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Archive for the ‘Magnet Theater Podcast’ Category

Wednesday August 2, 2017, 7:00am - by evan barden

 

Actor and comedian, KEISHA ZOLLAR, joins host Louis Kornfeld to discuss the role of comedians in society, why she hates revenge stories, and the issue with overly dramatic art. Not only that, but they get to talking about how we give too much energy to our lizard brains and urge everyone out there to show your weird! This is our final episode of the season, but we’ll see you again in September. From all of us to all of you, thanks so much for listening and huzzah!

Our fabulous guest and intrepid host begin this episode laying out the three or four types of bad, real-world comedy and note that the bully flavor of “funny” still persists, despite how god-awful it is. Keisha posits that perhaps we, as comedians, need to rally a bit more against bullies and the behavior they propagate. She also says that Louis has “an intense face” and Louis seems to agree. They talk about being “on” all the time and how common folks expect comedians to behave day-to-day. They get into the role of comedians in society and the responsibilities that comedians and other creators take on by assuming the mantel. Such a conversation would be incomplete without mentioning identity politics and how the comedian’s ultimate job is to disrupt norms.

Pivoting like a member of Trump’s cabinet, Louis attempts to take a positive lesson away from the current hot mess that is the world around us. Keisha wisely points out that, growing up, no one ever told us why democracy could be bad, reminding us that every tool is also a weapon. She relates that she often feels we give too much energy to our lizard brain and not enough to our frontal lobe, which allows us to reason.

Speaking of lizard brains, Keisha tells us why revenge stories don’t entertain her and why one of her favorites movies is Requiem For A Dream. She and Louis show appreciation for feeling your feelings in-the-moment, including the negative feelings like anger and sadness. Speaking further on this, Keisha shares a bit about her lifelong experience of recurring illness and living with an invisible disability, something she brings up to highlight the fact that it’s not all negative – there are positives of that life experience and the perspective it gives her is invaluable. This sparks their both Louis and Keisha’s qualms with art that is overly dramatic, art that lacks the light we know to be present. As our episode comes to an end, we are reminded that the beauty of improv is that we are encouraged to show our weird, to show our uniqueness. Everyone has something. Accept your weird.

And finally, our host and guest share this special message with us, as we say goodbye to Season 3 of the Magnet Theater Podcast:

Go stare at a tree!

Don’t forget to check out Keisha’s own podcasts: Applying It Liberally and The Soul Glo Project.

Wednesday July 26, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

Magnet performer, stand-up comedian, and author Jarret Berenstein joins host Louis Kornfeld in the most recent edition of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The conversation hits a lot on politics and how Jarret feels he sounds like a “tin hat conspiracy theorist” when discussing them. Check out this podcast to learn about Jarret’s upcoming book about Kellyanne Conway, his early days as a stand up comic, and how he still plans on living in a mansion with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Jarret and Louis start out the podcast with a discussion on acting in sketches and the pros and cons of memorizing lines. Louis admits that memorizing lines in a whisper never works for when he actually needs to perform them out loud. Jarrett describes the mastery of learning all of your lines as “its own kind of fun.”

After the brief pre-podcast conversation, we learn that Jarret has a book coming out, “The Kellyanne Conway Technique: Perfecting the Ancient Art of Delivering Half-Truths, Fake News, and Obfuscation―With a Smile.” He was hired by the publishing company to make fun of Kellyanne Conway because knew someone at the publishing company who figured he’d have time to do write the book. (Also, because he’s funny. Duh.) He discusses his frustration with watching her lies and getting even more frustrated with the fact that her candidate won.

They start to talk about revenge against comedians – how unfunny people like Mike Huckabee and Kellyanne Conway are now trying to be comedic themselves. Jarret explains that he was unable to watch Kellyanne Conway’s stand-up comedy tape because he knew it would anger him too much. They discuss how the people who are considered funniest tend to be more liberal and how when conservatives make jokes they gain support not because people think they are funny but because people agree with them.

Louis thinks that Jarrett is very well-tempered when it comes to politics. We learn that Jarret spent all of November on Reddit and spent much of that time fighting with other users who he figures were Russians acting like Americans who support Trump, and how he realized it was such a waste of time. Though he was extremely angry, he realized “that rage is not going to change anyone’s mind.”

