Posts Tagged ‘Improv’
Alexis Lambright is a writer, storyteller, and cast member of Magnet ensembles The Wrath and The Cast. Alexis also hosts The Griot Show, in which she brings together a range of black performers and storytellers together around a specific theme! In anticipation of this Friday’s edition of The Griot Show, we spoke with Alexis about storytelling, “edutaining,” and pooped pants.
What makes a compelling story?
For me, the thing that makes a story compelling are the details. This is in no way profound, but I’m drawn to stories with a lot of details. Someone could be telling me about the time they pooped their pants in public, and I wanna know which city they were in, the surroundings, the time of day, the temperature, what they wore, what they ate earlier that day, and of course why they pooped their pants in the first place. All of those details allow me to see it happening (that’s not to say that I am obsessed with envisioning someone pooping their pants, I was just using that as an example). Anyway, I’ve heard some very detailed stories that made me feel like I was actually there.
How does your background as an improviser inform your style as a storyteller?
I think my improv background has allowed me to be able to recall stories pretty quickly. I’ve done shows were I had to come up with a story from an audience suggestion, which means going through my mental Rolodex of related stories. In the case of The Griot Show, I might have a story prepared, but maybe something from one of the performer’s stories sparks an idea that leads to a better story!
Your show features a variety of performers from different experiences and performance styles. Aside from improvisers and comedians, what other people have performed at the Griot Show?
Over the past three years, while I started out trying to keep the format to a traditional storytelling show, I’ve found that the show is really great when the performers tell a story through other mediums. I’ve had a video artist on who showed a piece that he directed, in which Harriet Tubman and other slaves were doing interpretive dance to Britney Spears’ “I’m A Slave 4 U”. There have been poets who have shared stories through their work, a few performers have incorporated music into their pieces, and I’ve even projected illustrations from a book I wrote at the tender age of six about slavery. Yes, 6 year-old me wrote a book about slavery. One of my absolute favorite guests on the show was Mr. Dabney Montgomery, who served the U.S. Army Air Corps as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. When I tell you it was an honor, privilege, and just an absolute DREAM COME TRUE having him bless my little ol’ show, I am dead serious! He was phenomenal!
What inspired you to produce this show?
I was approached by Beth Newell (former Magnet Sketch Program head) about creating a show that would bring some diversity to the Magnet stage. I brainstormed some ideas and finally decided on a storytelling show for Black History Month. The first two times went so well, that people came up to me and said “have you ever thought about having the show more than just once a year?” The next show was on Juneteenth for its historical significance to African Americans, and eventually I did the show every other month. I’d like to make it a monthly show, but I need help either producing or hosting it.
You’ve been hosting the Griot Show for a while now. How has the show changed over time since you first started hosting it?
As I mentioned before, it’s been a little over three years since the show debuted. In the beginning, it didn’t have a specific theme- I just wanted to get more black people performing at the Magnet. Now, I will try to come up with a theme for the show, like “Juneteenth Edition”, “Pride Month+Loving Day Edition”, etc. Also, because I love it when a show is “edutaining” (educational and entertaining), I try to do black history or theme-related trivia questions with the audience. There are prizes, too!
Check out The Griot Show this Friday, August 18th at 7pm!
For the entire month of September, all room rentals at the Magnet Training Center are only $10 an hour! That’s right – between the hours of 11AM and 11PM, seven days a week, every single one of our lovely rehearsal spaces is available for the low price of $10/hr. Rehearse at Magnet Training Center and save your hard-earned cash for that bus ticket home! Or a flight to Miami. Player’s choice. 😉
Welcome to Magnet’s “Getting To Know” series! We’re using our blog to highlight our fabulous performers and writers and we can’t wait for you to meet them. Want to see them all? Click here.
What’s your name?
Which team or show are you on?
Where are you from?
How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?
My dad lives in LA, and as a kid we’d often go see the Groundlings, Theatresports, and an improv troupe called LA Connection when I visited on weekends. I loved it, and secretly wanted to do it myself, but pushed the feeling deep inside for fear I’d follow up on it. Many years passed in which I lived several lives. By the time I took my first improv class, I was already an old man.
How long have you been performing/writing?
I’m very sorry to blow your mind, but it’s five years *to the hour* since my first improv class as I’m responding to this. I have an app that tells me how long it’s been so I can calibrate my nostalgia. I’ve been writing, in one way or another, since I developed the motor skills.
Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?
