dubstep remix
Skip to Content

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

Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

Monday July 13, 2015, 10:49am - by Magnet Theater

STEPH GARCIA – ON MOVING TO LA, WRITING COMEDY & BEING AN ASSISTANT ON A TV SHOW!

Steph__044 smallcopy

Comedy in New York:

Steph studied improv at the Magnet Theater through level 5, completed the sketch program, and performed on sketch teams: Alchemy, Colorado Dad and Dispacho.

She also performed on an indie improv team Gilda and on the sketch duo Firecracker, that made the web series White People Problems.

Current Comedy:

Performs weekly at the Nerdist with her improv team Pilgrim. Hosts an Entertainment Industry panel for women at the Nerdist School with fellow teammate Lindsey Barrow. Co-hosts a monthly all female mix-em-up improv show called Girl on Lady Action with Maura Ruth. She also recently wrote a web series and pilot, with Dave Warth over Skype and they are in post production of their first episode.

All while working as a writer’s PA on Selfie and now ABC’s The Catch.


 

How long have you been in LA?

It will be two years in October.

How does the improv scene there compare to NY?

There is just as much opportunity in LA, I just feel like it’s more spread out, and, for me, it’s a little more difficult to do. I remember jumping theater to theater in New York and here it’s different because you have a car and you have to drive and park. But there are a lot of indie theaters.

Do people tend to be members of a few different theaters or do they stick to one?

No there’s a lot of crossover here. It’s the same as in New York.

Are you primarily a writer, improviser or a sketcher?

Right now I am primarily a writer. I do perform weekly, but I’m not auditioning. I’m working on writing for TV. I got a manager out here and so I’m working on having some samples that are more TV. They have all my sketches and they have been using them to pitch, and I’m working right now with Nerdist to get the video production side up. And I’m actually hoping to get live sketch up at the Nerdist as well. I just love sketch so much, but in terms of having something to make a living off of, I want to write TV so you need to have good samples.

How hard is it now to pitch to sketch shows that are currently on the air? Do you have to know people on them?

Yeah, and that seems to be the case in general. You can still get hired off your samples and stuff, but it always helps to know somebody. I’ve gotten my last two jobs because of recommendations from people.

How did you know people in LA?

My cousin is a set designer and he worked with somebody who was working on Raising Hope at the time, and she invited me to set, which was freaking amazing, and I met the production coordinator on that. That production coordinator happened to get hired on the pilot of Selfie and gave me a chance. So for two weeks I was working on the pilot and I spoke to everybody and said ‘I want to write!’ and so when the time came around for the show, the showrunner’s assistant who was working on the pilot asked if I wanted to interview for the writer’s PA gig. And from that, the director of that pilot also directed The Catch pilot, so her assistant forwarded my resume on.

I’ll come back to your jobs, but first tell us about your writing process.

I like deadlines, so if it’s something like a writer’s program or festival deadline, that’s what feeds me. So it depends. I’ll sit on an idea for a year, and I won’t do anything with it until I see – ‘oh, someone will actually look at this.’ And I’ll sit and I’ll write it in two weeks. I don’t know why I do that, and it’s not good and no one should do that.

Do you ever set your own deadlines or does it have to be external?

I have on occasion, but it’s usually – ‘this festival deadline is this week, so my deadline is a week and a half before.’ It’s not a way to live. Don’t do it that way.

[Just now – Steph gets a pizza delivered. AND she doesn’t eat it until the end of the interview. Obviously displaying some extraordinary mental toughness required to gain writing chops in LA.]

How did you get a manager?

I have a friend of mine who I knew in New York who is an actress. She started her own production company and produced two shorts that went to some festivals, and so when I came out here, she said ‘give me sketches’. And I said ‘here you go.’ We shot some stuff, and then someone I met through her was a manager, and at the time I guess, not that I wasn’t looking – I love acting, but I came out here because I knew there was more opportunities for writing than in New York. And then when I did the CBS Diversity showcase I ran into her again, and they were opening a literary division at their management company. She said just come and meet with us and see if you like the team, so I met the team and they’re now repping me.

What did you have to send them?

I sent them so much stuff. I think I sent them an original pilot and a Bob’s Burgers spec. Then they were like ‘great, send us more stuff’, so I sent them a bunch of sketches and I sent another pilot and some shorts that I’ve written.

