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

Tuesday July 5, 2016, 10:54am - by Magnet Theater

Ringers Newsletter

Applications are now open for Ringers’ August Show. Ringers is a sketch show for aspiring, eager, and ambitious writers, actors, and directors of the Magnet community – and we want you to be a part of it!

The show will be Sunday, August 21st at 7:30pm.

Below please see the details to apply:


Ringers is seeking sketches for the stage to showcase in its August show. To have your sketch considered, prior or current participation in Magnet’s Sketch Writing program, Lady Sketch Lab, or Magnet Video Lab is required. You will be required to attend the Table Read on Friday, August 5th from 6:30 – 8:30 as well as the show. Attendance of rehearsals is encouraged, but is not mandatory. We encourage directors and writers to meet up after the table read to go over notes and any revisions prior to the first rehearsal.

*Please note that rehearsals will be held before/after class hours during the week and weekend.*

To apply, please fill out the following form: http://goo.gl/forms/KLIixy4RxOTMzDRZ2 as well as email ringers@magnettheater.com a finished, polished sketch formatted correctly no longer than 5 pages in length. This sketch should also contain little to no tech.


Ringers is seeking actors to star in its sketches. To be considered as an actor, you must have completed at least Level 4 of Magnet’s Improv Curriculum or Level 2 of the Musical Program. You will be required to attend the Table Read on Friday, August 5th from 6:30 – 8:30, the rehearsals for the sketch(es) you are cast in, and the show.

*Please note that rehearsals will be held before/after class hours during the week and weekend.*

To apply to be an actor for an upcoming show, please fill out the following form: http://goo.gl/forms/vvLveYjEwSotPUz32


Ringers is seeking directors for its August show. To be considered as a director, you must have Big Sib’ed a Sketch Level 2 class or have been on a Magnet Sketch Team. You will be required to attend the Table Read on Friday, August 5th from 6:30 – 8:30, the rehearsals for the sketch(es) you are directing, and the show. We encourage directors and writers to meet up after the table read to go over notes and any revisions prior to the first rehearsal.

*Please note that rehearsals will be held before/after class hours during the week and weekend.*

To apply to be a director for a sketch in an upcoming show, please fill out the following form: http://goo.gl/forms/sPkS9gIGeAYB3Djx1

**The deadline to be considered for Ringers’ August show is Wednesday, July 20th. Announcements will go out Wednesday, July 27th**

For all questions please e-mail Armando Diaz and Amanda Xeller at ringers@magnettheater.com. We look forward to working with you!

Monday June 20, 2016, 3:03pm - by Magnet Theater


We are now accepting applications for The Summer 2016 Circuit! Circuit Teams are made up of Magnet Theater students, graduates of our training program, and veteran performers. We believe that in order to get better at improv, you need to do it.

The deadline to apply is June 28, 2016 at noon. Teams will be announced July 5. Rehearsals start the weekend of July 9. Shows will begin Friday July 22. Teams will perform Friday nights at 10:00pm for 10 weeks (with one week off for Labor Day weekend).

This round, there will also be a Musical Circuit team! If you have completed Musical Level 3 and are not currently on a Musical Megawatt team, you can contact Michael Lutton at mjlutton@gmail.com for more information.


To sign up, click this link to fill out the form:

Questions? Just email circuit@magnettheater.com!

Wednesday June 15, 2016, 5:41pm - by Magnet Theater


The Magnet Theater is excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2016 Fall/Winter Season of MAGNET SKETCH TEAMS, which will run from September 12th through Jan 30th! Applications are due by Monday, August 1st, at 5pm!

Please read the following application instructions and sketch team participant expectations very carefully – we’ve made some very big changes to the program. Got questions? Come to the Fall 2016 Sketch Team info sessions Wednesday, June 29th at 6pm at the TC.


  • Each team will create one 20-25 minute sketch show every three to four  weeks.

  • All sketch team shows will be on Monday nights at 7:30pm! Two teams will perform in each show.

