Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Wing’
The Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival just announced its 2014 lineup, and the Magnet Theater is proud to be represented by three of its teams: the veteran duo, Listen, Kid!, and two of its house teams from Sketch Sunday, Baby Shoes and Party.
I recently chatted with Alessandro King of Listen, Kid! about life, sketch writing and sketch directing, and festival first-timer advice.
Hi, Al. Nice tie. How did you and Kevin Cobbs decide to become a sketch duo? How long have you been a duo?
Listen, Kid! started four years ago when Kevin and I met in Mark Grenier’s Improv Level 1 at the Magnet. We kept doing really goofy scenes together where one of us would play a prospector or explode through a door or something, and everyone encouraged us to create an indie duo once class was over. Rick Andrews was the big brother for the class and he said, “If you guys make a duo, I will coach you.” So we did, and Rick got us hooked up with two Test Drives, and by Spring of the following year we were doing Tuesday night shows pretty regularly, usually with Upstate or the Oakwood Boys. It was very much a Magnet Theater Fairy Tale.
We decided to focus on sketch in the Fall of 2011 when someone whose name rhymes with Blick Blandrews suggested we join RIPE with Armando. We put up our first Listen, Kid! sketch show (I think) in April of 2012, and we’ve been focusing on sketch (Magnet shows, festivals, web videos) ever since, although we still do improv every once in a while, usually with our pals We’re Matt Weir as Listen, Weirs!
How do you both collaborate when writing sketches for a show? Did you work on sketches together when Kevin went on the Second City cruise ship for 4 months?
Our Clinton/Bush sketch is a pretty good example of how we work as a team. I read on Wikipedia one night that Bill Clinton supposedly lent George W. Bush his DVD copy of the film “W.” and Bush watched it, commenting to Clinton that it had some “sad moments.” I immediately called Kevin and told him and said something like, “This is the dumbest thing I have ever read. We have to make this a sketch. Was Clinton actually being a pal or was he just trolling? This is the dumbest thing I have ever read.” I described to him my visual idea (the whole sketch is a series of phone conversations between the two, with each president sitting in a special light), and Kevin immediately wrote the first draft. It was eerily similar to what I had in mind, only funnier, with the amazing climax of Bush e-mailing Clinton scans of his paintings and Clinton weeping profusely at their profound beauty. I made a couple of small changes and it was ready to go.
Kevin’s internet access was limited on the cruise, we but still managed to go to Chicago Sketch Fest with Branson Reese and Chi-Town friends sitting in for Kevin, edit a new Mad Men-themed web video, share a couple of sketches, and develop a web series idea. Stay tuned for further updates.
Listen, Kid! was reviewed very favorably by the Chicago Tribune after your performance at this year’s Chicago Sketch Festival. Does Listen, Kid! have big plans in store for the future?
We’re focusing on web content, getting ready for Montreal, and developing an all-President-themed live sketch show. You can keep up with us online at listenkidcomedy.com, on YouTube at ListenKidComedy, and on Twitter @ListenKidComedy.
At the Montreal Sketchfest, you will have the unique honor of performing there as a member of a critically acclaimed sketch duo, and as the director of a Magnet sketch house team, Party., that is also performing in the same festival. Party. is the first sketch house team that you’ve directed at the Magnet. Why did you decide to become a director? How has your experience been so far?
Beth Newell asked me to sub in for Breakfast For Dinner a couple of times last year, and I said, “Yes,” instantly. I just had an inkling that directing sketch would come very easily to me and bring me a lot of creative satisfaction. It didn’t seem like, say, coaching improv, which I’ve never tried but always assumed I’d be a disaster at. (I’m still game to prove this wrong some day.) I had a lovely time as was expected, and asked Beth to keep me in mind if a directing slot opened up. When they formed new teams in September, I got asked to direct one for the season.
I absolutely love directing Party., and look forward to every minute of it during the week. They continue to impress me with their commitment and professionalism and blow me away with their rapid growth, particularly as performers.
You run Party. like Singapore. The streets are spotless, we attend meetings punctually and are off-book at every Saturday rehearsal, and we fear you. What is your philosophy as a director? How did you decide upon benevolent dictatorship as the best way to run a sketch team? (Editor’s Note: The interviewer, Catherine Wing, is a member of Party.)
If I’m a benevolent dictator, keep in mind that I’m only partially responsible for that dynamic: deep down, there is something inside every one of you that wants me to rule you like a king.
I’m a playwright, so I run my writing meetings like a playwright’s workshop, meaning my goal is to help you write the best version of your sketch. I have no interest in forcing my own ideas or telling you what I think should happen next. If I do make a specific suggestion, I try to make it very clear that that’s only one possible route for the sketch.
