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

Wednesday October 7, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

TJ Mannix Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Musical improviser, gifted actor, and flat-out handsome man, T.J. MANNIX stops by the podcast to talk about pursuing his dreams in NYC, the craft of acting, and the upcoming New York Musical Improv Festival [NYMIF]. This is our 60th episode and we’re excited to share it with one of Magnet’s beloved instructors and long-time performers. T.J and host, Louis Kornfeld, discuss T.J.’s wide range of experience as an entertainer, everything from DJing for college radio to getting the right take on Law & Order, and of course, Louis opines on NYC’s romantic appeal. Give it a listen, kiddos!

Hear about T.J.’s time spent as a middle-of-the-night college radio DJ and about how Louis didn’t start listening to music until college. Find out what Louis’ first two cassette tapes were and what songs kept T.J. connected to English while studying abroad in Germany. Plus, Louis talks about his years in “local local broadcasting” on Staten Island.

T.J. moved to NYC in 1997 from North Carolina, where he had lived for a few years. He was working for Blockbuster Video and acting on the side, but was finally convinced by visiting actors from New York to give his dream a shot. He subsequently moved to NYC and got a job at the Jekyll & Hyde Club, which he explains was a very different place when he worked there. He talks all about all the fun the staff had and what it was like having it as his first gig in New York. Louis gives his thoughts on surveys, which we know you want to hear.

It’s been about 10 or 11 years now that T.J. has been a performer without a “day job,” so Louis wants to know, “What is it like to be a working actor?” Amongst the advice T.J. bestows, he says you’ve got to “9-to-5 it” because you’re the CEO of your own company. He gets into the life of a working actor and he and Louis end up disucussing NYC neighborhood culture. Next, Louis wants to know, “What’s the strangest job you’ve had in recent memory?” You’ll get to hear all about that, but [spoiler alert] it wasn’t playing Santa Claus at Radio City Music Hall, but he talks about that fun experience as well, even giving away some Rockettes stage secrets.

Without a doubt, T.J. loves the process of acting. He talks about learning on your feet as an actor and tells of his experience working on Law & Order: SVU. He embraces and cherishes the challenge of just about any acting job and recognizes both the strengths and weaknesses in different kinds of actor training. He and Louis talk about small moments on stage and dealing with auditions. Plus, T.J. gives a great tip for playing villains.

Finally, the episode concludes with a discussion of the upcoming 7th Annual NYMIF, Oct 15-18 at Magnet Theater. Working with co-producers Robin Rothman and Michael Lutton, the festival is in its 7th year and has 215 performers coming to the stage. T.J. talks about what the festival has meant to the musical improv community and he shouts out some returning favorites that he’s looking forward to seeing!

Tuesday October 6, 2015, 11:46am - by Megan Gray


Over the course of its first three seasons, the Magnet Video Lab has established itself as a reliable creator of quality comedy video content. It has produced three successful shows at the Theater and over 30 unique videos available online, many of which feature Magnet Theater performers. Now, it’s ramping up for Season Four!

How does it work?
The Video Lab is organized into small teams of approximately 8 members each, similar to improv teams or sketch teams. The groups will consist of members who can do several of the following – write, act, direct, DP, edit, produce, lighting, sound, graphics/animation. While there will be dedicated “production staff” members on a given team, whose job is primarily to DP/run lighting/sound/edit/etc., every team member is encouraged to learn every job.

As team members become more proficient in each skill, the production workload will be more evenly shared, and the quality and quantity of the team’s videos will increase. Each team will be assigned an “Executive Director” who will serve a variety of functions, including helping decide which scripts to produce, giving notes on scripts and rough edits, helping to set production schedules, and communicating with Magnet administration.

How do I apply? How do I find out more?
Join us for an information session: Wednesday, October 14th, 6pm at the Magnet Theater Training Center.

Other questions? Email: megan@magnettheater.com

Monday October 5, 2015, 12:44am - by Magnet Theater


NOW HIRING: HOUSE MANAGER. Want to be a part of the Magnet Theater staff? Want a part-time job full of fun and laughs? Apply to be a House Manager! We are currently taking applications for a part time House Manager to work at the Magnet Theater 3-4 nights a week. Applicants must be organized, detail oriented, and personable. Theater experience a plus. If interested, please email your resume and pay requirements to Abby Russell: abby@magnettheater.com and Quinton Loder: quinton@magnettheater.com. Thank you!