Hmm. Improvisers pull out such different qualities from each other depending on the pairing. Zach Woods is my favorite improviser, and we’d probably do a very sensible only-straight-man Harold. I’d also love to be a wildcard with a sillypants wildcard like Lauren Lapkus or Thomas Middleditch. I think it would be fun to improvise with my brother and mom. I bet we’d do a dinner scene. Finally, I’d like to be Charlie Kaufman’s writing partner. I imagine we’d sit in silence on opposite sides of the room from each other for six months, doing separate projects, then switch.
Who would you most like to impersonate or write for?
Write for: Christopher Morris, Armando Iannucci, Charlie Kaufman, Richard Foreman, David Lynch. Impersonate? Stan Laurel.
What makes you laugh the hardest?
Onstage, a dumb, wrong person insisting they’re smart and right. And nothing makes me laugh harder than someone treating a bonkers-absurd point of view as though it’s the most reasonable thing in the world. I’m also a sucker for endless, unvarying, patience-trying repetition. And I think throwing up is funny, but not farting.
Describe the soundtrack to your life!
The Eraserhead steam noises.
What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?
What do you enjoy doing besides…this?
Where can we find you on a Saturday night?
At a practice, a show, or at home. It would be very strange to see me anywhere else.
- Armando Iannucci
- Charlie Kaufman
- Christopher Morris
- David Lynch
- Getting To Know
- Hot Charles
- LA Connection
- Lauren Lapkus
- magnet theater
- new york
- new york city
- Richard Foreman
- Spencer Campbell
- Stan Laurel
- Thomas Middleditch
- Zach Woods
Actor and comedian, KEISHA ZOLLAR, joins host Louis Kornfeld to discuss the role of comedians in society, why she hates revenge stories, and the issue with overly dramatic art. Not only that, but they get to talking about how we give too much energy to our lizard brains and urge everyone out there to show your weird! This is our final episode of the season, but we’ll see you again in September. From all of us to all of you, thanks so much for listening and huzzah!
Our fabulous guest and intrepid host begin this episode laying out the three or four types of bad, real-world comedy and note that the bully flavor of “funny” still persists, despite how god-awful it is. Keisha posits that perhaps we, as comedians, need to rally a bit more against bullies and the behavior they propagate. She also says that Louis has “an intense face” and Louis seems to agree. They talk about being “on” all the time and how common folks expect comedians to behave day-to-day. They get into the role of comedians in society and the responsibilities that comedians and other creators take on by assuming the mantel. Such a conversation would be incomplete without mentioning identity politics and how the comedian’s ultimate job is to disrupt norms.
Pivoting like a member of Trump’s cabinet, Louis attempts to take a positive lesson away from the current hot mess that is the world around us. Keisha wisely points out that, growing up, no one ever told us why democracy could be bad, reminding us that every tool is also a weapon. She relates that she often feels we give too much energy to our lizard brain and not enough to our frontal lobe, which allows us to reason.
Speaking of lizard brains, Keisha tells us why revenge stories don’t entertain her and why one of her favorites movies is Requiem For A Dream. She and Louis show appreciation for feeling your feelings in-the-moment, including the negative feelings like anger and sadness. Speaking further on this, Keisha shares a bit about her lifelong experience of recurring illness and living with an invisible disability, something she brings up to highlight the fact that it’s not all negative – there are positives of that life experience and the perspective it gives her is invaluable. This sparks their both Louis and Keisha’s qualms with art that is overly dramatic, art that lacks the light we know to be present. As our episode comes to an end, we are reminded that the beauty of improv is that we are encouraged to show our weird, to show our uniqueness. Everyone has something. Accept your weird.
And finally, our host and guest share this special message with us, as we say goodbye to Season 3 of the Magnet Theater Podcast:
Go stare at a tree!
Junior Varsity’s Jarret Berenstein is releasing his first book, The Kellyanne Conway Technique: Perfecting the Ancient Art of Delivering Half-Truths, Fake News, and Obfuscation– With A Smile, this August from Racehorse Publishing. He’s celebrating its launch with a show at Magnet and some of his favorite stand-up comedians. We sat down with Jarret to talk about his Kellyanne, his book, and the upcoming release show August 7th.
JB: Before writing this book I assumed that people needed at least some integrity to survive. I thought it was like food or oxygen, and that a person with zero integrity would shrivel up and dry out like a desert grape. Kellyanne appears to be living sans integrity though, and that’s pretty interesting. And worrisome!
M: Which part of the process in making this book was the most fun?
JB: Definitely writing the “everyday life” examples. In the book, I talk about how we can use Kellyanne’s brand of spin get out of tight spots in our everyday life, so coming up with those types of problems (speeding ticket, late for work, double murder, etc) and then translating a Kellyanne move to fit that situation was really fun.
