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

Posts Tagged ‘armando diaz’

Sunday February 16, 2014, 10:47am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

matt koff

The Magnet Theater not only boasts its current roster of powerful improvisers, writers, and performers, but also celebrates those who have taken on new adventures in their lives and with their comedy.

Matt Koff, a writer for the Daily Show and stand-up, started off here at the Magnet and is now taking NYC by storm. We wanted to catch up with Matt and shine the Magnet Theater Blog Spotlight on him and his journey in comedy. I (Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller!) conducted an email interview with Matt. Below are his responses:

 

Where are you from originally?

Ardsley NY. It’s 45 minutes north of the city

 

When did you realize you wanted to get involved in comedy?

In my senior year of college. I had majored in English so going into comedy seemed like a similarly practical pursuit.

But I had been obsessed with comedy since I was a kid. In middle school I didn’t listen to music. I listened to Monty Python casette tapes.

 

What is your improv and comedy history?

HOO BOY.

I started doing sketch and improv in college at SUNY New Paltz.

Then around 2004 I moved to the city and got involved with a theater collective known as Juvie Hall. There I got involved writing for a weekly show called Saturday Night Rewritten. I met a lot of very talented people, little did I know, I’d be working with later in my career, including my current Daily Show officemate Dan McCoy and my current boss Elliott Kalan.

Armando Diaz was teaching classes at Juvie Hall. I started studying sketch and improv under him, and continued doing so when the Magnet Theater opened. I was on a few Magnet House teams while also working with an indie sketch group known as Mr. Whitepants.

Along the way there were a few small successes that indicated to me that what I was doing wasn’t a total mistake. I was hired to be a regular contributor for the Onion’s video site, a webseries that I worked on with Dan McCoy, 9 AM Meeting, was popular at Channel 101 NY screenings, and actually got us a development deal with MTV. Then Dan got hired to write for the Daily Show and had to abandon the MTV project. The development deal withered because the truth is I’d been riding Dan’s coattails during this process.

Around 2010 I stopped doing improv and sketch and decided to pursue stand-up comedy. The thing I like most about it, as opposed to improv and sketch, is that you don’t need to book rehearsal space or corral fellow team members. It’s a lot less administrative and you get to figure out how funny “you” are in your own voice, without the variables of being onstage with other people or hiding behind characters. Although, I’ve recently come back to improv and sketch and I like it a lot more now that I’ve sort of found my “groove” with stand-up.

 

What initially attracted you to the Magnet?

Armando Diaz. He is a great teacher!

 

Would you recommend that people interested in comedy start with improv? Why/why not? (if not where should they start in your opinion).

Yes. It’s great training. It teaches you how to be in the moment, which is huge for any kind of comedic performing. And it also teaches you how to think and build of ideas (if this, then what) which is huge for any kind of comedic writing. Also for networking reasons. Doing improv is a great way to bond with total strangers immediately.

But in general, I would say try every form of comedy, especially when you’re first starting out. You may be surprised at what you’re good at. I came to the city to be in a sketch group, and 10 years later I do stand-up on most nights of the week.

 

How would you describe the feel of your comedy and stand-up? What’s your style?

That’s a hard thing to say from my perspective. I guess “dry”, “Weird” maybe? Then again I know a lot of people who are a lot drier and weirder than I am. I guess you could say I tell one-liners, but that’s not intentional. I’m just bad at writing long jokes. I guess what I’m trying to say is, “don’t try and put me in a box, man.”

 

How much does audience factor into your performance? Is there a specific group of people you are playing to?

Well, for stand-up, the audience factors in a lot. If people don’t laugh at a joke, I probably won’t tell it, or at least until I work on it some more. Then again, not every audience will laugh at every joke. If a joke gets laughs more times than not, I consider it: “a joke that works.” The only group I’m playing to is “people who might find me funny.” Certain audiences you just know you’re not going to connect with as soon as you hit the stage, and you know what: THAT’S OKAY.

 

What tools do you use when creating work be it in stand-up or writing?

I tend to use a tiny notebook, a big notebook, a pen, a sausage a craisin, and Evernote. I will also workshop potential stand-up jokes on Twitter.

 

Can you talk about some of the projects you have taken on since improvising and performing here?

I co-wrote and co-voiced a webseries called “9 AM Meeting” with Dan McCoy, as mentioned before. I started a fake online campaign to raise money to buy a roomba. Last year I did a sketch show called The Matt Koff Show, which is the first sketch show I’ve ever written by myself.

 

How did you get involved with writing for Jon Stewart?

Well my old comedy buddy Dan recommended I submit a packet. So then I did. The show liked that packet, so then I submitted another packet. Then they told me no and almost a year later they were like “OK fine you can write for us.”

 

Any parting advice?

If you want to do comedy, do it. If you want to write, write. If you want to perform, perform. Do it constantly. Make it your life. Don’t compare yourself to others. Delete your Facebook account. Don’t actually delete your Facebook account though, it’s a good networking tool. And most importantly, HAVE FUN.

 

 

Thursday February 13, 2014, 12:09pm - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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Mail’s here! Kevin Cobbs (The Music Industry, Listen, Kid!), who is performing full time on one of the Second City Cruise Ships, just sent a letter to us here at the Magnet to give us a glimpse of his travels. Check it out! And check out that picture of Kevin in San Juan! Wowie-wow-wow-wow!

Ahoy Magneteers,

Greetings and salutations from the Norwegian Gem.  As I write this I’m about halfway through my four month contract with the Second City, and so far its been an absolutely wonderful experience.

