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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Tuesday August 15, 2017, 1:40pm - by Promo Team

Alexis Lambright is a writer, storyteller, and cast member of Magnet ensembles The Wrath and The Cast. Alexis also hosts The Griot Show, in which she brings together a range of black performers and storytellers together around a specific theme! In anticipation of this Friday’s edition of The Griot Show, we spoke with Alexis about storytelling, “edutaining,” and pooped pants.

What makes a compelling story?
For me, the thing that makes a story compelling are the details. This is in no way profound, but I’m drawn to stories with a lot of details. Someone could be telling me about the time they pooped their pants in public, and I wanna know which city they were in, the surroundings, the time of day, the temperature, what they wore, what they ate earlier that day, and of course why they pooped their pants in the first place. All of those details allow me to see it happening (that’s not to say that I am obsessed with envisioning someone pooping their pants, I was just using that as an example). Anyway, I’ve heard some very detailed stories that made me feel like I was actually there.

How does your background as an improviser inform your style as a storyteller?
I think my improv background has allowed me to be able to recall stories pretty quickly. I’ve done shows were I had to come up with a story from an audience suggestion, which means going through my mental Rolodex of related stories. In the case of The Griot Show, I might have a story prepared, but maybe something from one of the performer’s stories sparks an idea that leads to a better story!

Your show features a variety of performers from different experiences and performance styles. Aside from improvisers and comedians, what other people have performed at the Griot Show?
Over the past three years, while I started out trying to keep the format to a traditional storytelling show, I’ve found that the show is really great when the performers tell a story through other mediums. I’ve had a video artist on who showed a piece that he directed, in which Harriet Tubman and other slaves were doing interpretive dance to Britney Spears’ “I’m A Slave 4 U”. There have been poets who have shared stories through their work, a few performers have incorporated music into their pieces, and I’ve even projected illustrations from a book I wrote at the tender age of six about slavery. Yes, 6 year-old me wrote a book about slavery. One of my absolute favorite guests on the show was Mr. Dabney Montgomery, who served the U.S. Army Air Corps as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. When I tell you it was an honor, privilege, and just an absolute DREAM COME TRUE having him bless my little ol’ show, I am dead serious! He was phenomenal!

What inspired you to produce this show?
I was approached by Beth Newell (former Magnet Sketch Program head) about creating a show that would bring some diversity to the Magnet stage. I brainstormed some ideas and finally decided on a storytelling show for Black History Month. The first two times went so well, that people came up to me and said “have you ever thought about having the show more than just once a year?” The next show was on Juneteenth for its historical significance to African Americans, and eventually I did the show every other month. I’d like to make it a monthly show, but I need help either producing or hosting it.

You’ve been hosting the Griot Show for a while now. How has the show changed over time since you first started hosting it?
As I mentioned before, it’s been a little over three years since the show debuted. In the beginning, it didn’t have a specific theme- I just wanted to get more black people performing at the Magnet. Now, I will try to come up with a theme for the show, like “Juneteenth Edition”, “Pride Month+Loving Day Edition”, etc. Also, because I love it when a show is “edutaining” (educational and entertaining), I try to do black history or theme-related trivia questions with the audience. There are prizes, too!

Check out The Griot Show this Friday, August 18th at 7pm!

Thursday August 10, 2017, 10:00am - 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?

Spencer Campbell

Which team or show are you on?

Hot Charles

Where are you from?

Ojai, California

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

My dad lives in LA, and as a kid we’d often go see the Groundlings, Theatresports, and an improv troupe called LA Connection when I visited on weekends. I loved it, and secretly wanted to do it myself, but pushed the feeling deep inside for fear I’d follow up on it. Many years passed in which I lived several lives. By the time I took my first improv class, I was already an old man.

How long have you been performing/writing?

I’m very sorry to blow your mind, but it’s five years *to the hour* since my first improv class as I’m responding to this. I have an app that tells me how long it’s been so I can calibrate my nostalgia. I’ve been writing, in one way or another, since I developed the motor skills.

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

Hmm. Improvisers pull out such different qualities from each other depending on the pairing. Zach Woods is my favorite improviser, and we’d probably do a very sensible only-straight-man Harold. I’d also love to be a wildcard with a sillypants wildcard like Lauren Lapkus or Thomas Middleditch. I think it would be fun to improvise with my brother and mom. I bet we’d do a dinner scene. Finally, I’d like to be Charlie Kaufman’s writing partner. I imagine we’d sit in silence on opposite sides of the room from each other for six months, doing separate projects, then switch.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

Write for: Christopher Morris, Armando Iannucci, Charlie Kaufman, Richard Foreman, David Lynch. Impersonate? Stan Laurel.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Onstage, a dumb, wrong person insisting they’re smart and right. And nothing makes me laugh harder than someone treating a bonkers-absurd point of view as though it’s the most reasonable thing in the world. I’m also a sucker for endless, unvarying, patience-trying repetition. And I think throwing up is funny, but not farting.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

The Eraserhead steam noises.