Jarret talks about his stand-up comedy and how he wants to start putting political humor into his act but he knows that when he starts talking about politics he sounds like a “tin hat” conspiracy theorist. He describes his faces in improv vs his faces in stand up. While he improvises, Jarret notices that he will break often and have a hard time not smiling because he’s having fun. While in stand-up, he explains, his face is more “I’m looking at you in a serious way even though what I said was ridiculous.”

Louis asks Jarret if he feels confident as a performer with ten years of stand-up comedy experience. Jarret thinks that he is and tells Louis about how comedians can grow as performers. Jarret reflects on starting out as a stand-up comedian at “bringer” shows and how embarrassing they are as a comic.

Despite his current focus on stand-up, Jarret’s first love was improv. He talks about SNL, Comedy Central, listening to comedy albums – about not even knowing what the jokes were about but liking the rhythm of stand-up. He remembers playing MASH with his friends where he ended up living in a mansion with Gwyneth Paltrow as a paid improviser. That would be the life.

To close out the podcast, Louis discusses Kliph Nesteroff’s book “The Comedians” and how it does a great job going through the history of comedy. Jarret and Louis agree that relevance is an interesting aspect of comedy – Jarret thinks that “it’s weird that generations can grow up not seeing the best version of somebody.”

Pick up Jarret’s book, “The Kellyanne Conway Technique” when it’s released in August and come to his book launch show at Magnet on Monday, 8/7, at 7:30 pm!

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!

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.

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!!

Wednesday June 28, 2017, 6:34am - by Magnet Theater

Human laugh factory, MICHAEL DELISLE, joins host Louis Kornfeld to discuss being funny on purpose, bombing on stage, and making a meal out of nothing. He and Louis debate whether or not Phil Hartman had a sense of humor, explore why Michael is so funny in a wig, and they also perform no fewer than three improv scenes together! It’s a real good time and you don’t want to miss it. Huzzah!

Beginning with the introduction of our guest, this episode gets off to what is undeniably the most awkward start in the history of the podcast. Michael asks Louis if he is truly great and the tension builds from there. These two good souls make the most out of the situation and manage to laugh their way through it.

Getting into the real conversation, Louis notes that Michael does a heck of a lot of sketch comedy, but he says he still loves improv. They debate over what percentage of sketch and improv is actually good and try to approximate what the batting averages are for each in the comedy scene. Louis breaks down Michael’s “Will Ferrell effect” for us and our heroes do some improv together. All of this in the first 12 minutes of the episode!

They dig into the idea of being intentionally funny while improvising and debate whether or not improvisers should rely on their life experience to be funny. Louis asks if Micahel is a nervous performer and Mike tells a story about bombing on stage doing stand-up at the tender age of 16. They talk about what you can learn from bombing, both in improv and sketch, and then they do another improv scene. This time, they’re both wearing shorts!

Circling back around, Michael and Louis once again discuss intentional comedic choices in improv and why it’s tricky to teach that skill. While some may consider intentionally comedic choices as going for cheap jokes, Michael thinks about it as playing the most fun thing right away. Our two heroes try to figure out why Michael is so dang funny in a wig and we find out that his favorite kind of sketch comedy is when he’s able to make a meal out nothing. Plus, they ask, “Did Phil Hartman have a sense of humor?”

Finally, Louis ends this episode by asking Michael to perform A Very Serious Scene Opposite A Jar Of Pickles.

Wednesday June 21, 2017, 6:25am - by Magnet Theater

 

Improviser, cook, runner, and yoga instructor, LIZ MIGLIACCIO, joins host Louis Kornfeld as they take a look inside themselves as well as inside the worlds of improv and yoga. The two discuss the importance of teachers along with providing different options of learning. We learn an assortment of fun facts about Liz including the age at which she learned how to spell her last name, how she almost drowned, and much more!

At the beginning of the podcast, Liz talks about her incredible sense of direction that she learned from her father while he taught her how to sail. Louis, a native New Yorker, is jealous that she has a much easier time finding where north is – revealing that getting lost is his biggest fear. They talk about a children’s survival camp where the kids are taught to think like animals – in order to teach them survival, and how to keep themselves from getting lost.