Here on the Gem we typically perform one sketch show, two improv shows and one murder mystery luncheon show per nine day cruise. All of which we rehearsed extensively during our week of training in Chicago.  I’d never been to the Second City before and it definitely felt like hallowed ground for a sketch and improv performer like myself.  It was humbling to get up on their different stages to rehearse.  And as a cool bonus experience, our director let us perform in an improv set with the regular cast on their ETC stage.

My cast here on the Gem comes from LA, Toronto and Chicago and they’re all hysterical improvisers and good people.  We hang out together quite a bit and we’ve also become good friends with some of the crew and some of the other entertainers on board.

When we’re not performing, we have a lot of free time to work on our own projects. So I’ve been writing quite a few pee pee jokes and even some poo poo jokes.

In addition to writing, I’ve used my down time to finally fulfill my main duty as a liberal white person by watching the Wire (it really is great so far). I’ve also used my free time to work out every day in the ship’s gym. I’m totally ripped now and I plan on fighting all of you at the Magnet when I return. One by one. Starting with the weakest (Branson Reese) and then working my way up to the strongest.

Its a blast performing our sketch show to a crowd of 1,100 people each week.  Our improv shows are in a smaller space but equally fun and they’re all short form.  I was originally trained in short form so it feels a bit like returning to my improv roots, which is nice.

Passengers are very complimentary when they see us around the ship.  And we get to visit some beautiful ports: San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Samana, Dominican Republic.  Living on the boat is like living in a floating bubble where all of us performers are pseudo celebrities.  Then when each cruise ends, everything resets and we’re nobodies again for the first couple of days before our first show.

Though I’m enjoying my time at sea, I look forward to coming home to New York and seeing all y’all Magnet people.  Stay warm and I’ll see you in the spring!

Best,
Kevin Cobbs

Monday January 20, 2014, 12:12am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

first improv class

On Wednesday, December 18th, I (Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller!) got to interview Magnet’s own Russ Armstrong about growth in improv, understanding the makings of a good team, and how to be a good teacher, director, and improviser. Below is the transcribed interview.

 

Where are you from originally?

I’m from Michigan. I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

How did you get involved in improv?

I started improvising in high school. I was watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? with my friends and started an improv group to play short form games. The Pioneer Comedy Troupe from Pioneer High School. It was my junior year of high school. We thought we were the coolest people in the world and we didn’t know we were actually the lamest people in the world.

 

You went to Northwestern yes? Did you do improv in college? What was the improv there called.

I did. Yep. It was the Mee-ow Show. It was billed as 1/3 improv, 1/3 sketch, 1/3 rock ‘n’ roll. Lots of short form stuff. It was great, super fun. It was a blast.

 

And you studied in Chicago as well? At iO and Second City? How does the training there compare to the training you learned in NYC?

It’s all the same stuff just different approaches to it. I think Chicago tends to nurture you finding your voice a little bit more. They give you a little more time, marinates in a way that Chicago does with everything, with theater and music and food. Because the spotlight isn’t on it as much, there’s less pressure to produce immediately. New York tends to have a little more pressure because it is New York. And it’s more expensive. I think they are both awesome attributes. It’s good to have that pressure. I love that about New York.

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Monday January 13, 2014, 11:42am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

The Misses

On Friday, January 3rd, I got to sit down with sketch writers and performers Andy Mills and Sebastian Conelli as well as director Matt J. Weir of The Misses to gain insight into some of the Magnet’s leading sketch minds. What surfaced was not just what makes this Veteran Sketch Team special, but also what makes a team click, what makes a show stand out, and what it means to have that comedy drive. Below is a transcript of the interview.

 

When were you formed?

Matt J. Weir (MW): The Misses were formed in September of 2013 and the first show was in October of 2013. The Misses is a collection of some of the best veteran sketch performers at The Magnet.

Andy Mills (AM): One of the interesting things about The Misses being formed is that 85% of the group is former members of the sketch team Fat Kids, which Matt also directed.

MW: Yeah I directed that for a season. Also for the season before that I co-directed it with the other Matt Weir. So our brain lust dripped down on you guys.

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Sunday January 5, 2014, 11:07pm - by WillyAppelman

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Congratulations to the newest Magnet Sketch Team and the newest additions to Cash and Baby Shoes:

NEW TEAM HIGHLANDER
Kim Ferguson
Michael Delisle
Dmitry Shein
Melissa Caminneci
Dennis Pacheco
Dan Dobransky
Geri Cole
Hannah Wright
Sierra Pasquale

Newest Member of CA$H:
Matt Antonucci

Newest Member of BABY SHOES:
Roger Ainslie

Starting on February 9th, Magnet Sketch Shows will run at 7:30 PM on Sundays. See you there!

Also, be sure to check out the Best of Shows for Party., American Wormholes, and Baby Shoes at 7:30 on January 12th as well as CA$H’s “Black Tie” and “The Misses Present the Hits” on January 17th, 24th, and 31st at 7 PM.

Monday December 2, 2013, 10:10am - by WillyAppelman

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The Magnet Theater is excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the next round of MAGNET SKETCH TEAMS, which will run from February 2nd through June 1st.

Each sketch team will write and perform a show approximately every 3 weeks. Shows will take place Sunday nights at 7:30 pm. Completion of (or current enrollment in) Sketch Writing Level 2 is required to apply. Exceptions may be made for anyone currently performing on a Megawatt or Team Performance team.

HOW TO APPLY TO BE ON A MAGNET SKETCH TEAM:
Send an email with the subject line, “MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION” and your name to sketchdirector@magnettheater.com. Include your sketch and improv experience and at least 2 writing samples as PDF attachments (please limit total to 10 pages). The deadline to apply is December 20th.