Wednesday September 30, 2015, 10:56am - by Megan Gray


The Magnet Theater is thrilled to announce the new teams and additions to its Tuesday night Musical Megawatt lineup. New teams will debut this coming Tuesday, October 6th. Shows start at 7pm!

New Team Captain
Amy Charowsky
Ben Fullon
Damon Ketron
Jesse Kruger
Alisa Ledyard
Kiki Mikkelsen
Zach Myers

New Team Tennille
Chris Bell
Jeremy Chao
Jessica Coyle
Natasha Gleichmann
Brendan Goggins
Randy McKay
Maryann Menzies


Wednesday September 30, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Alan Fessenden Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Step right up and listen to Episode #59 of our show with veteran performer, beloved instructor, and resident clown, ALAN FESSENDEN. Alan joins host Louis Kornfeld to talk about clowning, theater, nervousness, and of course, a deep dive into improv philosophy. It’s always great to hear two seasoned performers discuss the ins-and-outs of improvising and this episode is no exception!

Louis begins the interview by asking about Alan’s background in clowning. Though he says that blackmail got him to take his first clown class, Alan soon found himself very interested in the process of finding one’s own clown and how performers can magnify certain characteristics of themselves for use in clowning. Louis asks him to describe what a  clown show might look like and we get to hear Alan’s clown Bartholomew say “vagina” several times. Clowning has helped Alan open up a particular path of communication within himself that informs all performance he now does.

Getting into his background before improv and comedy work, Alan tells us of going to school for theater and trying to forget that he once did musical theater. He’s come around to appreciate the latter at this point in life, which causes Louis to opine that dismissing any type of genre or show isn’t any good for us. These vets talk about the arc of doing your first shows, filled with excitement, to the hard work of getting good, and then becoming an expert. Despite his experience, Louis like to always feel a little bit lost and confused. Similarly, Alan likes the first time he runs an exercise with a class or team, because he’s exploring it with them, rather than simply handing something off to a group.

Hear Louis and Alan talk about nervousness and fear before and during shows!

Louis gets to talking about how Alan improvises and engages with the audience, particularly within Hello Laser. Describing his own development, Alan feels like he had a great freedom of play for a while, then became complacent, and now he fears losing it. They debate relaxation versus putting forth effort in improv and Louis shares with us that he feels tight if he finds his body going for laughs. There’s a nice bit about exploring and being playful even within scenes where you know where you’re trying to get to and Alan talks about eating cake.

Plus, Alan shares great enthusiasm for Louis’ thoughts on “Yes, And” and his habit of playing shows with a secret. They talk about experiencing life and moments, and Alan worries that maybe he doesn’t teach comedy, just moments. While it’s good to know that something is funny, he wants to know, can it be real? They also talk a lot about finding truth and being challenged, which is something that theater is perhaps more readily suited to do than improv.

Finally, Louis and Alan touch on the ability to laugh at who we are and the difficulty of being good people. How can you be a part of the problem even when you’re trying to fix it?

Tuesday September 29, 2015, 9:07am - by Magnet Theater

Magnet TC Logo v3

We’re looking for eager improvisers (prerequisite: completion of Level 1) to participate in warm-ups and exercises run by the students in Armando’s coaching class. All the details are below—but keep in mind that space is limited. Hope to see you there!

When to be available: Saturdays, October 17th-November 21st from 12:00-3:00pm

How to sign up: Simply send an email to schooldirector@magnettheater.com with the subject line: “COACHING CLASS VOLUNTEER.” Please include your full name and phone number.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (212) 244-2400.

Wednesday September 23, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Pat May Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

The Magnet Theater Podcast triumphantly returns from a late-summer respite with a glorious episode featuring Magnet performer, gamer, Training Center House Manager, and boy made of metal, PAT MAY. He sits down with host Louis Kornfeld for a sweaty conversation all about going to comedy camp, his approach to improv scenes, and how he seeks to create shows that are truly for the audience. He also discusses writing and performing sketch comedy, TV Party Tonight, and his incessant self-deprecation.