Liz tells Louis about her last name, Migliaccio, and how she learned to spell her it using the tune of the Mickey Mouse theme – admitting that it was not until the age of 12 that she got it down. She explains the importance of her last name and how if she got married she would want to keep hers.

Along with having trouble spelling, Liz had a tough time learning in school. She mentions that she was originally placed in special education. We learn about her love for the outdoors and her appreciation for different learning styles. Liz knows she would have learned much more as a kid if subjects like math and science were combined with things she enjoyed like cooking.

They expand on the topic, explaining that learning and teaching have many elements at play (timing, luck, who the teacher is to you, who you are at the time, etc.) Liz tells Louis that she studied at ImprovBoston while she was at school at Emerson and improv did not click for her at the time – so she never counts those four years. She was constantly looking to be funny until she found Magnet – that’s when it all clicked. She went to see a Level 1 show and realized that it looked like everyone was having fun.

Louis compares this revelation to Liz’s idea of “chemistry with cooking” – how it is sometimes easier to learn when you have fun and have a community. Both of them agree that they constantly feel stimulated by others when they are surrounded by improvisers. They laugh about how accustomed you become [as an improviser] to sharp brilliance so it is hard to be surrounded by people outside of improv, who Louis refers to as “muggles.”

At some point, Liz discovered that she would have much deeper connections with people with whom she shared a community. She didn’t fully get into “Liz Migliaccio” until about three years ago when she got out of television. At the time she delved completely into the magic of improv. Liz also talks here about getting into yoga and self-discovery.

They describe the twin-like relationship between grandiose ego and what Liz calls “healthy ego.” The topic switches to our current president, his ego, and how we all have tiny presidents inside of us. The two hit on the topic of nature and how it is necessary to experience it and be humbled by it. Liz dives into her respect for the ocean and nature in general, capping it with a story about the first time she almost drowned.

As a fan of exercise, and movement in general, Liz speaks more about her experience with yoga and becoming a certified yoga instructor. She discusses originally being very stoic but now being someone who enjoys being vulnerable and crying (which she learned through yoga and improv). Liz and Louis compare yoga teachers with improv teachers and the similarities between them. They discuss the simplistic ways that the directors in both worlds can be much better teachers than others.

They tie together the conversation by bringing up the topic of twins again, this time Liz talks about being a twin sister. She describes it as coming into the world with her best friend and getting to share it with her. That’s pretty darn nice, ain’t it?

 

Wednesday June 14, 2017, 6:30am - by Magnet Theater

 

Musical improv maestro, ALI REED, joins host Louis Kornfeld on another episode of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The conversation hits a variety of topics including living in Kentucky, comparing sports to performing improv, and the pleasures of working with musical director Frank Spitznagel. We find out how Ali is able to balance her schedule as one of the busiest people in musical improv and learn about her ambitious plans for the future of the artform! Huzzah!

Catching us up on her life, Ali tells us that she has had a packed schedule for the past nine months and Louis refers to her as the busiest person in musical improv. They discuss momentum and how it can be helpful to have a full schedule.

In the beginning of the episode, Louis asks Ali about growing up in Kentucky. Doing her civic duty, Ali defines what bourbon is – explaining that if it’s not from Kentucky, it’s not bourbon – and we learn about the importance of Louisville basketball and how it was difficult for Ali to be a fan of their rival, University of Kentucky, while she was surrounded by Cardinal fans throughout college.

On the topic of sports, Ali compares being an athlete to being a performer and Louis imagines that playing sports would be similar to performing improv. Ali agrees but thinks that the subjectivity of performing makes it such that she’s harder on herself – adding that it’s easier when there is a win or a loss.

Ali and Louis take a trip down memory lane to talk about how Ali came to be the hardest working woman in musical improv. On the suggestion from an ex-boyfriend, who had had been taking UCB classes in LA, Ali went online to see if any classes were available. She saw that an improv 101 class has just started registering that night and signed up immediately. She and Louis discuss the solidarity of improv classes and Ali says that she is still friends with everyone from her improv 101 class!

Eventually, Ali found her way to musical improv. A friend of hers said that he was going to do a musical improv class at Magnet to which she replied, “Oh, hell yeah.” Since then, she has been bitten by the “Magnet bug.” Sharing her love with us, Ali teaches Louis about different strategies in musical improv. Louis compares it to regular improv and Ali discusses how performing musical improv is similar to putting on that album that you like while you’re in a certain mood – but it’s much more intense.

