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

Posts Tagged ‘funny’

Tuesday February 25, 2014, 10:42am - by Magnet Theater

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We’re very excited to announce the Spring 2014 round of The Circuit, which will begin Friday, March 28th, 2014!

Applications for Circuit teams will open Monday, March 3. The deadline to apply is Monday, March 10, at noon.

Applicants will be chosen by lottery. If chosen, you will be placed on a team of 8 improvisers and assigned a coach. You will rehearse with your coach and team once a week, with rotating performances on Friday nights at 10:30PM at the Magnet Studio Theater.

If you have completed Level 3 of Magnet’s Training Program and are not part of a Magnet house improv team, you are eligible to apply.

The Circuit is a great way to gain experience in being in an improv ensemble. We highly encourage those who are eligilble to apply.

If you have any questions or comments, please email us at circuit [at] magnettheater [dot] com.

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

Saturday January 25, 2014, 1:01pm - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

peter collins

Mail’s here! Peter Collins (All American), 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:
Ahoy there Magnet,
Greetings from the Norwegian Pearl! (Well actually, I’m in Boston but for the purposes of this postcard it’d be more fun to imagine me sitting next to a porthole in the hull of a ship while men peel potatoes behind me. Right?) I just finished my 9 weeks, 1 in Chicago and 8 on board. It truly was an amazing experience. I worked with a hilarious cast from all around the country, and an incredibly talented director and producer with years of experience working in comedy. Every week we performed two sketch shows, two improv shows and a dinner theater interactive murder mystery. All told you get to perform for thousands of people a week and Second City sets you up to be as funny as possible. All the sketches are proven winners whose scripts were penned by some of the biggest names in comedy  and the improv games are a riot.
     The improv aboard the ship is all short form, something I hadn’t done since middle school. It involves a completely different skill set but once you adjust it can be a lot of fun. Some of the people you get to perform for have never seen improv or even live comedy in their lives and for the most part they get pumped up. The best way I can sum up my interactions with passengers is through this anecdote. One Sunday morning, the final morning of one of the cruises, myself and two cast mates were walking through the ship to get breakfast at a restaurant onboard. As we made our way through a crowd of folks waiting to disembark I made eyes with a man sitting a ways down the hall. He had pulled up his rolling suitcase to sit on and held the handle between his legs like the strap on a saddle. He was large, sporting a salt and pepper chin strap beard an Arkansas razorbacks hat, and a cutoff NASCAR shirt. He never took his eyes off me and as we approached he began to slowly nod his head and just as I was passing he spoke in a gravely voice just above a whisper saying “Y’all done good. Y’all done good”. I felt like an astronaut as I nodded back and touched my finger to the brim of my Red Sox cap.
    I think there’s a good chance that I’ll do this again in the future and I encourage anyone who’s interested to audition next time around. While there was no long form involved in the contract, I can’t stress how valuable our training and performance experience at the Magnet was. A lot of very funny people auditioned for this from around the east coast, and the majority of those selected perform at the Magnet Theater (ie Y’all Done Good). I had the privilege of meeting performers from around the world who are making their way doing what they love. Not everyone becomes a household name, but you can have a happy life in the entertainment industry if you want to work for it. I traveled around the Caribbean, made some great friends and got paid to make people laugh. We ate well, lived well and racked up some great stories. Now that I’m back to this frozen tundra I can’t wait to come back to the Magnet community, do some long form improv and watch my unseasonable tan slowly fade.
See you soon,

Pete Collins

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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Friday January 17, 2014, 11:35am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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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.

Charlotte Rabbe, a phenomenal Magnet improviser, previously on The Wrath, is now out in L.A. We wanted to catch up with Charlotte and shine the Magnet Theater Blog Spotlight on her and her journey in comedy. We conducted an email interview with Charlotte. Below are her responses:

 

What’s your home town?

CR: Where I grew up? Most of my family is living in NYC now so I consider that my hometown.

 

What is your comedy history (highlighting improv and sketch especially)? What got you interested and when were you first exposed to improv?

CR: I would watch a lot of stand up/sketch shows growing up (The State, The Upright Citizens Brigade TV show, SNL) and I was obsessed… When I started coming into the city after high school I went to a lot of stand up shows but was too afraid to ever do it. I ended up taking an improv class after college even though I had seen very little and got hooked.

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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 30, 2013, 11:00am - by WillyAppelman

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The Director Series is a monthly improv installation wherein a director picks a new form and sets it on a new cast. This month, Michael Lutton is directing “One Hit Wonder”. We chatted with Michael via email to discuss the form.

1. What is ‘One Hit Wonder’?
One-Hit Wonder is a new form that Jon Bander and I came up with. It’s a narrative that follows the story of a band: how it was created, how the group became famous with their number-one hit, the band’s downfall and where the band members are now. I wanted to direct it because I think it has a lot of fun possibilities. Everyone is familiar with “Behind the Music” and biopics about recording artists, so there is a lot to play with, and with that simple story arc the improvisers will have a lot of room to find patterns and develop characters.