  • All sketch team shows must contain new, original material written specifically for Magnet Sketch Night that has never been previously performed.

  • Each show will contain the best material created for the team as selected by the director – there is no guarantee that every writer will get a sketch in each show or that every actor will be featured in each show. Funny wins. Them’s the breaks.

  • All sketches will be performed by the team’s ensemble cast of sketch actors. If a particular sketch requires it, the team may use outside casting (writers, other actors) at the director’s discretion.


  • Sketch team members are expected to attend all required meetings and shows and arrive fully prepared. Sketch is time intensive – make sure you can commit 100% and make sketch a priority before applying.

  • Sketch team members must be available 1:30-4:30pm the Sunday before their show for a mandatory tech rehearsal at the theater.

  • Sketch team members may not schedule conflicting appointments (work, rehearsals, shows, etc) during scheduled techs, shows, rehearsals, or meetings.

  • Sketch teams must rehearse with a Magnet approved director. Each individual sketch team member is responsible for paying their director a flat rate of $12/week; team due collection is left to the discretion of the director and team (as it would be for an improv team or practice group).

  • Sketch team members are expected to promote their shows at the theater.

For the Fall/Winter 2016 Sketch Season, you must apply as a writer, performer, or a writer/performer. Expectations, prerequisites, and application instructions for each role are below!


  • Writers must attend one 3 hour writing meeting per week, all performance rehearsals of their sketches, and all tech rehearsals.

  • Writers must constantly generate new material and are required to bring in a minimum of one new sketch per week, even during show week.

  • Writers are expected to be respectful and gracious collaborators in writing room. Writers should give and receive feedback to and from their teammates in an open and constructive manner.

  • Writers will be required to rewrite material and meet deadlines as requested by their director.


  • Completion of (or current enrollment in) Magnet Sketch Writing Level 2 or previous participation on a Magnet Sketch team (as any role).

  • Equivalent sketch writing experience somewhere else!


Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.com with the subject line, “2016 FALL/WINTER MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// WRITER // <YOUR NAME>”.

  • A cover letter detailing relevant sketch experience inside and outside the Magnet community.
  • If your comedy experience is mostly outside of the Magnet Theater, you must provide the email address for a reference.
  • A single PDF of a sketch writing sample. Your sample should contain at least two sketches and may not exceed 10 pages.


  • Performers must be available for a regularly scheduled 2-3 hour performance rehearsal the week leading up to the show (ex: Sketch Team Fart Police has a performance rehearsal every Tuesday before a show, 7-10pm)

  • Performers must be available for techs, table reads, and any additional rehearsals as required by the director.

  • Performers must learn all show material in a timely manner.

  • Performers may collaborate with writers outside of rehearsals to help create characters and sketches, but performers should not be writing material on their own for shows.

  • Performers must perform sketches as they are written – ad libbing is good in a pinch, but be prepared and don’t put yourself in positions where you must resort to improvisation. Be polished and professional in all shows.


  • Completion of or current enrollment in Level 6 team performance workshop, participation in a past or current Megawatt team, or previous participation in a Magnet Sketch Team (as any role).

  • Equivalent sketch performing experience somewhere else! You must also provide a contactable reference who knows your work well.


Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.com with the subject line,


  • A cover letter detailing relevant performance experience inside and outside the Magnet community.

  • A headshot

  • A PDF of your acting resume

  • A SINGLE link to a 3-5 minute sample of your work as a performer. This can be a reel, a recording of a stage sketch, a video sketch, a monologue directed at a webcam, anything you feel showcases you as a comedic performer. Youtube or Vimeo preferred. The link can be public, private, or unlisted – just be sure to send passwords if necessary and you may only send one link and the link itself may be no longer than 5 minutes.

You will be informed by Monday, September 8th, if you have been selected to audition in person. In-person auditions will be held on Friday, August 12th, and Saturday, August 13th at the Magnet Training Center. Unfortunately, if you are not available for the above callback dates, you cannot be considered as a performer for the 2016 Fall/Winter Sketch Season.