What I’ve heard the trend is now is to have an original pilot and if someone likes that, then they want that spec to see if you can write in somebody else’s voice.

How long does it take you to write an original pilot?

It depends. The last pilot I wrote took me two and a half weeks. But technically if you add all the time I’d been sitting on it and thinking of the story, at that point I had all the beats in my head before I sat down and started writing.

Do you show people your work? Do you have a writer’s group?

I have a writers group and then I have some other people that I bother. You can’t be precious with your writing. And that’s another thing that being on a sketch team at the Magnet definitely helped me out with, you just can not be precious with your writing.

When I’m really working on something I’ll sit down for 2 – 3 hours at a time and knock out what I can.

You mentioned Russ Armstrong was a memorable sketch director. Was there anything you learned from him that you think about today?

Russ has a really good work ethic and my favorite thing I learned from him was about keeping everything succinct and short and your jokes being real clear and not having any of that junk around it, because it just muddles the joke.

What do you mean by work ethic?

He was fantastic at giving notes and really tried to get us to memorize our sketches and then run them and run them, always e-mailing and being supportive but also saying ‘we have to get our stuff up’ and ‘does everybody have their things.’ He was always present at the meetings. Always ready to give feedback and ready to keep it moving and make sure we got as much as we could from every meeting. There wasn’t a lot of messing around, which can happen when you have a group of writers together.

You currently work as a writer’s PA. How is a writer’s PA different from a writer’s Assistant?

A writer’s assistant and a script co-ordinator, depending on the show, overlap some. A writer’s assistant generally takes notes in the room, and then because you’re (hopefully) writing down everything everybody is saying, at the end of the day you have to organize it, and so depending on the show a lot of the time the script coordinator and the assistant, they’ll kind of swap off that duty. And once the scripts come out, you’re also responsible for proofing the script and making sure that everyone gets the newest version of the script and that you’re not messing that up, and you’re also making sure there’s no typos. And then on my last job they were also dealing with intellectual property stuff. So if you want a song in there you have to deal with that too. As a writer’s PA – lunch is my biggest duty. I mean, it’s like food. It’s really a lot of food. Lunch, the kitchen, coffee. You also handle the paper and office supplies. Once scripts get going then you’re responsible for distributing the scripts. On Selfie though, because it was such a social media based show, I got to help write some things like fake yelp reviews. I also got a tweet on the show with my twitter handle, that I wrote – so that was really cool – those little things where I got to pepper in creativity.

Does everyone assume that as a writer’s PA or Assistant, you want to be a writer?

The assumption is there, and depending on the staff, both my staffs have been amazing, they’ll ask you what do you write? what’s your genre? Who do you like, what shows do you like?

Do you find writing pilots hard?

Oh yeah. Well you know what’s difficult is that balance between introducing all your characters, but also having a compelling story, because you don’t just want an episode of ‘here’s all the people you will be seeing for the rest of the season.’ There needs to be a contained story within it.

Do you get to see how much influence the showrunner has in a writer’s room and on breaking story? And does that relate to how our sketch directors are at the Magnet?

Yeah – it’s an interesting process because everything does go through them, but both showrunners that I’ve seen are very open – I mean it’s so much of a collaboration of the room, and basically what happens is you break a story, and then it’s one person’s episode so they really get to write it and then they bring it back and then you all edit it together. But then there’s this other person not in the room, that’s the studio, and that’s where the showrunner comes in. They have to go and say – ‘here’s the story we have.’ And then they get notes like ‘Oh we don’t like this, we do like this, can this be like this,’ and then the showrunner has to bring that back to the room.

Please eat pizza if you are hungry.

That’s one fun perk about being a writer, there is so much food, so you eat all day long.

How many hours do you pull a day?

The hours really depend on the show. Both shows that I’ve worked for have been pretty great with their hours. But there are others that the writers will work on until, like, midnight.

What would be your dream tv show to write on at the moment.

I have two. Last Man On Earth, and Veep.

You’re a dart champion?

Oh yeah! I was. We used to play darts in NY. I was in a league, it was every Monday night and I did that for about seven years. And I really miss it. I love this business and I love writing, but to have something that’s completely outside with a bunch of people that don’t give a shit, it’s really nice.

Last Question. What things did you wish you’d known before you moved to LA?