2. How does this differ from normal Musical Improv?
This form uses documentary-style interviews to bookend scenes, and since the story arc is one that is already familiar, the cast members are free to focus more on character dynamics.

3. What is your favorite one hit wonder?
The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia by Vicki Lawrence is one of the best story songs of all time, and I will fight anyone who says different. Physically fight them.

4. What is the future of musical improv?
Musical improv is usually narrative, which is a lot of fun but also very challenging. Moving ahead, I think groups will find new ways to tell stories. Our musical program is relatively new and still growing, but we a have a few veteran groups that are doing interesting things with form and genre, and starting to test the limits of what you can do with a musical. I’m very excited to see what happens next!

‘One Hit Wonder’ premiers Thursday, January 2nd at 9pm and continues Thursdays at 9pm in January!

Friday December 6, 2013, 12:38pm - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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

George Basil (The Pete Holmes Show, College Humor), a Magnet performer known for his epic improv with 4Track, is now out in L.A.  You probably have seen him in a Vonage commercial or maybe even a bunch of CollegeHumor Originals. We wanted to catch up with George and shine the Magnet Theater Blog spotlight on him and his work. We conducted an email interview with George Basil. Below are his responses:

What is your improv and comedy history? What got you interested and when were you first exposed to improv?

GB: I didn’t learn about improv in high school or college. The first time I’d ever seen improv was on “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” Watching those performers fly around looked so fun. Then I researched it a little and came across something called the “Big Stinking Comedy Festival” in Austin, TX. It boasted amazing improv groups, and it got me hard, so I went down. Eventually I took a class at the Hideout Theater and from then on I was totally hooked. I’ve always kind of known that my only redeeming quality is finding the keys to a person’s laughter lock, it was just hard to find the confidence to pursue it. When I got to NY I took classes all over and then found a home at the Magnet.

 

 

What initially attracted you to the Magnet?

GB: All the misfits. There were no preconceived notions about the comedy we wanted to explore. We were all making mistakes and figuring it out and loving the process of learning about people through improv.

 

What teams, shows, and projects were you a part of while at the Magnet?

GB: A ton of different teams and shows. The first I think was “Munchaüsan” then “El Partido”? I was at the Magnet every night until their doors were locked. I was also in 4-Track which was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Really proud of all the teams I was on and every performer I got to play with.

 

What were some of your favourite shows and performers while here?

GB: I loved watching “Pax Romana” a lot. They always had so much fun, it was contagious. I can’t name just a few performers I liked to watch. It was literally every last one. Aside from being my friends, they were all so fucking funny.

 

Who were or are your favourite improv instructors? Who do you attribute to your growth as an improviser and comedian? Who influences/had influenced you as an improviser?

GB: Obviously Armando had a lot to do with how I approached comedy and improv. His patience and insight into the reality of character was huge. He’s been my biggest influence to date, for sure.

I got to work with Mark Sutton in Vancouver once, he was awesome. Mick Napier was great too.

Dan Bakkedahl is still the improviser that knocks me out anytime he’s on stage. I love that dude’s work, always have.

 

What did you learn at the Magnet that helps you now?

GB: Patience. Laying in the cut. Screaming doesn’t get you food. Cool doesn’t mean shit. Any and all confidence I have as a performer I attribute to the Magnet. I feel like I grew up on that stage, having never done any other theater training.

 

Why did you leave NYC?

GB: I had some work in LA and everyone encouraged me to make the move for professional reasons. And I owed the Italians money.

 

Are you still improvising?

GB: I am but not as much as I’d like to.

 

What projects have you taken on since your departure from the Magnet?

GB: A lot of web shorts and indie films. Anything and everything. Always saying yes.

 

What are you currently involved in?

GB: I’m co-writing a web series that’s loosely based on my life as a weird stonerish dad. It’ll hopefully show the ups and downs of alternative style parenting.

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What excites you and inspires you?

GB: Watching youngins do improv. This art form is still in its infancy. 4-track toured Canada a bunch and watching kids that have been doing improv since high school and in some cases even earlier was fucking rad. Game didn’t matter, character didn’t matter, they just knew. They were so good at emoting and everything

 

What are the differences between the New York scene and the scene of Los Angeles?

GB: The biggest difference for me is that in LA you can’t walk from one theater to another the way you can in NY. Aside from that, great stuff is happening in both cities. The weirdest thing about LA is that instead of rehearsing in a studio, you go to someone’s house.

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What shows and performers should us New Yorkers totally take note of in case we take a trip out West?

GB: The main thing I would suggest is to check out every venue- there’s good shows and performers scattered across LA. The Clubhouse, Second City, UCB, I.O.West- try not to limit your perspective on style, go tons of places, and don’t be too stuck up to laugh.
 

Thanks George! When in New York, George has been known to drop by Magnet for shows. Keep an eye out for more of George’s work.