The Magnet Theater not only boasts its current roster of powerful improvisers and performers, but also celebrates those who have taken on new adventures in their lives and with their comedy.
George Basil (The Pete Holmes Show, College Humor), a Magnet performer known for his epic improv with 4Track, is now out in L.A. You probably have seen him in a Vonage commercial or maybe even a bunch of CollegeHumor Originals. We wanted to catch up with George and shine the Magnet Theater Blog spotlight on him and his work. We conducted an email interview with George Basil. Below are his responses:
What is your improv and comedy history? What got you interested and when were you first exposed to improv?
GB: I didn’t learn about improv in high school or college. The first time I’d ever seen improv was on “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” Watching those performers fly around looked so fun. Then I researched it a little and came across something called the “Big Stinking Comedy Festival” in Austin, TX. It boasted amazing improv groups, and it got me hard, so I went down. Eventually I took a class at the Hideout Theater and from then on I was totally hooked. I’ve always kind of known that my only redeeming quality is finding the keys to a person’s laughter lock, it was just hard to find the confidence to pursue it. When I got to NY I took classes all over and then found a home at the Magnet.
What initially attracted you to the Magnet?
GB: All the misfits. There were no preconceived notions about the comedy we wanted to explore. We were all making mistakes and figuring it out and loving the process of learning about people through improv.
What teams, shows, and projects were you a part of while at the Magnet?
GB: A ton of different teams and shows. The first I think was “Munchaüsan” then “El Partido”? I was at the Magnet every night until their doors were locked. I was also in 4-Track which was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Really proud of all the teams I was on and every performer I got to play with.
What were some of your favourite shows and performers while here?
GB: I loved watching “Pax Romana” a lot. They always had so much fun, it was contagious. I can’t name just a few performers I liked to watch. It was literally every last one. Aside from being my friends, they were all so fucking funny.
Who were or are your favourite improv instructors? Who do you attribute to your growth as an improviser and comedian? Who influences/had influenced you as an improviser?
GB: Obviously Armando had a lot to do with how I approached comedy and improv. His patience and insight into the reality of character was huge. He’s been my biggest influence to date, for sure.
I got to work with Mark Sutton in Vancouver once, he was awesome. Mick Napier was great too.
Dan Bakkedahl is still the improviser that knocks me out anytime he’s on stage. I love that dude’s work, always have.
What did you learn at the Magnet that helps you now?
GB: Patience. Laying in the cut. Screaming doesn’t get you food. Cool doesn’t mean shit. Any and all confidence I have as a performer I attribute to the Magnet. I feel like I grew up on that stage, having never done any other theater training.
Why did you leave NYC?
GB: I had some work in LA and everyone encouraged me to make the move for professional reasons. And I owed the Italians money.
Are you still improvising?
GB: I am but not as much as I’d like to.
What projects have you taken on since your departure from the Magnet?
GB: A lot of web shorts and indie films. Anything and everything. Always saying yes.
What are you currently involved in?
GB: I’m co-writing a web series that’s loosely based on my life as a weird stonerish dad. It’ll hopefully show the ups and downs of alternative style parenting.
What excites you and inspires you?
GB: Watching youngins do improv. This art form is still in its infancy. 4-track toured Canada a bunch and watching kids that have been doing improv since high school and in some cases even earlier was fucking rad. Game didn’t matter, character didn’t matter, they just knew. They were so good at emoting and everything
What are the differences between the New York scene and the scene of Los Angeles?
GB: The biggest difference for me is that in LA you can’t walk from one theater to another the way you can in NY. Aside from that, great stuff is happening in both cities. The weirdest thing about LA is that instead of rehearsing in a studio, you go to someone’s house.
What shows and performers should us New Yorkers totally take note of in case we take a trip out West?
GB: The main thing I would suggest is to check out every venue- there’s good shows and performers scattered across LA. The Clubhouse, Second City, UCB, I.O.West- try not to limit your perspective on style, go tons of places, and don’t be too stuck up to laugh.
Thanks George! When in New York, George has been known to drop by Magnet for shows. Keep an eye out for more of George’s work.
December brings us cold weather, warm tidings of holiday cheer, hopefully at least a few days off from work… and perhaps most importantly, the latest installment of The Director Series: Genus.
Genus takes the suggestion of a genre, then improvises an entire show in that genre.
Featuring Nick Jaramillo, Lauren Olson, Kelly Buttermore, Dennis Zavolock, John Roukis,
Jana Schmieding, Jamie Rivera
Directed by Christian Pollack
Every Thursday in December at 9:00pm, part of Magnet Theater’s Thursday Night Out Line-up.
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In advance of tonight’s debut performance, I got to talk to director Christian Pollack a bit about the show, and why you should see it.
Give us some of your thoughts about genre-based improv.
CP: Genre improv is something I’ve always loved, it takes away some of the work of invention in the scene if you have a template to work off of, and then it gets really fun to just commit to it.
Will the suggested genres shape the form of the show itself?
CP: The suggestion will inform the show for sure, but the players are not bound to try to recreate the suggestion, just again, use it as a template for what types of characters might be in this show; but within the scenes, it’s still very much about discovering what’s happening along with everybody else in the theater.
Are there any genres the cast can’t handle?
CP: The one genre we’ve had the most trouble with is “Mork and Mindy”. “Mork and Mindy” is a genre, right?
How is it working with Jamie Rivera?
CP: Jaime Rivera is quiet, humble, on-time, smells like Earth and the outdoors. Everything you want in a cast leader. I’m honestly very lucky to have so many talented, fun people agree to do this, I’m looking forward to watching them all have fun.
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I’m sure you’ve seen Christian, Nick, Lauren, Kelly, Dennis, John, Jana and Jamie perform in various other shows at the Magnet Theater, so you know you’re in for a treat with Genus.