For the in-person audition, you will perform two contrasting sketches that will be assigned to you and another applicant a couple days prior to the audition. You must be completely off-book and you may rehearse before hand with your scene partner, at your discretion. You will also be asked to cold read sketches in the room.


  • Writer/performers must meet all writer expectations AND performer expectations.

  • Writer/performers are expected to write for other performers as well as for themselves. There is no guarantee that a writer/performer will perform in all of their own work.


  • Writer/performers must meet all writer AND performer prerequisites or previous participation on a Magnet Sketch team (as any role) or equivalent experience somewhere else.


Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.com with the subject line,


  • All materials detailed in writer application instructions.

  • All materials detailed in performer application instructions.

  • Also, please indicate if you are willing to be considered as a writer or actor ONLY if you are not selected for a writer/performer position. Be completely honest – your preferences will not be held against you!

You will be informed by Monday, August 8th, if you have been selected to audition in person. See performer application instructions above for more info about the audition.

Failure to follow application instructions will keep you from being considered for sketch team. Double check your application!

All applications must be received by 5pm on Monday, August 1st!  

Wednesday June 15, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Scott Lawrie 2Subscribe with iTunes

Founding member of Magnet mainstays The Wrath, SCOTT LAWRIE, tells us how he got into improv, of his time working in broadcast television, and what it means to be “taken care of” on stage. Learn a bit about Scott’s upbringing, his penchant for preparedness, the hallmarks of field production, and his love of The Golden Girls. We love Scott. Scott loves you. And you’ll love Scott after listening to this (if you don’t already). Check it!

Our episode kicks off by discussing Scott’s love of “dream characters” and how he was roped into improv in the first place. A fan favorite on Magnet’s stage, Scott says she started improvising relatively late after getting a career in broadcast news off the ground. He tells of how his predilection for preparation has influenced his life and eventually, his comedy. Taking improv classes got Scott saying “yes” more often and highlighted how numerous shifts in power could be. Looking to dig a bit deeper, Louis asks Scott where his comedic sensibility comes from and identifies two of Scott’s improv trademarks. Scott illuminates some of the advantages of growing up with financial concerns and other life challenges while also discussing with Louis the ideas of awareness in the world and being in touch with oneself.

Venturing into another aspect of Scott’s background, Louis inquires about his career in broadcast journalism and working at NBC. One thing that hooked Scott on the field while he was studying it in college was the ultimate goal of helping people tell their stories. He talks a bit about working as a producer in Las Vegas and then deciding to give NYC a try, which has turned into an 11 year experiment. Getting into the nitty gritty, Louis and Scott discuss the hallmarks of field producing, accountability and ethics in media, and what Scott looks for when watching the news now. He also steps us through his path from broadcast news to broadcast comedy! Scott worked for years at The Colbert Report (from nearly the very start to its end) and more recently, at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. How did improv help him make that life shift?

Wading further into the improv waters, Scott tries to answer what it means to be “taken care of” on stage. He talks about lucking out with his first and only team, The Wrath, holding onto their sacred rehearsal time, and how it’s the best way to end a tough Monday. Louis identifies one of improv’s greatest byproducts and where it comes from, and Scott (perhaps) coins the term, “Thelma & Louise’ing it together.” Louis makes mention of power in improv and how The Wrath’s comedy has a way of always hitting hard. For over four years now, they’ve given the Magnet comedy that is personal and yet pointed at society. How do they do it? What does Scott look for when improvising? To answer these questions, and those beyond, Scott and Louis discuss the television shows Designing Women and The Golden Girls. Scott notes the relation of these shows to young gay men and Louis draws the fine line between order as a force of evil and order as an agent of good.

To close, we’re sad to inform you that Scott will soon be moving to the West Coast, but it sure sounds like he crushed it in New York. We’ll miss you, Scott!