Unless you come out here already with rep or already with some big credits under your name, no one will really appreciate what you did in New York. And it’s a really hard thing to accept. Especially when you first get out here. Someone I know was on Broadway who came out – and it just didn’t translate. It’s something that you have to accept. And there are a lot of people here from New York, so you’re not totally starting at zero, but it’s definitely like taking two steps backwards. So that was the biggest thing for me. And you kind of accept it and you don’t have a chip on your shoulder and just keeping on working, people will recognize it, and eventually people who work with you will be like – ‘oh you’ve done all these things?’

And the other thing is parking sucks. Always give yourself 15-20 minutes just for parking wherever you’re going.

Thanks Steph! We wish you luck! You may now eat the pizza.

Interview conducted by Ally Kornfeld for Magnet Theater.

Wednesday July 8, 2015, 5:48am - by Magnet Theater

Christina Gausas Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

We welcome a national treasure of the improv comedy world, Christina Gausas, into our studio for a conversation about ensemble support, form development, Del Close, improv notes, and wanting your scene partner. Still basking in that post-DCM glow, Christina begins her conversation with host Louis Kornfeld recapping her DCM, talking about the support of the ensemble, and being in the moment.

Louis brings up the difference between bragging and acknowledging you’ve had a great show. Christina says that bragging feels counterintuitive because the whole thing relies on ensemble. Without the rest of the team, the hilarious line you delivered would have never happened. In the same vein, they discuss the difference between a real gift and a “bailout” gift and the two parts to every improv gift: the giving and receiving.

Following dual admissions of performance anxiety, Christina and Louis talk about some of Christina’s Chicago teams and how they went about developing new forms. Both agree though, that content — great scenework — comes before any concern about which form a team chooses. Christina’s advice? Create something that is your own and put the work into it. Also, explore the intention behind a show.

Christina indulges Louis’ request and shares some fond memories of the late, great Del Close. He was an artist who valued authenticity, creating complete characters, and not being topical simply for the sake of being topical. He wanted people to find the universal implications behind the suggestion, to not be literal with it but be expansive with it. While many might bring up Del because they really love discussing the rebellious and outlandish aspects of his life, Louis says that he most likes the idea that Del pushed people to go beyond their limits. Plus it’s possible that he was the Forrest Gump of the improv world. Don’t believe us? You’ll have to listen.

Inspired by Del’s approach to notes, Christina and Louis talk about the use of direct notes and how they can be useful or harmful. Both maintain that players need to develop the habit of taking notes easily. Louis pitches his idea that an improv team should approach the craft with a smart mob mentality and Christina tells us how great acting integrates with great improv. Finally, hear about Christina’s most recent revelation that people should truly want their scene partners at all times.

This is a great episode featuring one of the game’s very best players, so we recommend you turn the volume up to 11.

Wednesday July 1, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Will Hines Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this week’s episode, we’ve got actor, writer, and 14x UCB All-Star, Will Hines. We caught up with Will while he was in town for the 17th Annual Del Close Marathon and what ensued was a beautifully nerdy conversation about improv theory, improv practice, teaching methods, and some of Will’s early days at UCB.

The interview begins with Will and host Louis Kornfeld talking about how to navigate fighting in improv scenes. They insist that the characters must be able to have philosophical debates, not mere wizard battles. They sympathize with students learning improv though, since a bad fight and good fight feel very similar in the moment. Plus, arguments have a lot of good elements that improvisers should practice — commitment, point-of-view, feeling — but if they only serve to defend the character, they won’t be very helpful. Will goes into detail about his philosophy that scene partners must “shake hands” at the top of a scene.

If you’re wondering whether these two veteran company men discuss the philosophies of UCB and the Magnet, wonder no longer! Will and Louis get to the meaty stuff and talk about the differences between Harolds at Magnet and UCB. From there, they discuss a variety of improv “rules” and postulate that most rules are in need of a specific scope to make them useful. Will talks about the rigidity of his 10th grade english teacher and they debate the benefits and limitations of strict versus nurturing improv teachers. Though Will always loved Matt Besser’s no-bullshit approach to teaching, he says that Armando Diaz was his breakthrough teacher. He describes the two of them as the ying and yang of UCB teachers during his time coming up through classes.

