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

Archive for the ‘Appreciation’ Category

Thursday July 9, 2015, 10:49am - by Magnet Theater

Christina Gausas Stairs

Our guest on this week’s episode of the Magnet Theater Podcast, Christina Gausas, is well known for her work with a variety of amazing improv duos. As a follow up to her interview, she’s returned to give a shout out to all of her duo collaborators over the years and we’ve given her the keys to the Magnet Blog to do just that. Take it away, Christina!

Ellie Kemper – GENIUS
Ellie is the brightest, most radiant light in life, on and off-stage, and she’s a genius. She has infinite talent and wild, limitless lovability. Ellie is the smartest person I know and she’s a creative genius. Her insights, her sensibilities, her clarity, the characters she creates are so captivating. The gifts that Ellie gives to you in scenes are so specific and brilliant. She’s the most engaging, playful scene partner, and, of course, she’s beautiful and warm and generous, it’s exactly who she is and always has been. (We met in 2000.) I could go on for hours & pages about the talent and joy of Ellie, and the one word to encompass Ellie as an improviser and performer is – genius.

Michael Bertrando – SEXY BEAST
Bertrando is an intense talent with gravity and fun, he’s fucking brilliant, too. Being able to do Come Together with Michael has really been a gift. Michael can get onstage and truly create a one-act play. He creates characters who are complex, complicated MEN, and at the same time, he’s hilarious because he digs into the honesty and the emotion and he is fearless. Capital “F” Fearless. He’s wickedly smart, open-minded, he is pure fire onstage.

Susan Messing – The QUEEN
Kevin Dorff is the King, Susan Messing is the Queen, and I would live in that Kingdom forever. Susan is what we all aspire to be. But I don’t know that anyone can come close. I think, just bow down. Susan is the Goddess. It’s Susan’s world and we’re just living in it.

Becky Drysdale – CREATOR
Becky is the most creative, creating, creator I know. She improvises, writes, sings, dances, animates, makes art, builds things, and she makes spaces for other improvisers. The Clubhouse in LA is amazing and she made that for other people. She did that with her school in New York, too. I was watching a documentary about Orson Welles and someone said, “there was never an Orson before him and there will never be a second,” which made me think of Matt Besser, who I admire very much, and wonder if there will ever be someone like Besser again because Improv is now so big. I don’t know Matt well, but he always seems brave to me, anarchistic, confident (all the UCB 4 do) — what Matt and the UCB created was non-status quo. Becky has a similar spirit. She gives it to the Indie teams.

Scott Adsit – CHARMING
I think Scott is one of the most charming improvisers in the country. I loved all of our shows.

I add the “e”s for how exciting Kay is onstage. Kay has the most “come run away and play with me” look in her eyes when you are onstage with her. We were only able to do one show as Cannon & Gausas and it was at a DCM and it was a delight. Kay keeps the energy, and the positivity, and the play, and the smart silliness going. You just feel so happy when you see her big eyes and her big smile. And she’s that way as a friend, too. She always lifts you up.

Armando Diaz – EMPEROR
If you’re reading this right now, please ask Armando to improvise more. No one else can as quickly and completely become a character the way Armando Diaz can. And I feel like he understands Comedy better than all of us. And, by “all of us”, I mean, the whole, entire world. We have this treasure, this wealth of insight and improv and comedy intelligence right here in New York City and I feel like we should be seeing and using him all the time. For the sake of the future! (Sorry, Armando, no sleep for you.)

Megan Gray – The GIFT
Megan has that natural grace and comfort onstage that comes from a place of love. Much like Ellie, that light and radiance. She’s a very strong and also giving improviser. I love being onstage with Megan but I also love watching her because I always feel secure. She’s funny and talented and also commanding onstage. My eyes go right to her. I always want to know what her characters are going to say. Also, when you watch her in a group, she’s the first one to “throw herself on the grenade.” She gives unbridled support without worrying about herself. Plus, as an AD, she gives so much to the community, she really diversifies and shares, and opens doors to performers and provides opportunities to shows.

Louis Kornfeld – the ORIGINAL
I think Louis has one of the most original stage personas and it comes completely from being who he is. I think a lot of people want to play to be perceived as “smart” or “intelligent” or “understanding something you don’t” but it’s always bullshit. Louis is the most NO BULLSHIT player there is. And because of that, we get to see this smart, intelligent improviser, who’s comfortable JUST FUCKING BEING. (As far as we can see.) And he’ll create a scene that might have a central, long discussion and it’s interesting as hell because it’s authentic and it isn’t full of self-aware bullshit, it’s just honest. I hear him refer to himself as a “straight man.” I have to say, I’ve never thought that. He’s always anchoring to me. Playing with MegaLou was great.

Michael Delaney – GOLOVKIN
Boxing fans will understand. Gennady Golovkin is a boxer with every weapon in a full arsenal and he has precision. He doesn’t remind you of anyone else because there’s never been anyone else like him. That’s Michael Delaney to me. He has every talent an improviser could hope for and he has precision. When you’re watching Michael Delaney or you’re onstage with Michael Delaney, you’re experiencing the best of what the work can be, at all times. He’s a true Master of Improvisation. We are lucky to have him. It’s another “bow down” situation.

Billy Merritt – JOY
Billy and I did one show in Dave Furfero’s Ampersand at the Magnet. When I think of Billy, I just think Joy. He welcomes you onstage and it’s fun and easy and unquestioned for the whole show. We did Kevin Mullaney’s Mullaney Chain at DCM 17. It was Kevin, Ellie, Sean Conroy, Billy, and me. I was in a scene with Billy where we were husband & wife talking to Sean’s character (who was off-stage) over the phone. I said, “check the caller ID” and Billy said, out loud, to the phone, “Check Caller ID”, while we were in the middle of the conversation. It was hilarious and a moment where we could get into a fun “not that way, look at the phone,” “what? why?” and those ideas and that kind of play can only come from the joyous, incredibly fun, smart mind of Billy Merritt.