When show week comes along, I make a setlist and become a director. At that point, what I say, goes, and the edits I want to happen, happen. It’s a very different dynamic from the writing meetings.
You guest directed the Magnet sketch house team, Baby Shoes, for their most recent show. Is it true that they plied you with free liquor, charmed you with their good looks and talent, and took you to Rye Playland to ride the roller coaster? They are performing at the Montreal Sketchfest too, you know.
They did take me to Rye Playland, and let me just say that Bob Kern and I have only exited the Tunnel of Love in the literal sense of the word.
What advice would you give to sketch teams that are going to their very first out-of-town festival?
It’s impossible to accurately predict the audience’s reactions. There will be some sketches they will love, but there will always be something that just bombs and you had no way to stop it. When that happens, don’t get caught up trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong in the moment: theres nothing to fix, it’s just not their cup of tea. Get through the sketch and move on to the next thing. That’s the beauty of sketch as opposed to improv: you get to wipe your slate clean every couple of minutes.
What weird stuff did you learn about Kevin when Listen, Kid! traveled on the road together for the first time? And what weird stuff did Kevin learn about you?
Each trip is really Kevin’s learning experience because every time I offer to take the wheel, he has to devise new ways to say, “No thanks, I don’t want to die today.”
Listen, Kid! does improv? Just the two of you? Do you have guests sit in with you? Who might they be, and when can we witness this rare opportunity to see Listen, Kid! improvise?
This Friday, April 18th, at 11:30 PM, we will be taking the Magnet stage for the first time since Kevin’s return. We’re going to be doing our classic improv form, which is an improvised movie hosted by decrepit Hollywood producer Irv Newberg and his dim-witted assistant Charlie Tickertape. It’s a great way to see how this all started and there will be special guests, all of them popular recurring characters from the Listen, Kid! universe. There is only one way to find out who they are and that is to come on down.
At an early point in an improviser’s development, the names of TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi will be mentioned by a teacher, a coach, or a fellow comedy nerd friend. “You gotta go see TJ & Dave.” You will be told that they are the best of the best. You will be advised that their approach towards improvisation is worth incorporating into your own philosophy and growth as a performer.
And you might wonder: why?
Based in Chicago, TJ & Dave are revered as two of the best improvisers in the country. TJ Jagodowski is most recognizable from the long-running series of improvised Sonic Drive-In commercials featuring himself and Peter Grosz. In addition to performing in “TJ & Dave,” TJ performs regularly with other seasoned improv groups on stages across Chicago. Dave Pasquesi has performed in dramatic plays (Glengarry Glen Ross, God of Carnage), appeared on television (Strangers With Candy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep) and in movies, and is also a voiceover actor. As a duo, they have performed together for over a decade. TJ & Dave perform regularly at the iO Theater on Wednesday nights. They also perform multiple times during the year in New York City, at the Barrow Street Theatre.
TJ & Dave create one-act plays through the art of slow comedy, taking time to develop characters and relationships, and discover situations together. They don’t go for the easy laugh. As a result, the comedy that emerges from their patience is moving, grounded, and honest. The Magnet’s own Matt Shafeek wrote this Splitsider article on TJ & Dave and the power of slow comedy:
TJ & Dave can often go long stretches of time without any big laughs, and this is where a lot of weaker improvisers often falter. A performer who fears he or she has lost the audience will panic and will resort to time-honored gimmicks – exaggerated physicality, ridiculous characters, and of course, going ‘blue’ (making a lewd/sexual reference or choice) in a desperate attempt to end the audience’s silence. But TJ & Dave, as well as Louis CK, know that patience in comedy can lead to much bigger rewards.
The mainstream world has caught onto the awesomeness that is TJ & Dave. A rave review in the theater section of the New York Times, written last year by accomplished composer and lyricist David Yazbek, has skyrocketed the popularity of their New York City appearances. Tickets are often sold out well before the beginning of each run. A Radiolab podcast feature earlier this year introduced TJ & Dave to hip intelligentsia who might not otherwise be interested in the improv comedy scene.
Psyched to check out a TJ & Dave show? You’re in luck! They will be performing in New York City at Town Hall this Friday, October 11th, at 8pm. This performance is extra-special for a lot of reasons. For the first time in New York, TJ & Dave will be performing with Chicago musician, Ike Reilly, in a joint appearance. If you’ve ever been to a TJ & Dave show, you’ve heard Ike Reilly’s songs at the beginning and end of the show. Their NY anthem is Commie Drives A Nova. This is also the first time that TJ & Dave will be performing at Town Hall, a venue that seats over 1000 people. This is the largest venue they have ever played in New York City, and possibly anywhere else. This show is one night only! TJ & Dave would love to see the NYC improv community in the audience, so please come and support!