Louis begins this episode by asking Pat about his summers spent at Buck’s Rock Performing & Creative Arts Camp and doing comedy for the first time at age 16. At Buck’s Rock, Pat met a lot of folks now in the comedy world like Rebecca Drysdale, Louie Pearlman, Griffin Newman, and Sam Rogal. He grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson, which allowed him to do some open mics in NYC as a teenager, but the stand-up environment soon turned him off. Pat believes that the open mics he went to were like YouTube commenters in a circle jerk, which is a beautiful analogy.

It didn’t sit well with him that people simply wanted to be funny, or simply to be funny to themselves. When performing or putting up a show, Pat always tries to think: “What would make someone get off their couch and come out to the theater?” He loves to make things that people genuinely enjoy. Pat tells of a recent show he put up to which zero people showed up and gets into the topic of failure. Even on his team Metal Boy, which is a sucessful team, Pat knows that he’s still going to have fuck ups. It can be frustrating to know that you’re not in control of the whole show or team, but part of that is also what’s exciting about improv.

Talking about improv mechanics, Pat has never really cared about labeling from inside the scene. It’s all about the present dynamic for him. “Who cares about labeling?” he asks. “Just improv nerds!” What does Pat think about before a show or do to prepare for it? To describe his style, Pat says that he’s not a thinker, which you might have already known if you saw his recent show where he repeatedly fell out of a window. Among the different members of Metal Boy, Louis takes particular interest in exploring Pat’s relationship with Sam Rogal, his frequent collaborate, former roommate, and longtime friend. Louis observes that Sam doesn’t let things go and Pat won’t give up on any small thing he’s doing, which often allows them to continue scenes forever. Breaking the rules of improv is one of Pat’s most favorite things. Louis thinks that if a team says they’re going to follow the fun that night, they’re doomed to fail. Pat weighs in on The Spokane as a form. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t like it.

Paying him a compliment, Louis says that Pat’s characters are always very clear and have obvious wants. What kinds of choices really click with Pat? He relates to a lot of the teaching he received from Louis and Rachel Hamilton.

Pat talks about his farts. For real. He also burps a lot. Powering through his bodily functions, Pat and Louis discuss being in the moment and having needs, wants, and drives in scenes. Both guys comment on big characters. Plus, you will learn Pat May’s improv cure-all. It’s really dumb!

Louis finally cuts through the heavy self-deprecation and asks Pat why he shits on himself all the time? Laughing at being called out, Pat claims he’s just trying to check himself and reign in his ego. He holds himself to a high standard and needs to be reminded of that.

Finally, they talk about Pat’s show TV Party Tonight and how he loves to create shows that the audience can feel a part of. TV Party Tonight is a show where Pat, his friends, and special guests watch TV and make jokes, talk to the audience, and give out free beers. For real though, Pat cannot stop burping and farting. Louis asks about translating the experience of hanging out with friends to a show meant for an audience. Pay says that performing can often be selfish, but a show like this is one that the audience too can get involved in. He really wants to make shows for other people.

Plus, these important topics:

  • Do you ever feel truly great about what you’re doing in comedy? Or is ownership the best we can do?
  • Pat talks about Sketch Jesus!
  • Louis vamps a whole lot!

Go see TV Party Tonight on Friday, September 25th at 11:30pm!

Check out Pat’s video game podcast “Game Boyz” on his SoundCloud page!

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Tuesday September 15, 2015, 12:38pm - by Megan Gray

large_megawatt   large_megawatt

The Magnet Theater is pleased to announce the new teams and additions for the fall 2015 season of Megawatt, debuting this Wednesday, September 16th at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm. We hope to see you there.