Kevin Dorff – KING
Kevn Dorff is the King and that’s really all I have to say. He’s so incredibly talented, strong, intelligent, striking, commanding, and fun. He can say more with one look or one word than anyone else onstage. Which is why I should simply say – KING.

All words not in italics written by the wonderful Christina Gausas.

Wednesday October 9, 2013, 9:39am - by catherinewing


At an early point in an improviser’s development, the names of TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi will be mentioned by a teacher, a coach, or a fellow comedy nerd friend. “You gotta go see TJ & Dave.” You will be told that they are the best of the best. You will be advised that their approach towards improvisation is worth incorporating into your own philosophy and growth as a performer.

And you might wonder: why?

Based in Chicago, TJ & Dave are revered as two of the best improvisers in the country. TJ Jagodowski is most recognizable from the long-running series of improvised Sonic Drive-In commercials featuring himself and Peter Grosz. In addition to performing in “TJ & Dave,” TJ performs regularly with other seasoned improv groups on stages across Chicago. Dave Pasquesi has performed in dramatic plays (Glengarry Glen Ross, God of Carnage), appeared on television (Strangers With Candy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep) and in movies, and is also a voiceover actor. As a duo, they have performed together for over a decade. TJ & Dave perform regularly at the iO Theater on Wednesday nights. They also perform multiple times during the year in New York City, at the Barrow Street Theatre.

TJ & Dave create one-act plays through the art of slow comedy, taking time to develop characters and relationships, and discover situations together. They don’t go for the easy laugh. As a result, the comedy that emerges from their patience is moving, grounded, and honest. The Magnet’s own Matt Shafeek wrote this Splitsider article on TJ & Dave and the power of slow comedy:

TJ & Dave can often go long stretches of time without any big laughs, and this is where a lot of weaker improvisers often falter. A performer who fears he or she has lost the audience will panic and will resort to time-honored gimmicks – exaggerated physicality, ridiculous characters, and of course, going ‘blue’ (making a lewd/sexual reference or choice) in a desperate attempt to end the audience’s silence. But TJ & Dave, as well as Louis CK, know that patience in comedy can lead to much bigger rewards.

The mainstream world has caught onto the awesomeness that is TJ & Dave. A rave review in the theater section of the New York Times, written last year by accomplished composer and lyricist David Yazbek, has skyrocketed the popularity of their New York City appearances. Tickets are often sold out well before the beginning of each run. A Radiolab podcast feature earlier this year introduced TJ & Dave to hip intelligentsia who might not otherwise be interested in the improv comedy scene.

Psyched to check out a TJ & Dave show? You’re in luck! They will be performing in New York City at Town Hall this Friday, October 11th, at 8pm. This performance is extra-special for a lot of reasons. For the first time in New York, TJ & Dave will be performing with Chicago musician, Ike Reilly, in a joint appearance. If you’ve ever been to a TJ & Dave show, you’ve heard Ike Reilly’s songs at the beginning and end of the show. Their NY anthem is Commie Drives A Nova. This is also the first time that TJ & Dave will be performing at Town Hall, a venue that seats over 1000 people. This is the largest venue they have ever played in New York City, and possibly anywhere else. This show is one night only! TJ & Dave would love to see the NYC improv community in the audience, so please come and support!

Full price tickets are $42, but follow the instructions for various options below to get them for $27. The asterisks indicate preferred options, to avoid service fees:

For all options, use the code BST. You will need to tell the box office the code in order to get the discounted $27 tickets.

1) Show up in person at TOWN HALL BOX OFFICE*
(no service fees)
123 West 43rd Street, NY
12pm – 6pm, M-SAT

(no service fees, CASH ONLY)
27 Barrow Street, on the corner of 7th Ave.
Open at 1pm Daily

3) Online: At ticketmaster.com with code BST
(service fees will apply)

Still unconvinced? Let’s go down the TJ & Dave rabbit hole, shall we?

In 2009, Alex Karpovsky made Trust Us, This Is All Made Up, a documentary about TJ & Dave, which includes an entire show that was recorded at the Barrow Street Theatre.  It had its world premiere at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival.  The DVD is available for purchase.  Check it out!

Pam Victor shares her interviews with the country’s improv greats on her blog series, Geeking Out With ….  She interviewed TJ and David extensively.  All three are in the process of co-writing a book on improv.  Stay tuned!

TJ Jagodowski: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

David Pasquesi: Part 1, Part 2

Beloved Magnet instructor, David Razowsky,  interviewed TJ & Dave earlier this year for his A.D.D. Comedy podcast.

Jimmy Carrane, veteran Chicago improviser and co-author of the book, Improvising Better: A Guide to the Working Improviser, interviewed TJ and David for his Improv Nerd podcast.

TJ Jagodowski

David Pasquesi

What are you waiting for?  Go buy your discounted tickets now.  See you at Town Hall on Friday!

Wednesday February 1, 2012, 9:17am - by WillQuinn

For my money, Stephen Colbert is the funniest man alive. He’s probably also the most interesting. I mean, come on! He’s a Sunday School teacher who hosts a subversive late night TV show and who once, at a taping I saw, answered a pre-show question of, “Are you f***ing Matt Damon?” with, “Why? Doe his d*** taste like me?”

Colbert in 1993

Carell, Dinello, Colbert & Razowsky in 1993 PHOTO: The Second City Chicago