They talk about Magnet musical director Frank Spitznagel and his incredible knowledge of music, always able to seamlessly integrate various types of musical elements brought up by suggestions of a genre, television shows, specific musicals, etc. Ali talks about how lucky she feels to have had Frank as a teacher and to share the stage with him.

They explore the bravery that goes into musical improv and how Ali often forgets that it IS brave. She is reminded by it when people come up and tell her “Oh, I could never do that.”  They also talk about the benefits of being located in New York, in comparison to LA or Chicago, because of all of the Broadway folks who are willing to coming sing and perform in musical improv.

Diving further into the artform, Ali wants there to be a more authentic, truthful place for musical improv – instead of just songs about butts (which she also loves). When she teaches, she finds that taking the mundane scenes and heightening them can become the funniest and most touching songs. Louis concurs and mentions a musical improv show he saw that capitalized on those tiny “slice of life” scenes and ended up enhancing the characters’ emotions.

As the episode comes to an end, we learn about Ali’s dream for the future of musical improv. She lets us in on her ambitious plans – stating that she will build her own musical improv empire in New York City.

Wednesday June 7, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

Daughter of the wind, KEILANA DECKER, joins our host Louis Kornfeld in episode #125 of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The two dig deep into the topic of “having fun” and the trouble they both have with it. Both of them share their appreciation for fellow Magnet personality Charlie Nicholson –  including a hilarious story involving Charlie’s toothbrush – and as always, we learn about different improv tricks and strategies from Louis and Keilana alike.

At the beginning of the episode, Keilana reveals that she has prepared for this recording by listening to other episodes of the podcast and fears that she will simply regurgitate dialogue she’s already heard. Keilana tells us about going home to Chico, CA recently and she and Louis chat about going home to see their parents and how belittling it can feel.

Speaking of home, Keilana talks about leaving hers and coming to NYC to do improv. At first, she was so intrigued and confused by how these experienced improvisers were able to have fun while performing and Louis connects with Keilana over the idea of having a hard time “having fun” on stage. Louis draws a line in the sand and says that he doesn’t like fun because “fun is cheap.” Our host and guest digress a bit, admitting that there is a benefit in allowing yourself to being exposed in front of people who are in a position of accepting and supporting you. Keilana talks about the different levels of exposure, giving the example of how she felt like she wasn’t able to tell improv teammates if and when she didn’t feel good about her performance. Tangents aside, Keilana and Louis circle back around to the topic of having fun and Louis provides the following analogy: “I love dancing – except when there are other people around doing it.”

Louis talks about a book he is reading that explores how different people deal with their wounds: people who use their wounds to better themselves and people who give into their wounds – the “born losers.”  Our two heroes realize that they are both people who don’t like the excessive amount of attention improv necessitates, but who love the art form nonetheless. Louis describes improv as airing out your wounds publicly (for about 20 minutes) and they both relate to how scary and empowering that can be.

We hear about Keilana’s newest love: spontaneous one-person applause. She tells us about her appreciation for the recognition in the one person who is willing to clap by themselves, which means more than simply laughing along with everyone else, of which she says, “You can laugh because you don’t understand something.” Of this kind of bold self-expression, Keilana is reminded of her appreciation for Charlie Nicholson (her Bodywork team member). She talks about a fun game he plays by hiding his toothbrush around her apartment when he stays over. Louis describes Charlie as a person who is willing to try out something new, that hasn’t been done, just to see what happens with it.

To round out the episode, Keilana and Louis discuss how a really good scene just requires one “yes, and,” how improv helps us harness the childlike wonder we’ve forgotten about, and why cleverness has a habit of ruining improv scenes. Plus, Louis describes a dream he thinks everyone has had (no one has) and Keilana builds a beautiful metaphorical firework.

 

Wednesday May 31, 2017, 12:43pm - by Magnet Theater

 

Hot 97 DJ turned improviser, CIPHA SOUNDS, sits down with our host Louis Kornfeld to tackle a variety of subjects in the improv world including diversity in improv, trying out for Harold teams, and how their improvising skills translate to daily life. Cipha gives a lesson on what white people love and tells Louis how he has used these secrets to perfect the ideal improv show. Cipha also plugs his two new shows coming out and explains how they will aid him in his mission: spreading the word about improv comedy.