Full price tickets are $42, but follow the instructions for various options below to get them for $27. The asterisks indicate preferred options, to avoid service fees:
For all options, use the code BST. You will need to tell the box office the code in order to get the discounted $27 tickets.
1) Show up in person at TOWN HALL BOX OFFICE*
(no service fees)
123 West 43rd Street, NY
12pm – 6pm, M-SAT
2) In Person: LIMITED tix available at BARROW STREET THEATRE BOX OFFICE*
(no service fees, CASH ONLY)
27 Barrow Street, on the corner of 7th Ave.
Open at 1pm Daily
3) Online: At ticketmaster.com with code BST
(service fees will apply)
Still unconvinced? Let’s go down the TJ & Dave rabbit hole, shall we?
In 2009, Alex Karpovsky made Trust Us, This Is All Made Up, a documentary about TJ & Dave, which includes an entire show that was recorded at the Barrow Street Theatre. It had its world premiere at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival. The DVD is available for purchase. Check it out!
Pam Victor shares her interviews with the country’s improv greats on her blog series, Geeking Out With …. She interviewed TJ and David extensively. All three are in the process of co-writing a book on improv. Stay tuned!
Jimmy Carrane, veteran Chicago improviser and co-author of the book, Improvising Better: A Guide to the Working Improviser, interviewed TJ and David for his Improv Nerd podcast.
What are you waiting for? Go buy your discounted tickets now. See you at Town Hall on Friday!
BEEES!!! turned 2 earlier this year! They are celebrating with a Two-Year Anniversary Show this Friday, March 29th, at 7pm, and you are all invited!
Formed in late December 2010, BEEES!!! gathered for the first time as a team at Mooncake, a few doors down from the Magnet Training Center. Over dinner and cheap Sapporo beers, they got better acquainted with one another. Some had taken the Magnet musical improv classes together, and were nervous and excited to be placed on their very first house team; others were seasoned performers, with years of improv and stage experience under their belts. What they all had in common, was their musical improv training under the brilliant Tara Copeland and Frank Spitznagel. BEEES!!! hit the Magnet stage for their first show on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011.
(Team Trivia: Michael Lutton came up with the team name, which won the majority of the votes, over gems such as “7 O’Clock,” “The Richard Cheddar Show,” and “Employee of the Month.”)
Since then, BEEES!!! has performed regularly on Magnet Musical Tuesdays, survived two hurricanes (Irene and Sandy), won five Inspirado challenges, and performed in theaters and improv festivals throughout NYC and along the East Coast, including The Depot Theatre, Boston Comedy Arts Festival, North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, NYC Improv Festival, and the New York Musical Improv Festival.
BEEES!!! is happy and proud to call the Magnet Theater home. Come this Friday, March 29th, at 7pm and join them in celebrating 2 years of making beautiful musical improv together.
BEEES!!! is: Jamie Cummings, Michael Lutton, Desireé Nash, Steve Whyte, Catherine Wing.
GAY BOMB: THE MUSICAL will be having its final show this Friday night, June 29th at 8:30pm at the Magnet Theater. Tickets are going fast, so get them now before the show sells out! Psssst … if you want discount tickets for $7, use the code “POTUS Felching” when you buy your tickets HERE.
Directed by Michael Martin, with music by Frank Spitznagel. Book and lyrics by Chris Friden and Steve Whyte.
Starring: Andrew Fafoutakis, Dreagn Foltz, Ben Jones, Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders, TJ Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu.
In case you’ve missed the earlier installments of the Magnet Blog’s interview with GAY BOMB co-writer, Steve Whyte, here they are: Part 1 and Part 2. And now, our third and final installment of the interview.
As New York City Pride kicks off this weekend, the Magnet Theater is proud to present Pride Night 2012! We’ve got a sparkly line-up of shows tonight that highlight LGTBQ issues and LGBTQ performers, with lots of sketch, music, and improv. Let’s take a walk across the rainbow, shall we?
At 7pm, we have the one-man show, Cock of the Walk. Written and performed by Athos Cakiades, and directed by Kelly Haran, Cock of the Walk introduces you to five characters that explore masculinity and the male psyche in ways that will tickle your funny bone. It promises to be “pretty dirty” and “rather gay,” which is our idea of a good time at the Magnet Theater on a Friday night. Also, it’s a Time Out New York Critics’ Pick!
