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

Magnet Theater Blog

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.

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

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!!

Friday June 30, 2017, 10:00am - by Magnet Theater

We talk with Magnet co-founder Ed Herbstman about working with producer Judd Apatow on “The Big Sick”

Magnet co-founder and actor, Ed Herbstman, plays Sam Highsmith in one of this summer’s most anticipated comedies, “The Big Sick,” starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Aidy Bryant, Bo Burnham, Kurt Braunohler, and David Alan Grier. Directed by Michael Showalter, “The Big Sick” is produced by the legendary comedy writer/director/producer Judd Apatow. In this very special feature, we sit down with Ed for the inside scoop on working with Judd Apatow!

MAGNET: So, what was it like to work with comedy powerhouse Judd Apatow?

EH: I don’t know. I didn’t actually work with him. He was the producer.

M: As a producer, was Judd fun to work with?

EH: He wasn’t there. Michael Showalter directed it. He was great.

M: We’ve always heard that Judd is really a blast on set. Was that your experience?

EH: I’ve heard that too. But again, Judd Apatow wasn’t on set any of the days I worked. Kumail Nanjiani was there, and so was his wife and co-writer Emily V. Gordon. They were great. Funny, warm, playful – truly some of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with.

M: Yes! Of course. This is really Kumail and Emily’s project. And as a producer, Judd Apatow must have his fingerprints all over it.

EH: I can’t really speak to that. I can tell you that my favorite part was improvising with Kumail, Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant and Kurt Braunohler. Showalter really let us play. I play Sam Highsmith, a stand-up comic who–

M: Is Judd Apatow a good dad?

EH: What?

M: Judd Apatow?

EH: That’s not a question.

M: Knocked Up.

EH: We done?

M: Bye!

Thanks so much to Ed Herbstman for sitting down with us to provide an inside look into what it’s like to work with big time Hollywood producer Judd Apatow. Go see “The Big Sick” in theaters now!

 

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?

Wednesday June 28, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

hot air baloons (small 2)

Announcing the 2017 Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program

The Magnet is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the 2017 Magnet Diversity Scholarships. The Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program was established in 2016 to provide access to improv classes to those 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.

Those selected will receive full program scholarships for Magnet’s Improv program, covering Levels One through Level Four. Contingent upon acceptance, Level 5 and Team Performance Workshop will also be included. Due to the limited number of full scholarships and the expected number of applicants, applications will be competitive. Applicants who were not awarded a scholarship last year are welcome to re-apply.

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. The scholarships are open to those who have never studied at Magnet, as well as to those who have partially completed the program. Up to $30,000 worth of scholarships will be awarded at the conclusion of the selection process.

Applications are due July 31, by midnight, and can be filled out here. The application includes general information and short essay questions. Selected students will be notified by Monday, August 14.

There will be an Open House at the Magnet Theater on Saturday, July 8 from 12 – 3 pm. Prospective applicants are encouraged to attend to meet with current Magnet performers and Diversity Scholars. There will also be an informal Diversity Jam for interested people to improvise on stage.

Please email diversityscholars@magnettheater.com or Rick@magnettheater.com for any questions.

Click here to apply for the Scholarship.

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.

Monday June 26, 2017, 6:47pm - by Magnet Theater

large_thecircuit
We are now accepting applications for The Summer 2017 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 July 5, 2017, at noon. Teams will be announced July 8. Rehearsals start the weekend of July 15. Shows will begin Friday, July 21. Teams will perform Friday nights at 10:00 pm for 10 weeks (with one week off for Labor Day weekend).

To sign up for The Circuit, click this link to fill out the form:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc5UINIQf4uUHsaF0FEkRbTkyzLQTc5ayBc3S5XWlcgvzRQiA/viewform

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 apply for Musical Circuit here:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeIxodoz3G0VZwn14jwzpntUqiRkEX5cg8GDZ3cUcEPFtHcHA/viewform

Questions? Just email circuit@magnettheater.com!

Thursday June 22, 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?

Billy Soco

Which team or show are you on?

Hot Charles and Kittyhawk

Where are you from?

Florida

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I took a free improv class at Magnet with Hannah Chase. It was magical and saved my life!

How long have you been performing/writing?

Couple years in comedy now though I was in a rap group in college. That counts, right?

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

Mindy Kaling, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Dick Van Dyke for both. Would love to write with Joss Whedon.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

Conan O’Brien, Martin Short, Aziz Ansari, and Fall Out Boy.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

A great tag run. Irrational or unreasonable justifications or sentiments spoken from an unflinchingly committed straight face. Teener, Taul, Gehrig and Birdman…UGH, so good. Also farts.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

A mix of songs from Deja Entendu by Brand New, The Con by Tegan & Sara, Pinkerton by Weezer, Here, My Dear by Marvin Gaye, Buhloone Mind State by De La Soul, Morning View by Incubus, and a crap ton of pop punk, Tom Petty, Prince, Queen and J Dilla.

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

“What’s your name?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

I’m probably performing or watching a friend perform but you know what? Let me check my calendar and I’ll tell you exactly. If not, let’s hang!

If animals could talk, which one would be the rudest?

Raccoons. 100%. They’re all up in everyone’s business and home and trash and have no sense of boundaries which leads me to believe that if they could talk they would be super vocal about their likely unfair opinions of others and, you know, if you don’t have anything nice to say, finish stealing cat food from those cats with your creepy little raccoon hands and be on your way.

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?