We begin our episode with Louis asking Cipha about a rumor he’d heard: Did Cipha once skip a DJing gig while on tour with Jay-Z and Beyonce to do an improv show? It turns out that the rumors are true and Cipha admits that when Christina Gausas asked him to sit in on a “Maravilla” show, he just couldn’t say no! Cipha talks about being the host of the Hot 97 morning show for years – the most popular time slot – and how that job gave him a lot of responsibility. That responsibility added stress and finally, an associate at Hot 97 told him to get check out improv as it might help to loosen him up and relax. He went to see Harold night at UCB, signed up for a class soon after, and continued watching shows constantly. Though Cipha felt out of place at first and simply marveled in the initial magic of watching improv, he soon started to figure out strategies to conquer it. After seeing Connor Ratliff kick someone’s head off of a roof he decided, “Okay. This is what I do now”.

Unfortunately, in his 101 class, Cipha did not feel like he was as involved as he could be. One person that helped him get his footing was UCB veteran Chris Gethard, who saw Cipha tweet that he was taking classes and has since offered him advice many times over. He even let Cipha sit in on a practice session with a team he was coaching, something Cipha describes as “getting a free show but with notes.” Tracking his development at UCB up until the present, Louis asks Cipha about his UCB East improv show “Take It Personal,” which he briefly describes as, “ASSSSCAT for hip-hop.” The show involves Cipha bringing on guests from the hip-hop world to tell stories that serve as inspiration for the show’s improv.

How did “Take It Personal” come to be? Cipha went from failing to make a Harold team to running a Friday night show that’s lasted four years now. Cipha tells Louis about his first time not getting onto a Harold team, talking about how he cried in a restaurant when he read the names of the people who got on, his name absent from the list. Since then, he’s built a show that combines his two loves – hip-hop and improv – and he’s done it by appealing to the traditional audiences of both arts. How? One secret that Cipha lets us in on: he knows what white people love. You’ll have to listen for Cipha’s complete list, but he knew that for his first “Take It Personal,” he wanted to jam-pack the show and its promotions with as many things as he could: a martial artist, someone reading RZA lyrics, the actor who played Marlo on The Wire, and of course his guest, N.O.R.E.

This attempt at bringing together hip-hop and improv audiences leads Louis to ask Cipha about diversity in the improv world. They discuss how people from different backgrounds may understand certain references and how to bridge the gaps between improvisers’ backgrounds. Cipha talks about how he got his comedy start doing stand up in the “urban scene” and how he’s always hated how people try to split it down the middle – “urban” shows vs “regular” shows. Cipha also explains why it’s so important to spread the word about improv to a variety of people just so they come see it with their own eyes. It’s harder to get people to try it for themselves without them knowing what it is.

Talking more about improv technique and theory, Louis explains getting advice from Armando Diaz about playing “game” and both Louis and Cipha discuss their styles and strategies in improv. Louis shares about how he will most often go for the emotional part of a scene and Cipha responds by explaining why he likes to play support characters. They also talk about being a good listener, “half-ideas,” and using physicality to get into character. Louis recollects some wise words of advice on character and notes that you don’t want to play so close to yourself that you’re unable to see what is funny.

Cipha admits that improv has helped him battle a lifelong proclivity towards shyness and says that thanks to improv, he is not afraid to go anywhere now or talk to anyone. This revelation surprises Louis, who would think that as a radio DJ, Cipha wouldn’t have issues with shyness, but Cipha describes how being a DJ or even a stand up can be incredibly isolating and doesn’t necessarily help get you out of your shell the way working on a team does.

Louis and Cipha delve into the world of stand up and how the crowd differs from improv audiences. They talk about how it’s easier to notice that one person in the crowd who’s not enjoying the show and Louis brings up a certain improv show he did where a Russian couple was breaking up in the front row during throughout his set. He had no idea until after!

To cap things off, Cipha plugs his two shows coming out: “Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks” – a stand up comedy-based show for Tru – TV and “Hip-Hop Improv with Cipha Sounds” an improv show that will be released through Tidal. He hypes both by adding that his end goal is to spread the word about improv to the entire world.

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