We get to hear a bit of Will’s improv origin story, he and Louis discuss improv’s “huggy” vibe, plus, these two “kings of calm-edy” explore their thoughts on being funny while acting as the straight man and/or lower energy player. Louis shares with us that he’d just had his most embarrassing audition ever and Will admits that he has a lack of confidence when it comes to being funny. The two of them snap out of their temporary self-loathing to talk about Will’s days playing with Monkeydick, which was Louis’ favorite Harold Night team when he was a student there.

There’s so much great stuff in this episode for Magnet and UCB fans alike, not to mention every improv nerd out there, we’re not even sure where to start. Just trust us and give it a listen.

Packed with these extras:

The Brothers Hines have only one rule for their shows — what is it?

Louis admits his biggest weakness as a teacher and performer.

What do these guys think of the Star Wars Prequel trilogy???

IMG_7165

Wednesday June 24, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Joe Miles Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

An improviser with Ariana Grande (the improv team) and founding member of BRICK, the handsome Joe Miles stops by our studio to talk with host Louis Kornfeld about discovering improv, the influence of music on his life, and touchy improv scenes. Joe talks to us about coming to NYC from Cleveland (Go Cavs!) in order to further his career as a rapper, but then discovering improv and being sucked into it. Still a drummer all these years later, Joe tells Louis how he uses music as inspiration for characters and Louis tells Joe about his past as an illustrator. We hear about Joe’s favorite music and the two men wonder if new genres will ever be invented. Also, Joe describes how he psychs himself up for a show, answers the questions of how he’s changed as a performer, and discusses BRICK’s run of shows where they did a different form each week. If that’s not enough, Louis mentions the presence of our engineer Grant, who disapproves of Louis’ musical leanings. Check it out!

Wednesday June 17, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Andrew Yurman-Glaser Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Native son of New York State, Andrew Yurman-Glaser (Broad City; Magnet’s The Wrath, Friday Night Sh*w; UCB’s Mermaids; Upstate) joins us in the studio to talk about improvising, coaching, and the dynamics of a good team. Host Louis Kornfeld dives in by asking, “Do you remember when you got good at improv?” Humility abounds as Andrew tells of getting his improv start in college and how he’s grown over the last nine years in NYC.  He goes on to compare his Megawatt team, The Wrath, to an orchestra and tries to shed some light on how a team maintains their integrity over the course of years. Louis asks if Andrew plays differently on Lloyd Night, Harold Night, Megawatt, or Friday Night Sh*w and Andrew talks about when shows feel the most successful. Hear Louis’ favorite things about how Andrew improvises, Andrew’s thoughts on the importance of listening, and of course, how improv makes you a better person. Plus! Did Andrew’s parents watch him play a masturbator on Broad City? Does Louis like giving notes?? Has this episode been recorded in front of a group of prisoners???  Find out the answers to all of these questions and more on Episode #48.

**PS** Andrew plays with his very good friend Dustin Drury as UPSTATE on Monday, June 29th at 8:30PM. These two former INSPIRADO Oh Shit! champions only get a chance to play on occasion these days, so make sure to check out this show!

IMG_7071

Wednesday June 10, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jean Villepique Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

We’ve been lucky to welcome so many out-of-town guests recently and we’re excited to say that our latest visitor is the incredible Jean Villepique. One of the earliest teachers and performers at Magnet, Jean was recently back in town from Los Angeles to perform in Bummers Presents: Running. Our host, Louis Kornfeld, gets the ball rolling in this episode by asking about the origin story of Bummers, Jean’s annual(ish) writing and storytelling collaboration with Rachel Hamilton, Tami Sagher, and Melanie Hoopes. She and Louis discuss catching up with good friends by performing with them and the detriments of the more typical checklist conversations people tend to have when they haven’t seen each other recently. Jean talks about her first exposure to improv doing commedia dell’arte as a teen, joining The Meow Show at Northwestern University, where she met Magnet founder Ed Herbstman, and some of her early days at iO Chicago and Second City. Louis also asks his former Level 2 teacher about her improv show Switchboard, encouraging players to take risks, her stint on The Office, and bringing personal stuff to the stage. Hear about the time someone grabbed Louis by the beard! Listen in awe as Louis pontificates that we’re more than mere mammals! Sit in wonder as these two talk about doing drugs! It’s a great episode, so give it a listen.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #47 below via SoundCloud.

Thursday May 28, 2015, 5:13pm - by Magnet Theater

Magnet TC Logo v3

As a student or potential student, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Magnet’s registration policies. If you have have a question that hasn’t been answered here, please contact Magnet School Director Amy Morrison at 212-244-2400 or SchoolDirector@MagnetTheater.com.

