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

Monday January 26, 2015, 2:06pm - by Magnet Theater

Due to the weather, ALL MAGNET CLASSES AND SHOWS have been CANCELED for tonight, Monday, January 26th. We’re not sure about Tuesday yet, but stay tuned and we’ll have an update for you by tomorrow (January 27th) at 2pm.

If you had a class today, don’t worry! We’ll reschedule! Our School Director will email you with all the details as soon as we have them worked out. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to reach out: schooldirector[at]magnettheater[dot]com.

Stay warm and stay safe, everyone!

Friday January 23, 2015, 10:59am - by Magnet Theater

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Magnet Video Lab premieres its third season on Sunday at 6pm, so we thought we’d catch up with Annie Quick, one of the driving forces behind the entire operation (along with Jim Turner and everyone’s favorite friend, Armando Diaz). We asked her a few questions over email and she was kind enough to give her insights on what makes a great video, how MVL has grown, and how important deadlines are to the process (spoiler alert: very important). Check it out!

1. Why did you start the Magnet Video Lab?
I took Sketch Level 1 & 2 at Magnet and loved the structure of it—it’s a great way to get feedback and have writing deadlines. At some point I realized that’s what I needed for a few video projects I was working on—the self-generated films that were suffering from lack of a formal work structure.

Since Jim Turner and I both work in production and he’s also at Magnet, we thought it might make sense to start a group in the style of Magnet’s sketch writing classes. Our main goal was to have each participant come out of the ten-week session with a completed video.

2. What’s a Video Lab?
At one point, Jim had pointed out we were essentially creating a salon where creators come for mutual support, but in the end we decided that lab is a better handle—it involves assignments and deadlines and an expectation that you’re obliged to show up because your lab partners are counting on you.

Jim and I spent a lot of time talking about the roadblocks we encounter when we’re working on our own films. All steps of the process are challenging. At any stage a project can flounder from lack of labor, feedback, gear, time, etc. The thing that sinks most film projects, though, is the lack of a real deadline. That’s the main thing we wanted to give everyone.

We also thought about how a beginner might dip their toes into the water and gain knowledge and confidence in the process. The Video Lab is a place where beginners and experts help each other bring their projects to life. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and pitches in.

3. What’s your favorite thing about the Magnet Video Lab?
I love that we are all working on our own things.  I know that other groups exist where everyone works on the same video together, and that’s cool too, but I think the Magnet’s program is unique because we support the individual filmmaker and help them to bring their own ideas into the world.

For me, that’s been educational because I’ve had to wear so many hats that wouldn’t if we were all working on one film. So, for instance, this session I helped one of my labmates with costuming and another session I was a DP, and for others I’ve helped out in audio.

I also take a lot away from watching other people go from blank page to done. Films are so time consuming to make, and so it’s really inspiring to be around a group of people who are finishing their stuff, and making great stuff!

4. How has MVL grown?
It’s been a trial and error process, taking a group of strangers and making them into a video-making team. At the beginning I thought of it as mostly a creative project, but it quickly turned into a lesson in group management. Jim and I have spent a lot of time tweaking the process and getting feedback from the Lab members so that each session is a bit smoother than the last. There are a crazy amount of details to handle when you have ten weeks and seven films to make.

In the first two sessions we kept it very small—only seven participants, so that we could beta test the process and figure out what we were doing. That first session Armando helped us to sort out a structure and also came to our table reads for feedback on our scripts.

In the third session our goal was to scale up a bit. We wanted to see if we could keep the level of engagement with a bigger group. We also wanted to add new people with different skill sets and experience levels. So far it’s been working great! It’s been both productive and friendly, and a great stretch for all of us.

The great thing about Magnet is that people come with comedy and story skills so even if someone doesn’t have any production knowledge, they still have a lot of useful feedback to give and a lot of talent to draw on.

5. What is your role?
I am part teacher, part student, part manager, part strategizer, part director, part production assistant. The first two sessions I did a lot of  teaching about editing and post production, while Jim handled a lot of the shooting guidance. In our third session, people are more up to speed in those areas and we can be a little more hands off.