New Team Sigma
Tim Canty
Devin O’Neill
Angelica Winkler
Sarah Ransohoff
Justin Torres
Jeff Brenman
Justin Zaun
Rosie Talcott

New Team Theta
Justin Anderson
Adam Twitchell
Kyle Gordon
Anna Neu
Eleanor Lewis
Peter Appleby
Rebecca Acevedo
Keilana Decker

New Team Delta
Diego Martinez
Chris Dwane
Elena Skopetos
Andrew Cornelius
Anthony Sneed
Alex Kornfeld
Ashley Glicken
Elizabeth Migliaccio


Tuesday September 1, 2015, 5:53pm - by Magnet Theater


We’re so excited to announce that auditions for the next season of Musical Megawatt will be held on Saturday, September 26th from 6:30-10:30pm at the Magnet Training Center. Callbacks will be held Sunday, September 27th.

To schedule an audition time, please fill out this form. We’ll do our best to accommodate everyone’s schedules, but please understand that we can’t guarantee anyone a particular audition time.

Applications must be received by Wednesday, September 16th. Emails with audition slots will be sent on Friday, September 18th.

Anyone who has completed Musical Improv Level 3 at Magnet Theater is eligible to audition.

To find out more information and to get an audition slot, please follow THIS LINK!

We look forward to seeing you at auditions!

Wednesday August 26, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jamie Rivera Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Back from our one-week summer vacation, we have longtime Magnet performer JAMIE RIVERA on the show us to talk about science fiction, having fun on stage, and how improv can help us through difficult times. Along the way, host Louis Kornfeld talks to Jamie about playing characters, performing for various audiences, and The Little Rascals. We love Jamie and we’re sure that you’ll love this episode.

To start things off, Louis asks Jamie about his interest in science fiction, which is something he inherited from his father. Jamie shares a funny story about going to see Star Wars for the first time as a kid, which gets Louis talking about how children make curious assumptions. Jamie claims that Inside Out might be Pixar’s best film and admits that it had him crying. What a softy! This gets the two of them discussing the power of film to move us, even if it’s not very good. Also, Louis loves Teen Wolf.

Continuing with this train of thought, Louis suggests that television and film allow us to give structure and resonance to our lives by framing them as narratives. Jamie relates this to religion, saying that even though he’s not a religious guy, there does seem to be a guiding force that many of us seek out. People similarly interpret dreams to have meaning, when perhaps there is none. All of this is done in an effort to give more meaning to our lives, he says.

Admitting that tropes from popular media often creep into improv shows, Louis asks Jamie how he feels about stealing moves from tv and film while improvising. Jamie wants everyone to know that he has ditched his gremlin on the airplane wing move and also, that engaging in tropes feels like pretending they way you pretended as a kid. As expected, Louis sometimes thinks he’s McNulty from The Wire and the two talk about archetypes versus specific characters. Louis wants to know: Is playing characters something that increases or decreases with age? He also talks about Shakespeare. Big episode for Louis.

Onto the topic of improv fuckery, Jamie and Louis talk about how Junior Varsity is a team that really indulges in having fun with each other and we get to hear a bit about how they approach their shows. Known as a fast-playing team, Jamie chalks much of their speed up to something akin to muscle memory – a result of being together for eight years. Their longevity has also created a great deal of trust amongst the members, which Louis thinks is the hallmark of a really good team.

After a bit about how to access your subconscious, Louis talks about showering. Really! This gets them chatting about entertaining yourself as a child. Jamie was a quasi-only child, and a latchkey kid, so he didn’t have a lot of friends very early in childhood. Jamie would simply make stuff up on his own and Louis notes how often children ostensibly put on shows for no audience. The theme of childhood carries through to a description of The Little Rascals as a proxy for the improv community and Louis tries to figure out when he stopped being mortified by being on stage.

Along with JV and The Friday Night Sh*w, Jamie has also been a part of UCB Harold Night and the Second City Cruise Lines. So, Louis wants to know: “How do all the different audiences influence being on stage? “Jamie breaks down his time at UCB with Trillion, noting a high level of of pressure, and talks about how ”muggle” audiences don’t see the same connections as other improvisers do. He even shares one particular experience on the cruise ship where his heart was melted by a very special audience member.

Jamie continues the heartfelt sentiment saying that hopefully, even if we are doing fart jokes, we are exploring the human condition. What he’s really getting at is comedy’s ability to have meaning, even in its silliest moments. Jamie concludes this episode for us by speaking candidly about death and how improv has helped him through tragedy.