Mail’s here! Jon Bander (Aquarius), who is performing full time on one of the Second City Cruise Ships, just sent a letter to us here at the Magnet to give us a glimpse of his travels:
Greetings from beautiful “the sea”! Though I miss New York and all you lovely people, I’m really enjoying my time aboard the ship. Things are really different on the ship from New York. For example, I can afford to eat dinner and drink beer in the same day! Godlike, I know. Life is really fun when you can afford it!
It’s amazing how quickly things become routine on the ship. New crews board on Sundays, a few days later we do our shows, and by Thursday we’re being aggressively booed until we dock again Sunday. The shows have been great. We do sketch shows in a theater that holds around 1000 people! Usually the house is packed, unless we’re in any port at all, and then it’s empty. I mean, we’re funny, but we’re not DRY LAND funny.
We rehearsed in Chicago for a week, where we drilled sketches over and over until they were in our bones. Second City treated us very professionally, giving us an excellent director, producer, and support from their entire staff. I felt incredibly well taken care of. They even got me one of those hot dogs with a pickle on it! Eh.
It’s pretty amazing rehearsing on that same stage where so many of my heroes have played. We get to watch the old reviews on DVD, and it’s amazing to see both how comedy has evolved and see people I now know in their original SC revues. Plus they all had hair!
We’ve been to some really beautiful places. Bermuda, Aruba, and Barbados to name a few. But even though we’re far away, it’s still easy to feel like I’m right back in America. For examples, I still avoid the sun. And everyone hates me!
We’ve done some pretty great activities on and off the boat. We’ve been to breathtaking beaches. I had monkeys running around on me, macaws on my shoulder, and a woman hated a bit I did so much that she said, “You guys still here?!” in a contemptuous tone. So it’s all my dreams come true.
Life on the cruise ship can best be described as a combination of summer camp and college, minus the shows. Our cast really gels well and hangs out all the time, which makes things much easier. It’s the first time in close to a decade I’ve had a set group of friends that I do everything with. We eat together in the cafeteria, we hang out together, we cry together. It’s like family! We’ve become fast friends with the other performers, especially the dancers, who make us feel self-conscious at every beach. The nice thing is I get to snuggle with Ross Taylor every night and feel good about myself.
In all seriousness, it’s been a completely fantastic experience so far. I’m very grateful to Second City for giving me the opportunity, and to the Magnet for the training and support that allowed me to get this job. I do miss you, Magnet, and all your wonderful people and shows. I especially miss seeing my Phookas and playing with Aquarius! I miss doing and seeing the great work we all do so much, and I can’t wait to come back to see and play with you all. You’re all my best friends, colleagues and inspirations! So keep it up.
See you in the new year! Check Facebook for occasional photos through which I will try to make you jealous.
We’re very excited to announce the next round of The Circuit, which will begin Friday, January 10th, 2014!
The deadline to apply is Friday, December 13, at noon. Applicants will be chosen by lottery. If chosen, you will be placed on a team of 8 improvisers and assigned a coach. You will rehearse with your coach and team once a week, with rotating performances on Friday nights at 10:30PM at the Magnet Studio Theater.
If you have completed Level 3 of Magnet’s Training Program and are not part of a Magnet house improv team, you are eligible to apply.
The Circuit is a great way to gain experience in being in an improv ensemble. We highly encourage those who are eligilble to apply. To apply, please fill out this form.
If you have any questions or comments, please email us at circuit [at] magnettheater [dot] com.
BRRRRRRRRRRR! November hit hard at Magnet Theater! With NY1 coming to the theater, sketch teams taking off, Movember celebrations, duo comedy from England, Thanksgiving Mixem Ups and Time Out features, it was a MAGNET-IC month (so sorry, really). Here’s a recap of November 2013 at Magnet!
Want to take a Free Improv Class with the Magnet? NY1 thinks you should. We held a Free Intro To Improv Class for NY1, here’s what they thought: Click here for the video. Trike was interviewed by Time Out NY for Time Out’s glossary of comedy terms. The glossary was for Time Out’s Guide to The Best Comedy of 2013. Check out the glossary here for an insiders look at some confusing improv terms. Also, Magnet was named among the “Best Underground Comedy Clubs” by Newyork.com.
November marked the First Annual Intern Appreciation night! Over 25 interns came out to enjoy free pizza, comedy from Friday Night Sh*w, and a mixer hosted by Revolver teams. Huge thanks to all of our incredible interns!
Musical Mustachewatt! In November, Musical Megawatt teams held a fundraising night to raise money for Movember. Movember is an annual month long campaign involving the growing of mustaches to raise awareness for Men’s health. Musical Megawatt teams sold baked goods and wore some pretty gnarly mustaches for the cause!
Kornfeld & Andrews! Magnet Instructors and performers, Louis Kornfeld and Rick Andrews, paired together for one night of magical improvisation. The SOLD OUT show was one of the few times Kornfeld & Andrews have performed their duo show, but from the response, we’re hoping for more. Those were some highlights from November at Magnet! We’ll see you at the shows!
The Magnet Theater is excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the next round of MAGNET SKETCH TEAMS, which will run from February 2nd through June 1st.
Each sketch team will write and perform a show approximately every 3 weeks. Shows will take place Sunday nights at 7:30 pm. Completion of (or current enrollment in) Sketch Writing Level 2 is required to apply. Exceptions may be made for anyone currently performing on a Megawatt or Team Performance team.
HOW TO APPLY TO BE ON A MAGNET SKETCH TEAM:
Send an email with the subject line, “MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION” and your name to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your sketch and improv experience and at least 2 writing samples as PDF attachments (please limit total to 10 pages). The deadline to apply is December 20th.