Wednesday June 1, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Ali Fisher Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Queen of stage and backstage alike, The Cast’s ALI FISHER, stops by to talk about who we are as humans, why books are so damn cool, and the wonders of genre! Ali and Louis explore how cooperation helps humanity succeed, what Ali absolutely loves about her role as editor at a sci-fi, fantasy, and horror publisher, and why The Cast is so damn incredible. It’s a beautiful episode with beautiful people so just listen to it already!

Our heroes begin this fantastic episode by acknowledging confusion in the world and that we do not know the future. Ali talks about a Wait But Why post that she never finished and it gets them talking about humanity. Louis believes our sense of cooperation lifts us much higher than each of us would be capable of alone and Ali seems to agree. To make things even better, Louis offers up an X-Men analogy that fanboys should do their best not to examine too closely. They discuss the matters of self-awareness and asking, “Who am I?” to which we can only answer, “Evan, Producer.” The rabbit hole is so deep and glorious, we find Louis offering up a comparison between improv comedy and reincarnation.

Running in parallel to Ali’s life as an improviser on stage is her work as a fiction editor off stage. Louis inquires about Ali’s position as an editor within the young adult branch of a fantasy, sci-fi, and horror publishing house. She names some of the books from her past she’s found most formative and tells us what she looks for when reading new works. Similar to fiction, improv helps you examine unthinkable actions and experience unlikely thoughts.

Continuing their quest, Louis and Ali delve into the the topics of external expectations and destiny. Ali articulates the beauty of eating together while Louis pontificates on the nature of company. Isn’t it a little crazy how we all show up to improv shows just for the sake of being with people?

To round out this episode, Ali and Louis talk about the power of various genres, including comedy, and compare the entirety of Horror to the common feeling of stage fright. This leads them to discuss the genre-conquering show The Cast, with whom Ali plays every Saturday night, and to the establishment of Ali’s own personal genre.

Plus, Louis offers this challenge: “Identify with that, listeners!” Find out what it is!

Wednesday May 25, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Rob Penty Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Improviser and storyteller extraordinaire, ROB PENTY, talks about why he hates Stella, how humor can help us deal with life, and the arc of his comedy career. He and host Louis Kornfeld also discuss their complex feelings on absurd humor, what Rob loves in comedy, and of course, The Wrath – Rob’s long-running Magnet house team. There’s a
cool karate belt analogy and plenty of Penty to warm your heart. Check it out!

Louis DIVES right into a hot, controversial topic: Rob’s undying hatred of the sketch group Stella. Louis attempts to defend the trio but the best he can muster is Rob’s acknowledgement that maybe the TV show was okay. Rob challenges the notion of, “If it makes you and your friends laugh, it can make an audience laugh,” and they both offer examples of random sketches they love and/or hate. Why do people like truly absurd humor? For fans of obscure sketch shows, they recall some of The Dana Carvey Show’s best pieces.

With so much criticism of comedy up to this point in the episode, Louis switches gears to ask what Rob DOES like about comedy. They talk about bravery in comedy and how it can work for us within the greater context of our lives. One benefit they explore is the ability to laugh at something uncomfortable and how helpful that can be. Rob provides us with some background on his comedy career, starting with standup, and the arc it has taken over the years. Plus – Find out what’s been jazzing Louis about improv lately!

To bring it all home, Rob makes a cool karate belt analogy and Louis asks about his time spent with The Wrath. Give this one a listen and check out Rob’s website, Actually, It’s Rob Penty Dot Org.com

Wednesday May 18, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Matt J Weir Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Longtime Magnet fixture and Creative Consultant for MTV’s “Joking Off,” MATT J. WEIR, talks with host Louis Kornfeld about working on television shows, finding his artistic voice, and his love of artfully dumb comedy. Matt and Louis spend the first part of this episode talking about Matt’s recent experience writing scripts for “Joking Off” and how he’s adapted to the more professional side of comedy. They also discuss Matt’s infamous comedy duo, We’re Matt Weir, and how Matt got into comedy in the first place. You can catch him hosting Cathouse at Industry City Distillery in Brooklyn each month, or right now, on this podcast!