At 8:30pm, Gay Bomb: The Musical returns to the Magnet stage for its June run. Check out all the media attention, from the featured article on the front page of EDGE New York, to the blurb in Chelsea Now. There are only four shows left, so if you haven’t gotten GAY BOMBed yet, it is highly recommended that you come see the show very soon. And (shhhhh!) we’ve got a secret discount code for $7 tickets. Please enter “POTUS Felching” when you buy your tickets here.
Friday, 6/15, 8:30pm
Monday, 6/18, 8:30pm
Friday, 6/22, 8:30pm
Friday, 6/29, 8:30pm (Closing Night)
Directed by Michael Martin, with music by Frank Spitznagel, and book and lyrics by Chris Friden and Steve Whyte.
Starring: Andrew Fafoutakis, Dreagn Foltz, Ben Jones, Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders, TJ Mannix, Oscar Montoya, Dave Tomczak and Woody Fu.
At 10pm, we have a special Made-Up Musical with a cast of LGBTQ performers, all from Musical Megawatt house teams: Melissa Gordon, Oscar Montoya, Andrew Fafoutakis, T.J. Mannix, Michael Lutton, and Catherine Wing. You can’t have a full night of LGBTQ comedy without musical improv, right?
All the singing and dancing and Broadway jazz hands will get you nicely warmed up for the final show of the night.
At 11:30pm, There’s No Place Like Home presents a GLTBQ All-Star Improv Event. Andrew Fafoutakis hosts a special night of homo hilarity with a cast of improv superstars: Bianca Casusol, Kevin Gilligan, Melissa Gordon, Scott Lawrie, Michael Lutton, T.J. Mannix, Michael Martin, Oscar Montoya, Louie Pearlman, Nathan Peterman, Emily Schorr Lesnick, Emily Shapiro, Steven Slate, Lauren Ashley Smith, Catherine Wing, and a Super Special Guest! It’s a fantastic and fun way to end Pride Night 2012. But don’t just take our word for it. Check it out — There’s No Place Like Home is a Time Out New York Critics’ Pick! Come on by and celebrate Pride with us tonight!
- andrew fafoutakis
- Athos Cakiades
- Ben Jones
- bianca casusol
- Catherine Wing
- Chris Friden
- Cock of the Walk
- Dave Tomczak
- Dreagn Foltz
- Emily Schorr Lesnick
- Emily Shapiro
- Frank Spitznagel
- Gay Bomb
- Jen Sanders
- Kelly Haran
- Kevin Gilligan
- Lauren Ashley Smith
- Louie Pearlman
- Made-Up Musical
- Melissa Gordon
- Michael Lutton
- Michael Martin
- Nathan Peterman
- Oscar Montoya
- Pride Night 2012
- Scott Lawrie
- steve whyte
- Steven Slate
- There's No Place Like Home
- Time Out New York Critics' Pick
- TJ Mannix
- woody fu
The second show of the Magnet Theater’s sketch company-in-residence, “America!” will introduce you to characters that will take you on a journey through our national psyche, and explore the people and things that define and inform our American-ness. Like baseball. And Ira Glass. And immigrants.
So unfurl your flags and crack open a cold Sixpoint beer: opening night of “Company 29: America!” is coming your way this Friday, May 18th, at 7pm at the Magnet Theater.
Dedicated to producing new and original sketch comedy shows on a continual basis, Company 29 consists of the Magnet’s strongest writers, performers and directors. The goal of Company 29 is to create character-driven, thematically cohesive sketch shows with a unique voice.
Sponsored by: Sixpoint Brewery
These are the writers and performers of America!:
Written By: Paul Barker (Horses, Dumbkowsky), Kevin Cobbs (Listen, Kid!), Tim Eberle (Brick, Alchemy), Amanda Hirsch (Think Improv), Beth Newell (Kiss*Punch*Poem, Dumbkowsky), and Jamaal Sedayao (Brick, Turboner Bigote).
Featuring: Mike Barry (Lead McEnroe), Kevin Cobbs (Listen, Kid!), Ruby Marez (Aquarius), Lauren Olson (Chet Watkins), Christian Paluck (Chet Watkins), Justin Peters (Chet Watkins), Rachel Rauch (Leviathan), Jamaal Sedayao (Brick), Jason Scott Quinn (Silver Fox), and Ross Taylor (Aquarius, The Wrath).
Directed By: Nick Benaquista (Lead McEnroe)
Fri May 18th, 2012, 7:00pm
Sat May 19th, 2012, 9:00pm
Sun May 20th, 2012, 8:00pm
The Magnet Blog interviewed Company 29 Head Writer, Tim Eberle, to get the inside scoop on Company 29 and how the group prepares for their shows.
