:00am - by Magnet Theater

We talk with Magnet co-founder Ed Herbstman about working with producer Judd Apatow on “The Big Sick”

Magnet co-founder and actor, Ed Herbstman, plays Sam Highsmith in one of this summer’s most anticipated comedies, “The Big Sick,” starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, Kurt Braunohler, and David Alan Grier. Directed by Michael Showalter, “The Big Sick” is produced by the legendary comedy writer/director/producer Judd Apatow. In this very special feature, we sit down with Ed for the inside scoop on working with Judd Apatow!

MAGNET: So, what was it like to work with comedy powerhouse Judd Apatow?

EH: I don’t know. I didn’t actually work with him. He was the producer.

M: As a producer, was Judd fun to work with?

EH: He wasn’t there. Michael Showalter directed it. He was great.

M: We’ve always heard that Judd is really a blast on set. Was that your experience?

EH: I’ve heard that too. But again, Judd Apatow wasn’t on set any of the days I worked. Kumail Nanjiani was there, and so was his wife and co-writer Emily V. Gordon. They were great. Funny, warm, playful – truly some of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with.

M: Yes! Of course. This is really Kumail and Emily’s project. And as a producer, Judd Apatow must have his fingerprints all over it.

EH: I can’t really speak to that. I can tell you that my favorite part was improvising with Kumail, Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant and Kurt Braunohler. Showalter really let us play. I play Sam Highsmith, a stand-up comic who–

M: Is Judd Apatow a good dad?

EH: What?

M: Judd Apatow?

EH: That’s not a question.

M: Knocked Up.

EH: We done?

M: Bye!

Thanks so much to Ed Herbstman for sitting down with us to provide an inside look into what it’s like to work with big time Hollywood producer Judd Apatow. Go see “The Big Sick” in theaters now!