M: Why do you think a book, in particular, is a great medium for this kind of humor?
JB: I’ve seen a lot of articles and videos online about what Kellyanne does and why it’s effective, but they mostly just scratch the surface. You need to have the full length of a book to go through all the different types of Conway nonsense and also have the space to thoroughly make fun of each of them.
M: If you had to boil down the essence of Kellyanne and her technique down to 3 words, what would they be?
JB: Overflowing with bullshit.
M: Who is this book perfect for? Who is this book totally NOT for?
JB: I think the book is perfect for everyone! Even if you’re more conservative, I think anyone can appreciate what’s silly about Kellyanne.
M: Tell us a little about your book release show!
JB: The show is on Monday, August 7th at 7:30 pm at the Magnet. It’s gonna feature some great standups like Seaton Smith (from Fox’s Mulaney) and Liza Treyger (incredible comic with one of the best Comedy Central Half Hour specials I’ve ever seen), and possibly a short reading from the book! There’s talk of the publisher bringing free beer and a copy of the book for people in the audience (while supplies last) but don’t hold me to that.
Sign up in August and get $50 off your Level One!
It’s the classic 12th Anniversary gift – $50 bucks off.
This sale is for all Level One classes throughout the month of August. That includes Improv, Musical Improv, and Sketch Writing. Sign up for all three and save $150. Or sign up for 10 of them and save $500. Unreasonable? Hell yes. But signing up for one is not only not unreasonable – it’s smart! Save money while falling in love with the most inspiring creative pursuit you can imagine. And while gaining skills that just might change your life.
When we began our theater in 2005, we never knew we’d grow into an organization with 250 performers, 22 teachers, and 80 million students annually. We tried not to, but it happened anyway. We started with Armando Diaz teaching one improv workshop and now we offer comprehensive training in improv, musical improv, sketch writing, storytelling and more. We think that studying with Magnet instructors is simply one of the best ways to improve your comedy, your art, your relationships, and your life.
That’s why we’re offering $50 off any Level One class (improv, musical improv, sketch comedy) when you register between now and August 31st, 2017. Our normally priced $399 classes are now $349 for the month of August. We ran the same sale in May, June, and July and so many people took advantage of it, that we wanted to keep the good times rolling. We know that our entire community benefits from more people improvising and we want to make it as easy as possible to get started.
To view classes currently enrolling, click on the appropriate link below:
Our Level One Improv and Musical Improv classes are eight sessions with an additional graduation show at the end (no grad show for the sketch class, but it’s still amazing). And as always, free Intro to Improv classes are also available on a regular basis. Click here for details.
Our old pal George Basil (HBO’s Crashing, TBS’ Wrecked, Netflix’s Flaked) returns to New York this week to take on two of Magnet’s greatest improv duos: Kornfeld & Andrews and Trike! We sat down with George to talk about his work in television, his passion for improv, and his favorite spots to return to in NYC.
MAGNET: What are some current and upcoming projects you’re pumped about?
GB: I’m excited for a couple things coming up. One is an animated show that some friends are making, and I’ll be the voice of a centaur (dream come true), and the other is a series I’m developing about a single dad and his cool kid titled “Rad Dad.”
M: You’ve got some improv shows coming up at Magnet with Kornfeld & Andrews and Trike – what excites you about doing improv? What keeps you coming back?
GB: The same thing that excites me about playing blackjack or craps is the thing that excites me about improv: the total unknown. No matter how good you think you are, sometimes the earth’s rotation has got it out for you. What keeps me coming back? The Magnet will always feel like my home.
M: Between your characters on Crashing, Flaked, and Wrecked – which is most similar to you?
GB: Probably Lief from Crashing. He’s impulsive but finds different philosophies he can use as a way to justify his sometimes irresponsible actions. I do that shit.
M: Who’s your favorite improviser and why?
GB: Dan Bakkhedal, for sure. I used to watch him whiz mentally around a stage and it didn’t matter who his scene partner was, he totally listened to them and supported every move they made. I could watch that man do anything.
M: What are you most excited about doing during your time back in NY?
GB: Aside from the rad shows at Magnet, I’m always stoked to revisit my old neighborhood in Brooklyn and reminisce through places I used to eat. Even just walking the same streets that took me to the train gets me all excited. Mostly excited for the shows though. It’s been too long.
George Basil joins Trike this Saturday, August 5th at 9 pm! You can also see him with Kornfeld & Andrews this Sunday, August 6th at 7:30 pm!
Say hello to all of our new Summer 2017 Circuit teams! Come see one of their shows, Fridays at 10 pm, July 21st through September 29th! YES!