Student Expectations:
Students are required to be on time to class and stay for the entire class period. Please be courteous to your classmates. Disturbances, such as tardiness, cell phone use, inappropriate comments, and disrespectful behavior, will not be tolerated. Disruptive students may be asked to leave. If you require any special accommodations please speak to the instructor before class.

Attendance:
Students may miss no more than 2 classes. If a student misses more than 2 classes, the student may not be permitted to participate in the class show and must retake the class in order to move to the next level. A student may be held back and asked to repeat a class at the discretion of the instructor.

Pre-Requisites:
Students enter the program at Level 1 and must satisfactorily complete each level as a pre-requisite for the next level. Conservatory (our upper levels) students must be accepted through an application process. There is no pre-requisite for the Drop-In, the Free Intros, Any Level 1, Camp Magnet, or any elective unless specifically noted. Magnet reserves the right to accept or deny an individual’s registration for a class.

Repeating at Half-Price:
To encourage student development and mastery of skills, students may repeat any core curriculum class for half the regular price.

Performance Opportunities:
Completion of the core curriculum and conservatory programs does not guarantee placement on a house team or guarantee any other performance opportunities at Magnet.

All Sales Final:
Class payments are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. All sales are final.

Registration Complete Upon Payment:
Registration is not complete and you are not placed in the class until payment is received in full.

If a Class is Re-scheduled or Cancelled:
It’s rare, but in the event that Magnet must cancel or reschedule a class, enrolled students will be notified of any rescheduling by either email or phone, or both. In the event of a cancelled class, a full refund will be given.

Want to know about our Conservatory Classes? Click here to view a post all about them!

Wednesday May 27, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jo Firestone Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

A purveyor of weird in an increasingly codified comedy landscape, Jo Firestone sits down with us to talk about her numerous shows, how she approaches her art, and of course, City Museum in St. Louis. Host Louis Kornfeld kicks off this episode asking Jo whether she creates shows for her resume or because they interest her. As a prolific producer — she hosts Dr. Gameshow on WFMU, Punderdome 3000, Friends of Single People, and Firestone Success Academy (among many others) — Jo says you have to do it for yourself. She and Louis discuss how it feels weird to listen to and celebrate your own shows and Louis challenges Jo to create a new show with the suggestion of “farm.” Hear about Jo’s recent ventures to see art rather than comedy and how seeing bad art encourages you to take risks. Jo pontificates on the question of quantity versus quality and how she considers the audience when creating shows. Plus! Jo tells us the stupidest ideas she has ever gone through with and one of the very best moments from her many shows. Catch her now because she’s about to go on tour with a rock band and before you know it, she’ll be bigger than hip hop.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #46 below via SoundCloud.

IMG_6847

Wednesday May 20, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Joe Bill Podacast Subscribe with iTunes

Chicago improv legend and co-founder of The Annoyance Theater, Joe Bill, stops by the studio to talk with host Louis Kornfeld. Fresh off a trip to France and England, Joe tells us about his recent attempt to perform improv in French, how he still gets nervous for certain shows, and how he has learned to channel that energy. Louis talks to Joe about improv elder Martin de Maat and how he influenced The Annoyance’s approach. Also, find out what, “Take care of yourself” means to Joe and hear about his extensive experience teaching and training corporate groups. These two well-spoken gentlemen also discuss the capacity of the “group mind,” “the rules of improv,” and “much more.” Stream or download ASAP, people!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #45 below via SoundCloud.

 

IMG_6747

Wednesday May 13, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

susan messing podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Guess who’s in town! Chicago-based improv luminary Susan Messing stopped by while in NYC to talk to us about teaching improv, being malleable, and giving TED Talks. Lots of great questions are addressed in this episode, such as:  Where’s the line between taking care of yourself and being selfish? What’s Susan’s take on the current state of long-form? And do you want to have sex right, or have sex? Louis and Susan discuss how to play with difficult improvisers, sorting out your voice amidst the variety of improv philosophies present today, and the importance of revisiting everything you’ve put out there so that you don’t leave things by the wayside. Plus, hear Louis’ “butt theory” and Susan’s thoughts on the early days of the Harold under Del Close and his role as an experimenter and teacher. Huzzah!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #44 below via SoundCloud.