Magnet Blog: How is Company 29 structured differently from how sketch groups are usually structured?
Tim Eberle: Company 29 is really structured more like a resident theater company than a sketch group; we’re made up of a writing team, performance, troupe, lighting/sound designer, and directing team. The idea behind the group has always been to bring all of these different aspects together to create full, unique, and cohesive sketch shows, based around a single idea or theme. The scripts are generally character-based and written for specific performers, who work with our director and tech team throughout the rehearsal process to bring the scenes to life in the most engaging way possible. It leads to a “the whole is greater than the total sum of its parts” situation, and really showcases the different talents floating around the Magnet.
MB: Do the actors write, or the writers act? Are directors part of the group, or do they rotate/change for each show?
TE: We definitely have a couple of writer/performers in the group, especially Jamaal Sedayao and Kevin Cobbs. They’re great because they know how to write so well for themselves as well as the other actors in the group. And Jamaal can pull from his Brazilian (I think?) background to give the show some diversity. We have one director (Nick Benaquista) who directs all the Company 29 shows. It’s a big asset having Nick direct multiple shows because he’s developed a great sense for the different writing and performance styles we have, and he can use that when he’s working to build beats and work on characters in rehearsals.
MB: What is the writing process?
TE: When we first start working on a new show, the writers will get together to pitch ideas for a theme or structure to the show (like setting the whole show in the world of a public school, as we did with PS2012). Once we’ve settled on the theme, we’ll starting pitching sketch ideas or looking at sketches that people have that could potentially work for the show, and discuss which actors would be the best to play which parts. Over the next few we’ll work as a group pitching jokes, editing the sketches, and tweaking the material to make it work for the actors. So it’s collaborative in that sense, but the onus is really on the individual writers to own their material. We don’t write too many sketches together as a group, but we all work together to make sure the sketches work for the show we want to put on. Once we have enough material, we’ll choose the sketches we want to use in the show, put together the running order, and all that good stuff.
MB: What’s the timeline of putting a show together, from conception to show time?
TE: Usually about 2 months. We like to have about three weeks to write and edit and then a little over a month for rehearsals, since scheduling rehearsals for a cast this big and this busy is obviously difficult, and we want to have enough rehearsals for each sketch.
MB: Was there anything you learned In the process of putting together the first Company 29 show, that you decided to do differently for this upcoming show?
TE: We’re not going to do the character bits that we did with PS2012 this time around. They were funny as character pieces in the last show, but they disrupted the flow of the whole piece. This time, we’re following a more standard sketch revue structure.
MB: Will there be rolling auditions/submission invitations for folks who are interested in joining Company 29?
TE: We’ve had the same cast for the last two shows, and they’re fantastic. We don’t have any plans to hold big auditions in the near future, but we’re always looking to add people here and there. We brought Justin Peters on for this show because we needed someone to play a racist ex-minor-league baseball player, which seemed right in his wheelhouse. We’re bringing on a couple of new writers for the next show as well, and are always looking for more sketch-writers who like the style of sketch that we do.
MB: Why “America!”?
TE: The idea really came from the fact that for a little while we thought about doing a political theme for the next show. The more we batted the idea around, the more sketch ideas came up that centered on general Americana, beyond just politics. It seemed like a really fun and relatable theme to play with, so that’s where we went. We ended up with sketches about Ellis Island, Johnny Appleseed, Ira Glass, Kenyan marathon runners, and, interestingly enough, nothing about politics. Which is probably for the best. I don’t think anyone really likes political sketch comedy. Not enough silly voices.
Company 29 is proud to be sponsored by Sixpoint Craft Ales. Based in Brooklyn, Sixpoint is an innovative craft brewery that makes bold and delicious beers. It is also committed to supporting local creative endeavors, and Company 29 is thrilled to have them as a sponsor. For all you craft beer lovers, Sixpoint is having beer specials at the Magnet for opening night on Friday. Drink up and enjoy the show!
Photos: M.Woody Fu
- Amanda Hirsch
- Beth Newell
- Catherine Wing
- christian paluck
- Company 29
- Craft Beer
- Jamaal Sedayao
- jason scott quinn
- justin peters
- Kevin Cobbs
- lauren olson
- Mike Barry
- Nick Benaquista
- nick kanellis
- Opening Night
- Paul Barker
- peter mcnerney
- Rachel Rauch
- Ross Taylor
- ruby marez
- sketch show
- Tim Eberle
- willy appelman