Having just come off a stint writing scripts for MTV’s “Joking Off,” Louis asks Matt all about his experience working for a big network and a television host. He walks us through what it was to be the script supervisor and what the format of the show is, for those that haven’t seen it. Matt was also writing jokes for the show’s host, stand up DeRay Davis, and discusses what he’s learned from writing for someone else’s voice. He talks further about joke writing, what it’s like in a writers room, and the professional side of comedy.

For years, Matt has been one of the hardest working people around the Magnet and Louis wants to know where that work ethic comes from. We hear about Matt’s upbringing in Pennsylvania and how he never wants to go back to loading trucks. He also credits meeting Matt B. Weir as a pivotal moment in his comedy career and one that launched him into just making shit. Together, as We’re Matt Weir, they put up countless shows and traveled the country making artfully dumb comedy.  Matt debates making comedy like fine wine versus diarrhea water and describes how he used to fill 45 minutes on a Monday night at Magnet. Louis and Matt both agree that big, broad movies have their place in the theater and then they both make cool explosion sounds.

Having firmly settled in the camp of diarrhea water, Matt discusses being true to his vision and artistic voice. He then provides us with some background on how he began his quest in film and entertainment which started as a minor interest while in school. Over time, he learned how to shoot and edit by working at his school’s media center and discovered that his calling wasn’t to be a history teacher. So, Louis asks, what’s next for Matt’s career? What does he want to do? Find out all that and more by tuning in!

Wednesday May 11, 2016, 5:53am - by Magnet Theater

Miriam Tolan Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Seasoned improviser and actor, MIRIAM TOLAN, talks with us about her days at Second City, theatricality in improv, and chasing the high that comes from long-form. Growing up outside of Chicago, Miriam was almost fell into becoming an improver and she continues to perform and teach today after doing stints in Chi-town, New York, and LA. Recently, she’s back in NYC and agreed to sit down with us to talk about her journey!

Miriam has been improvising for decades now, and Louis kicks off the episode by taking it all the way back to the beginning. Hear about the influence of SCTV as a gateway drug into comedy and how Miriam caught the improv bug. She tells us about starting at Second City while in college and how serendipitous it was that she happened to be from Chicago. Miriam says she loved every minute of her Second City experience and, to prove it, provides us with an inside view as to why. Louis recalls that she was a member of the “tall cast.” Hear Miriam all about a month-long tour experience in Texas and goofing around while on traveling with her TourCo cast.

With so much experience performing for audiences of all kinds, Louis wants to know Miriam’s gauge on crossing the line with an audience in terms of placating them versus antagonizing them. She answers with examples from Second City’s storied cast members and how different people have handled that balance. Speaking of Second City, Louis inquires about how it was coming into SC’s historically political sensibility, having been raised in a time of more character-based comedy? This leads down a delightful rabbit hole talking about ED and Jazz Freddy, two groundbreaking long-form shows in Chicago. Miriam and Louis discuss how the theatrical quality of these shows changed the improv landscape and paved the way for current acts like TJ & Dave and Stolen House. Acting and improv were two very different worlds before the formation of these groups, she says. Louis wonders if actors are looking for something different in a scene besides the laugh and while Miriam can’t answer for them all, she answers saying that she is always looking for connection.

Moving forward to today, our illustrious duo talk about making adjustments in their own shows after “going to church” by seeing an act like TJ & Dave. “How can you not overcompensate?” they ask. Louis claims that when you’re doing an impression of someone you admire, you’re doing the opposite of what makes them who they are. Miriam and Louis talk about tapping into a sense of not knowing why something works and chasing that invisible high. Miriam describes trying to find a similar sense of magic in scripted work and the challenge of such a task. At this phase, Louis wants to know, what keeps Miriam excited about this improv stuff? He also recalls his love of The Tiny Spectacular, Magnet’s one-time, uber-stacked, Saturday night show.

They end the episode discussing how Miriam approaches teaching and how long-form has a way of finding its way back to short-form. Finally, the question is answered: What’s the ulterior motive to a hug?