6. What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to comedians creating their own videos?
Is it okay if I have three? I can’t pick just one.

First, learn to edit. It’s the most time-consuming part of filmmaking and the hardest to get someone else to do well. If you learn to edit you can control the pacing and, essentially, how funny something is. It’s also the point where a lot of projects get derailed. If you’re controlling that step you can make sure it gets out there.

Second, I’d say pay attention to capturing good audio. If, as a beginner, you learn that well, your videos will be 30% more credible right out of the gate.

Third, remember film is different than live. It’s pretty hard to retrofit stage pieces or improv into a watchable video. So start from scratch and write for film, at least while you’re in the beginning stages.

7. What’s your favorite internet video of all time?
Maybe this is cliché, but I’m standing by Dramatic Chipmunk. Love that guy.

Once again, thanks to Annie for all this awesome info! Don’t miss the screening of Magnet Video Lab’s third season this Sunday at 6pm. Did we mention it’s free? Because it is. See you there!

Wednesday January 21, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Oscarm Montoya Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

From his young days dancing cumbia in Colombia through his college years at SUNY Purchase and onto his professional life as a comedian in NYC, Oscar Montoya has always kept it real. He joins host Louis Kornfeld on this week’s episode of the podcast to discuss the college they both attended,  transitioning from a world of dance into one of comedy, and what he finds most important in improv. Oscar talks about opening up to improv as an art and allowing improv to open him up as a person. Louis asks him about his monthly variety show, Ethnic Realness, and they chat about the importance of improvising because you want something that speaks to you and how adding more voices to the mix only makes it relate to more people. Communication in king in Oscar’s world and he forces us to posit: Improv has to speak to you, or else, why would you do it?

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #28 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday January 21, 2015, 6:15am - by Magnet Theater

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 5.13.29 PM
We’re looking for eager improvisers (prerequisite: completion of Level 1) to participate in warm-ups and exercises run by the students in Armando’s coaching class. All the details are below—but keep in mind that space is limited. Hope to see you there!

When to be available: Saturdays, January 31st-February 14th from 1:00-3:00pm

How to sign up: Simply send an email to schooldirector@magnettheater.com with the subject line: “COACHING CLASS VOLUNTEER.” Please include your full name and phone number.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (212) 244-2400.

Monday January 19, 2015, 2:00pm - by Magnet Theater


We’ve got a brand-new training center! We’re so excited!

As of Saturday, Jan. 24, we’ll be beginning the process of moving classes, rehearsals, writing meetings, etc. over to our new space at 22 W. 32nd Street on the 10th floor. Things might be a little hectic for a while, so please bear with us, but we’ll do our best to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone.

What does all this mean? We now have 10 classrooms, a studio theater, a dedicated writers’ room and more than two bathrooms (so luxurious!). Simply put, it’s a bigger, better space to keep up with our growing needs as a training ground for the best comedic minds in the world.

This is a new, exciting chapter for us and it wouldn’t be possible without your enthusiasm, hard work, and continued brilliance.

Thanks for being the best community around. Stop by and check out the new digs when you can!

Wednesday January 14, 2015, 12:00pm - by Magnet Theater


**Update** — Sketch Club now meets Sundays 3-5pm.

Sketch Club is a drop-in sketch writing workshop devoted to qualified sketch students and performers who are interested in developing and performing their own material. The drop-in will meet on Saturdays 3-6pm beginning February 7th. Members of Sketch Club will workshop original sketches every week at a table read run by Armando Diaz. Participants will be encouraged to try out their sketches at the soon-to-premiere “Generator” show on Sundays at 6pm. Interested in participating? Email SketchClub@magnettheater.com for more information!

Wednesday January 14, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Branson Reese Podcast Subscribe with iTunes


The Devil himself, Branson Reese, joins us on this episode of the podcast as he sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to discuss performing for children, the links between rock music and improv, and why he hates the term “flawless.” Branson tells us about his work with Story Pirates and why children make the most honest audiences. He and Louis also get into the topic of process as product as it relates to both improv and rock and roll and Branson pitches a book that everyone should read. You’ll hear all about Branson’s work with sketch team The Junk Brothers, plus his philosophical take on mythological tricksters like Loki, and of course, the Devil.