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

What do you enjoy doing besides…this?

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

At a practice, a show, or at home. It would be very strange to see me anywhere else.

What is your favorite place to go on a weekday afternoon when you have no plans or obligations?

 

The dog park, with my real friends.

 

Wednesday August 9, 2017, 3:49am - by Promo Team

Lorena Russi is a comedian, actor, and creator of a brand new show at Magnet, Timoteo. Timoteo is a stand-up comedy show that consciously thinks about what our bodies/status bring to performances. Each show will have people from one identity sitting in the audience as comics from the counter community perform a set. It’s an incredibly interesting concept and so we wanted to ask Lorena a few questions before the show’s big premiere next week.

What inspired you to create the show Timoteo?
Timoteo is a show inspired by lack of versatile spaces for marginalized communities. It’s designed so that groups can come together without it being in the context of a bar or to hook up. I was also curious about combining opposites in order to highlight how status and bodies affect space and performance. Essentially, I wanted to design a situation where people of the same tribe can engage, to not only learn more about each other and themselves but witness it through a comedic lens.

What’s the origin of the name Timoteo?
Timoteo was the name of my grandmother’s pet bird in Colombia. Apparently, the bird acted like a dog and was a real treasure of the Russi household. One day someone brought a pig into the apartment -this was Colombia in the 80s, so pigs were the equivalent to a new born baby- and it swallowed the bird. SWALLOWED. THE. BIRD. The poster is a photo of my grandmother and Timoteo together, and I appreciate how their colors, physicality, and tone contrast entirely, but show how they love each other. Since the show is about opposites coming together, I wanted to reflect that in it’s photo/name…even thought I’m probably the only person who understands that.

Your show involves comics performing for audiences that are their opposites. How do you attract these specific audiences to your show?
Well at this point my strategy is just running around to all of the Queer bars, talking to homo ladies, and not bringing up how late on a Monday night the show is. BUT. In practice it’s been pretty incredible to see just through word of mouth alone how people have shown interest. There’s not many shows that make it so that only a certain group or community can attend, which I think has made it interesting for people when I tell them about it. Ultimately it’s meant to bring fun to the audience on another level than just the performance, so word of mouth and carrier pigeons are what are filling the seats.

Your show on August 14th features exclusively straight, cisgendered male comedians performing for a queer female-identifying audience. What inspired you to bring these two groups together in this way?
There’s obviously a bias for the first show because I am a Queer female identifying person, but I wanted to able to experience the show as an audience member, especially for the first one, in order to get a feel for how it is impacting the audience. I also wanted it to be as specific as possible in the two groups and boy howdy is it specific….I’m sorry for saying boy howdy.

What communities would you like to bring together for future versions of Timoteo?
I would love to have POC from NYC with white people from the midwest, Robots/Technology and humans, older adults/young people.

Check out the premiere of Timoteo on Monday, August 14th, at 10:30 pm when Straight, Cisgendered men will do stand-up for Queer, Female identifying people in the audience!

Tuesday August 8, 2017, 1:06pm - by Promo Team

Perri Gross is the host of “Everyone Is Sad,” a stand-up show for comedic performers who are relatively new to stand-up. These performers may appear happy doing improv, sketch, and musical improv–but they are all very tormented and sad and want to stand alone on stage. We sit down with Perri to ask her a few a questions ahead of her August 14th show!

MAGNET: What was attractive to you about hosting a show with relatively inexperienced stand-up comedians?
GROSS: I was lucky to have joined a stand up club in college that helped me work out some kinks in my stand up before performing in shows. We would meet every week and have shows a few times a semester. When I moved to NYC, I couldn’t imagine not having any experience and just hitting the open mic scene. I liked the idea of creating a similar space where people could give stand up a try and the rest of the audience is also new. It helps people feel comfortable to know everyone is on the same page and new. I encourage experienced stand-ups to come to my mic as well so they can get a true reaction from the audience to test out new material. Having new excited comics creates a comradery that is hard to find in the comedy scene.

M: What was the most embarrassing moment of your early days in comedy?
G: At one open mic, I had to stop my set because I felt my material was too upsetting and no one was laughing just making “awww” noises. Most of my material is based off of real stories, and my set that night wasn’t funny it was just sad. I got off the stage, left the venue, and walked all the way home.

M: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve cried, and why?
G: I had a major breakup over the phone near the clock in the middle of Grand Central station. I was dry heaving I was crying so hard. I definitely gave some tourists a great idea of the dreams that awaited them in NYC.

M: What did you start first: improv or standup? What inspired you to make the leap from one to the other?
G: I started doing stand-up first. I did a lot of open mics my first year when I moved to NYC but was looking for an easier way to meet new people and switched over to improv. I found a great community at the Magnet through the classes I took. I was always was hesitant to try improv initially because I like to plan what I am doing. I also hate playing animals and [am] scared to face my fear.