Wednesday May 4, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Charlie Todd Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Founder of Improv Everywhere and UCB stalwart, CHARLIE TODD, joins us to talk about causing scenes, his early days at UCB, and Two Beers In, his new political roundtable podcast! In addition to his infamous prank collective and budding podcast, Charlie plays at UCB on Saturday nights with The Curfew and has hosted UCB CageMatch on Thursday nights for the past 13 years. We’re so happy that Charlie took the time to sit down with us and we know you’re gonna love this episode!

Louis begins the episode diving full force into Improv Everywhere, but not before he describes a conflict he had just witnessed on the subway. Charlie contrasts Louis’ tale by explaining how the mission behind IE is to create positive public moments that foster community. Our duo discusses the path that IE has taken over the years and Charlie tells us about the origin of the project, which started with a Ben Folds prank. They talk further about the rise of IE in parallel with the emergence of blogs, YouTube, and internet connectedness. Charlie describes the current YouTube landscape and notes how the competition between creators and corporations has grown as of late. He also talks about branded content and how artists pay for their creative processes. Louis asks how Charlie deals with cases of when brands or other organizations co-opt IE concepts and the use of viral content for the sake of marketing.

Moving away from the business side of things, Louis wants to know which prank ideas pass Charlie’s bar for inclusion, how he feels about going global, and what it’s like organizing large groups of people to do things without a set outcome. Charlie walks us through a somewhat recent run-in with the police and tells us how IE deals with authority. Louis expresses to Charlie how the work of Improv Everywhere makes New York feel a bit smaller and you’ll find out why Charlie really hates the term “flash mob!”

Switching gears, Louis talks with Charlie about his early days at UCB. Fun fact: He heard about the UCB from Hollywood’s T.J. Miller while studying theater in England! Another fun fact: Charlie took his Level 1 with Armando back in 2001. Since he’s been around for UCB’s meteoric rise, Louis asks if Charlie was he able to see the history happening as it unfolded, or if it was more of a sudden realization? Plus, how cool was it when Conan was still in New York? Right, guys?? And it just wouldn’t be a podcast with Louis Kornfeld if they didn’t explore something philosophical like the cyclical nature of performing improv on the same stage for years on end.

Charlie and Louis wrap up this episode discussing Charlie’s newest project, Two Beers In, a tipsy political comedy podcast and live show which he co-hosts with his wife Cody Lindquist. It’s a political roundtable where everyone has chugged a couple beers before the talking starts. Do yourselves a favor and check it out!

Thursday April 28, 2016, 8:17am - by Magnet Theater

hot air baloons (small 2)

Announcing the Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program

The Magnet Theater is excited to announce the Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program for 2016. The aim of the scholarship program is to provide access to improv classes to excited and motivated students for whom money is a barrier, and to add new and diverse voices to the Magnet’s vibrant and open community.

Applications are now open for the Magnet Diversity Scholarships–those selected will receive full program scholarships through Magnet’s Improv program. The scholarships will cover Levels One through Level Four, and contingent upon acceptance, Level 5 and Team Performance.

In this first round of the program for 2016, the Magnet will be awarding up to $30,000 worth of scholarships to those selected through the application process.

We are excited to be able to offer full program scholarships, which we feel will provide the best experience to those selected. Due to the limited number of full scholarships available and the expected number of applicants, it is likely that applications will be competitive.

The Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program is aimed at increasing our diversity of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and age. Students of all experience levels are encouraged to apply, and the scholarships are open to both those who have never studied at Magnet, and to those who have partially completed the program.

Applications are now open and can be filled out here. The application includes general information, and some short essay questions. Applications are due May 18th by midnight, and we hope to notify selected students by Wednesday, June 1st.

There will be a delightful Q & A / informal brunch on Sunday, May 15th from 11am to 2pm, open to all.

For any questions, please email diversityscholars@magnettheater.com or Rick@magnettheater.com

Click here to apply.