Coach: Abby Russell
Coach: Michael Kroll
Coach: Rob Penty
David M. Freshwater
Team Boomhauer (musical)
Coach: Jacob Horn
Magnet performer, stand-up comedian, and author Jarret Berenstein joins host Louis Kornfeld in the most recent edition of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The conversation hits a lot on politics and how Jarret feels he sounds like a “tin hat conspiracy theorist” when discussing them. Check out this podcast to learn about Jarret’s upcoming book about Kellyanne Conway, his early days as a stand up comic, and how he still plans on living in a mansion with Gwyneth Paltrow.
Jarret and Louis start out the podcast with a discussion on acting in sketches and the pros and cons of memorizing lines. Louis admits that memorizing lines in a whisper never works for when he actually needs to perform them out loud. Jarrett describes the mastery of learning all of your lines as “its own kind of fun.”
After the brief pre-podcast conversation, we learn that Jarret has a book coming out, “The Kellyanne Conway Technique: Perfecting the Ancient Art of Delivering Half-Truths, Fake News, and Obfuscation―With a Smile.” He was hired by the publishing company to make fun of Kellyanne Conway because knew someone at the publishing company who figured he’d have time to do write the book. (Also, because he’s funny. Duh.) He discusses his frustration with watching her lies and getting even more frustrated with the fact that her candidate won.
They start to talk about revenge against comedians – how unfunny people like Mike Huckabee and Kellyanne Conway are now trying to be comedic themselves. Jarret explains that he was unable to watch Kellyanne Conway’s stand-up comedy tape because he knew it would anger him too much. They discuss how the people who are considered funniest tend to be more liberal and how when conservatives make jokes they gain support not because people think they are funny but because people agree with them.
Louis thinks that Jarrett is very well-tempered when it comes to politics. We learn that Jarret spent all of November on Reddit and spent much of that time fighting with other users who he figures were Russians acting like Americans who support Trump, and how he realized it was such a waste of time. Though he was extremely angry, he realized “that rage is not going to change anyone’s mind.”
Jarret talks about his stand-up comedy and how he wants to start putting political humor into his act but he knows that when he starts talking about politics he sounds like a “tin hat” conspiracy theorist. He describes his faces in improv vs his faces in stand up. While he improvises, Jarret notices that he will break often and have a hard time not smiling because he’s having fun. While in stand-up, he explains, his face is more “I’m looking at you in a serious way even though what I said was ridiculous.”
Louis asks Jarret if he feels confident as a performer with ten years of stand-up comedy experience. Jarret thinks that he is and tells Louis about how comedians can grow as performers. Jarret reflects on starting out as a stand-up comedian at “bringer” shows and how embarrassing they are as a comic.
Despite his current focus on stand-up, Jarret’s first love was improv. He talks about SNL, Comedy Central, listening to comedy albums – about not even knowing what the jokes were about but liking the rhythm of stand-up. He remembers playing MASH with his friends where he ended up living in a mansion with Gwyneth Paltrow as a paid improviser. That would be the life.
To close out the podcast, Louis discusses Kliph Nesteroff’s book “The Comedians” and how it does a great job going through the history of comedy. Jarret and Louis agree that relevance is an interesting aspect of comedy – Jarret thinks that “it’s weird that generations can grow up not seeing the best version of somebody.”
Pick up Jarret’s book, “The Kellyanne Conway Technique” when it’s released in August and come to his book launch show at Magnet on Monday, 8/7, at 7:30 pm!
- Bill O'Reilly
- Block Party
- bringer shows
- Famous Dead People
- jarret berenstein
- junior varsity
- Kellyanne Conway
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- magnet training center
- Mike Huckabee
- new york
- new york city
- political humor
- Radio Free Brooklyn
- stand up comedy
- The Kellyanne Conway Technique
- thursday night out
- Upright Citizens Brigade
Greetings, Magnet Theater Friends and Family!
This September will mark the end of the current Megawatt season and also the two-year mark of my tenure as Megawatt Director. With the changing of the season (and a baby on the way) I have decided to step down and hand the baton off to the incredible Hannah Chase!
Hannah will officially be taking over with the next round of auditions and start of the new season in mid-September. Dates for auditions will officially be announced on this blog at a later date.
I’m endlessly blown away by the talent, creativity, and camaraderie of the Megawatt performers and members of the community, and Wednesday nights are always a highlight of my week. It has been an honor and a privilege to get to watch and be a part of four hours of some of the best improv anywhere every Wednesday for the past two years.
Megawatt is the greatest, and it just keeps getting better. I plan on bringing my baby to watch when she is old enough.