Extra Bonus: Find out why Branson screams in all of his shows!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #27 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday January 14, 2015, 6:30am - by Magnet Theater


We’ve had a few jobs open up and we’d love to tell you about ‘em! Check out all the details below and if you think you’d be a great fit, we want to hear from you.

Part-Time Training Center Assistant (Evenings)

We’re looking for a friendly, responsible and detail-oriented office assistant to open, close and maintain the Magnet Theater Training Center. Hours are from 6-11pm MondaySunday. We’re looking for several candidates that can regularly work at least 2-3 nights a week.


-Knowledge of MS Office Suite and Goggle Apps

-Ability to to lift 15 lbs.

-Please be personable, calm, efficient and detail-oriented—and of course, a sense of humor is a plus!

Please send resume and cover letters to magnet@magnettheater.com.

House Manager

Always wanted to be “on house?” We’re looking for responsible, personable and generally unflappable folks to join our crew of House Managers at the Magnet Theater.

Interested? Email your resume and salary requirements to Quinton@Magnettheater.com.


We’ll get in touch with those we’d like to interview, so please don’t call or email about the positions. Thanks!

Monday January 12, 2015, 4:43pm - by Megan Gray


Hold on to your NuvaRings. The Lady Sketch Show is back—and this year, we want YOU to help us make it bigger and better than ever!

Here’s how it’ll work:

We’ll be meeting on Saturdays 12-3 at the new Magnet Training Center (22 West 32nd Street, 10th floor) for six weeks starting January 31st.

You’ll bring in a mix of new and rewritten sketches each week (1 or 2). We’ll give each other feedback for rewrites. The best sketches will be put into the final shows (March 16th, 23rd and 30th at 7pm).

For the first meeting all we ask is that you bring in is:

1. An example of a sketch that you saw on TV or staged and why you love it.
2. An example of something that happened in your day/week/month/life that you thought was really funny. Anything.

THAT’S IT! You don’t even have to write anything just yet. Give it a try.


But I’ve never written sketch or taken a sketch class.
That’s totally fine. We still want you.

But I really can’t write. Can I just perform?
You can get involved as a performer only. Come to the meeting anyway. You might find yourself accidentally writing something amazing.

But I can’t perform/memorize lines.
You can just write then.

I write better with a partner. I can’t do this on my own.
You and your (female) partner can present co-written material at meetings. Alternatively, if you realize you really like working with someone at the meetings, you can go off and write together.

I can’t make all the meetings.
Come when you can. What ends up in the show will be the best material, meaning it will probably have been presented to the group and rewritten a number of times, but feel free to show up when you can.

Is this going to be a comedy show only about periods and tampons?
No, it will be about whatever you decide to write.

But I’m still scared.
Follow your fear. Remember how hard improv used to seem before you actually tried it?

More questions?
Email: megan@magnettheater.com

See you there,
Amanda Xeller, Megan Gray & Chet Siegel



Wednesday January 7, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Lee Overtree Podcast magnetituneslogo-PODCASTsmall

Lee Overtree, Artist Director of Story Pirates and writer/director of FOUND The Musical, sits down with our own Louis Kornfeld for a discussion on effective education, how children are amazing writers, and his experience in adapting unconventional source material for the stage. Story Pirates is a nationally respected education and media organization founded in 2003 to celebrate the words and ideas of young people and Lee has been there from the very beginning. He and Louis discuss improv in the classroom and on the stage and Lee asserts that desire drives learning. He also shares how the Story Pirates get kids to have fun with expository writing and talks about the Story Pirates Podcast. True to his Story Pirates roots, Lee grants Louis “permission to get weird” in this episode and it concludes with a lively talk about FOUND The Musical, a new show based on Found Magazine, and how sometimes the best direction to take a project is the most obvious.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #26 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.