M: Which comedians/improvisers inspired you when you first started?
G: I didn’t watch much stand-up growing up but was probably inspired by watching The Simpsons and Seinfeld with my parents. I did always like George Carlin a lot and found his dark style inspiring and close to my voice.

M: If you could watch any celebrity or public figure try standup for the first time, who would it be?
G: Daddy Yankee. He has a lot to say and I just want him to come out of the wood work. I’m really happy Despacito has put him back on the map and I hope he gets to do a tight 30 soon.

Don’t miss the next Everyone Is Sad, coming up on Monday, August 14th, at 9 pm!

Monday July 31, 2017, 4:02pm - by Promo Team

Our old pal George Basil (HBO’s Crashing, TBS’ Wrecked, Netflix’s Flaked) returns to New York this week to take on two of Magnet’s greatest improv duos: Kornfeld & Andrews and Trike! We sat down with George to talk about his work in television, his passion for improv, and his favorite spots to return to in NYC.

MAGNET: What are some current and upcoming projects you’re pumped about?

GB: I’m excited for a couple things coming up. One is an animated show that some friends are making, and I’ll be the voice of a centaur (dream come true), and the other is a series I’m developing about a single dad and his cool kid titled “Rad Dad.”

M: You’ve got some improv shows coming up at Magnet with Kornfeld & Andrews and Trike – what excites you about doing improv?  What keeps you coming back?

GB: The same thing that excites me about playing blackjack or craps is the thing that excites me about improv: the total unknown. No matter how good you think you are, sometimes the earth’s rotation has got it out for you. What keeps me coming back? The Magnet will always feel like my home.

M: Between your characters on Crashing, Flaked, and Wrecked – which is most similar to you?

GB: Probably Lief from Crashing. He’s impulsive but finds different philosophies he can use as a way to justify his sometimes irresponsible actions. I do that shit.

M: Who’s your favorite improviser and why? 

GB: Dan Bakkhedal, for sure. I used to watch him whiz mentally around a stage and it didn’t matter who his scene partner was, he totally listened to them and supported every move they made. I could watch that man do anything.

M: What are you most excited about doing during your time back in NY? 

GB: Aside from the rad shows at Magnet, I’m always stoked to revisit my old neighborhood in Brooklyn and reminisce through places I used to eat. Even just walking the same streets that took me to the train gets me all excited. Mostly excited for the shows though. It’s been too long.

George Basil joins Trike this Saturday, August 5th at 9 pm! You can also see him with Kornfeld & Andrews this Sunday, August 6th at 7:30 pm!

Thursday July 27, 2017, 10:18am - 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?

Keith Rubin

Which team or show are you on?

Just Karen

Where are you from?

Maryland

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I started doing improv in high school, and joined an improv group in college to have a group of people who were contractually obligated to be my friends. Then when I moved to New York, I studied improv and sketch at UCB and performed informally there and at the PIT before landing at the Magnet sketch program in a more official capacity.

How long have you been performing/writing?

I’ve been performing since high school, and writing for about four years.

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

I’d truly love to do an improv scene with Jason Sudeikis and try to out-straight-man each other for the entire duration of it. As for writing, if I could just be a fly on the wall when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hang out, that’s probably about as educational an experience as you could get. Alternatively, I’d love to just watch how Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright operate on a set and take copious notes.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

I’ve recently been working on an impression of the least attractive Hemsworth brother, but…dream scenario? I’d want to impersonate one of the more attractive Hemsworth brothers. And also write something for Martin and Morgan Freeman and call it “The Freemans: Brothers From Another Mother.”

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Extremely specific, extremely dumb things. In this regard, Clickhole is a godsend to me.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

A Songza playlist entitled “90’s Crowd-Pleasing Hits.” Songza because it is as obsolete as my knowledge of music, and 90’s music because Third Eye Blind is the best band there is, was, or ever will be.

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

“How’s it going?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

If I’m free, probably cooking a nice dinner, and if not, probably seeing or doing the show that’s preventing me from being free and cooking a nice dinner.

 

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.

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 😎

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

Thursday June 29, 2017, 10:00am - 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?

Bailey Swilley

Which team or show are you on?

Just Karen

Where are you from?

Memphis

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

After I’d been living in the city for about a year, my dad said, “Didn’t you say you were going to sign up for an improv class? Well, when is it?” Then, I went through the improv and sketch programs at UCB, respectively, and then really got into musical improv for a while. #taglinesongs

How long have you been performing/writing?

Performing in some capacity since high school. Writing sketch for about three years.

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

I really love Casey Wilson… and Jenny Slate. And Billy Eichner! Wait, maybe these are just people I want to be friends with.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

I do a great Lauren Bacall impression from her “Fancy Feast” commercial (you know the one). I’d love to write for Amy Sedaris. What a genius.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Sketches so based in reality that it makes the writers’ room and audience super uncomfortable.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

Broadway bangerzzzz.

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

“Do you know where the bathroom is?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

Stuffing my face with papaya salad & dumplings.

Which actor/actress would play you in a biopic about your life?

Mandy Moore… probably?

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