Posts Tagged ‘comedy writing’
Boy howdy are you in for a delicious episode with the one and only RUSS ARMSTRONG. A writer for Uncommon Sense (MTV), performer galore (Master of None, Montreal Just for Laughs, 30 Rock), and improviser who has played on many a Magnet ensemble, Russ has plenty to discuss with host Louis Kornfeld regarding television, union workers, life balance, and confidence. Find out how Louis is feeling (creatively) and if Evan is real or just a made up character. All of this and more in Episode #70!
This episode begins with Russ and Louis talking about the podcast itself and how Louis must strive to stay ahead of his students that listen to it. Once past all of that nonsense, Louis asks Russ about his current gig writiing for the MTV show Uncommon Sense hosted by Charlamagne Tha God. What is the schedule like for such a show and how has Russ’s life changed since he began writing for television on the regular? Discussing work/life balance is something any corporate drone is probably familiar with, but getting to hear a comedian’s take on the matter provides a perspective most might not hear.
Further exploring what it feels like to write for a TV show, Louis wonders if the vibe of a writers room can ever mimic that of an improv team or even, improv theater. Somewhere along the line, Louis insults all union workers, as he is wont to do. Russ counters, asking, “Is there any place that’s really like an improv theater?” We’re paraphrasing with those quotation marks.
Russ answers questions about being funny on days when you’re not feeling funny and how you push yourself through those times. He also provides insight on writing for other voices, hosts, shows, and audiences. Plus, he discovers that Louis’ life is very much like a Dove soap ad. What does that mean? You’ll have to listen. Later, Louis launches insightful inquiries regarding Russ’ comedic sensibilities and sense of a linear life. Though he may not have known where he was going as a kid, Russ finds more use for goals and planning theseadays.
Then the improv chatter heats up! Russ shares a lesson he’s learned and proclaims that while improv starts with a mentality of “Your ideas are great!” it can often translate to something too cozy and too safe for growth. Ultimately, Russ says, you have to like your own ideas. Louis wants to know, when the pressure is on, how does Russ avoid letting fear and insecurity block him from that goal? Russ asks, “Is fake confidence different from real confidence?” Plus, Russ invents a character named Evan who doesn’t exist, asks Louis how he’s feeling creatively, and tells us what he says to people who tell him to cheer up! You can’t stop this episode and it doesn’t matter!!!
The Magnet Theater is excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2016 Winter/Spring Season of SKETCH TEAMS, which will run from February 1st through July 11th! All applications are due by Wednesday, December 2nd at 8pm!
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 Winter/Spring 2016 Sketch Team info sessions Wednesday, November 11th, & November 18th at 6pm in room A at the Magnet Training Center!
GENERAL SKETCH SHOW EXPECTATIONS
Each team will create one 20-25 minute sketch show every three to four weeks.
All sketch team shows will be on Monday nights! In February, sketch team shows will be at 8:30pm. For the rest of the sketch season, shows will be 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.
GENERAL SKETCH TEAM EXPECTATIONS
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 Winter/Spring 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).
WRITER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:
Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.
- A cover letter detailing relevant sketch experience inside and outside the Magnet community.
- 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).
PERFORMER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS:
Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.
“2016 WINTER/SPRING MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// PERFORMER // <YOUR NAME>”
A cover letter detailing relevant performance experience inside and outside the Magnet community.
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, December 7th, if you have been selected to audition in person. In-person auditions will be held on Saturday, December 12th at the Magnet Training Center. Unfortunately, if you are not available on December 12th, you cannot be considered as a performer for the 2016 Winter/Spring 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/ PERFORMER EXPECTATIONS
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).
WRITER/PERFORMER APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS
Send the following materials to sketchdirector@magnettheater.
“2016 WINTER/SPRING MAGNET SKETCH TEAM APPLICATION// WRITER/PERFORMER // <YOUR NAME>”
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, December 7th, 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 8pm on Wednesday, December 2nd!
**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!
Elana Fishbein was in the first ever show at Magnet. And she was really good. 10 years later she’s an improviser, actor, writer, and teacher. She has Master’s Degree in Educational Theater from NYU, leads our Youth Program, and co-created two professional development workshop series for teachers: “Beyond Winging It: Improv in the Classroom” and “Play.” She can be seen with Story Pirates on stage and heard with The Truth Podcast your headphones. All in all, you’ve got a super funny improviser with interesting things to say about it. Listen to this great episode where Louis Kornfeld goes deep into the idea of forcing yourself to be vulnerable, improv accountability, shared ownership, and Canada. Enjoy!
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.
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.