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

Posts Tagged ‘Improv’

Wednesday June 1, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Ali Fisher Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Queen of stage and backstage alike, The Cast’s ALI FISHER, stops by to talk about who we are as humans, why books are so damn cool, and the wonders of genre! Ali and Louis explore how cooperation helps humanity succeed, what Ali absolutely loves about her role as editor at a sci-fi, fantasy, and horror publisher, and why The Cast is so damn incredible. It’s a beautiful episode with beautiful people so just listen to it already!

Our heroes begin this fantastic episode by acknowledging confusion in the world and that we do not know the future. Ali talks about a Wait But Why post that she never finished and it gets them talking about humanity. Louis believes our sense of cooperation lifts us much higher than each of us would be capable of alone and Ali seems to agree. To make things even better, Louis offers up an X-Men analogy that fanboys should do their best not to examine too closely. They discuss the matters of self-awareness and asking, “Who am I?” to which we can only answer, “Evan, Producer.” The rabbit hole is so deep and glorious, we find Louis offering up a comparison between improv comedy and reincarnation.

Running in parallel to Ali’s life as an improviser on stage is her work as a fiction editor off stage. Louis inquires about Ali’s position as an editor within the young adult branch of a fantasy, sci-fi, and horror publishing house. She names some of the books from her past she’s found most formative and tells us what she looks for when reading new works. Similar to fiction, improv helps you examine unthinkable actions and experience unlikely thoughts.

Continuing their quest, Louis and Ali delve into the the topics of external expectations and destiny. Ali articulates the beauty of eating together while Louis pontificates on the nature of company. Isn’t it a little crazy how we all show up to improv shows just for the sake of being with people?

To round out this episode, Ali and Louis talk about the power of various genres, including comedy, and compare the entirety of Horror to the common feeling of stage fright. This leads them to discuss the genre-conquering show The Cast, with whom Ali plays every Saturday night, and to the establishment of Ali’s own personal genre.

Plus, Louis offers this challenge: “Identify with that, listeners!” Find out what it is!

Wednesday May 25, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Rob Penty Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Improviser and storyteller extraordinaire, ROB PENTY, talks about why he hates Stella, how humor can help us deal with life, and the arc of his comedy career. He and host Louis Kornfeld also discuss their complex feelings on absurd humor, what Rob loves in comedy, and of course, The Wrath – Rob’s long-running Magnet house team. There’s a
cool karate belt analogy and plenty of Penty to warm your heart. Check it out!

Louis DIVES right into a hot, controversial topic: Rob’s undying hatred of the sketch group Stella. Louis attempts to defend the trio but the best he can muster is Rob’s acknowledgement that maybe the TV show was okay. Rob challenges the notion of, “If it makes you and your friends laugh, it can make an audience laugh,” and they both offer examples of random sketches they love and/or hate. Why do people like truly absurd humor? For fans of obscure sketch shows, they recall some of The Dana Carvey Show’s best pieces.

With so much criticism of comedy up to this point in the episode, Louis switches gears to ask what Rob DOES like about comedy. They talk about bravery in comedy and how it can work for us within the greater context of our lives. One benefit they explore is the ability to laugh at something uncomfortable and how helpful that can be. Rob provides us with some background on his comedy career, starting with standup, and the arc it has taken over the years. Plus – Find out what’s been jazzing Louis about improv lately!

To bring it all home, Rob makes a cool karate belt analogy and Louis asks about his time spent with The Wrath. Give this one a listen and check out Rob’s website, Actually, It’s Rob Penty Dot Org.com

Wednesday May 18, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Matt J Weir Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Longtime Magnet fixture and Creative Consultant for MTV’s “Joking Off,” MATT J. WEIR, talks with host Louis Kornfeld about working on television shows, finding his artistic voice, and his love of artfully dumb comedy. Matt and Louis spend the first part of this episode talking about Matt’s recent experience writing scripts for “Joking Off” and how he’s adapted to the more professional side of comedy. They also discuss Matt’s infamous comedy duo, We’re Matt Weir, and how Matt got into comedy in the first place. You can catch him hosting Cathouse at Industry City Distillery in Brooklyn each month, or right now, on this podcast!

Having just come off a stint writing scripts for MTV’s “Joking Off,” Louis asks Matt all about his experience working for a big network and a television host. He walks us through what it was to be the script supervisor and what the format of the show is, for those that haven’t seen it. Matt was also writing jokes for the show’s host, stand up DeRay Davis, and discusses what he’s learned from writing for someone else’s voice. He talks further about joke writing, what it’s like in a writers room, and the professional side of comedy.

For years, Matt has been one of the hardest working people around the Magnet and Louis wants to know where that work ethic comes from. We hear about Matt’s upbringing in Pennsylvania and how he never wants to go back to loading trucks. He also credits meeting Matt B. Weir as a pivotal moment in his comedy career and one that launched him into just making shit. Together, as We’re Matt Weir, they put up countless shows and traveled the country making artfully dumb comedy.  Matt debates making comedy like fine wine versus diarrhea water and describes how he used to fill 45 minutes on a Monday night at Magnet. Louis and Matt both agree that big, broad movies have their place in the theater and then they both make cool explosion sounds.

Having firmly settled in the camp of diarrhea water, Matt discusses being true to his vision and artistic voice. He then provides us with some background on how he began his quest in film and entertainment which started as a minor interest while in school. Over time, he learned how to shoot and edit by working at his school’s media center and discovered that his calling wasn’t to be a history teacher. So, Louis asks, what’s next for Matt’s career? What does he want to do? Find out all that and more by tuning in!

Wednesday May 11, 2016, 5:53am - by Magnet Theater

Miriam Tolan Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Seasoned improviser and actor, MIRIAM TOLAN, talks with us about her days at Second City, theatricality in improv, and chasing the high that comes from long-form. Growing up outside of Chicago, Miriam was almost fell into becoming an improver and she continues to perform and teach today after doing stints in Chi-town, New York, and LA. Recently, she’s back in NYC and agreed to sit down with us to talk about her journey!

Miriam has been improvising for decades now, and Louis kicks off the episode by taking it all the way back to the beginning. Hear about the influence of SCTV as a gateway drug into comedy and how Miriam caught the improv bug. She tells us about starting at Second City while in college and how serendipitous it was that she happened to be from Chicago. Miriam says she loved every minute of her Second City experience and, to prove it, provides us with an inside view as to why. Louis recalls that she was a member of the “tall cast.” Hear Miriam all about a month-long tour experience in Texas and goofing around while on traveling with her TourCo cast.

With so much experience performing for audiences of all kinds, Louis wants to know Miriam’s gauge on crossing the line with an audience in terms of placating them versus antagonizing them. She answers with examples from Second City’s storied cast members and how different people have handled that balance. Speaking of Second City, Louis inquires about how it was coming into SC’s historically political sensibility, having been raised in a time of more character-based comedy? This leads down a delightful rabbit hole talking about ED and Jazz Freddy, two groundbreaking long-form shows in Chicago. Miriam and Louis discuss how the theatrical quality of these shows changed the improv landscape and paved the way for current acts like TJ & Dave and Stolen House. Acting and improv were two very different worlds before the formation of these groups, she says. Louis wonders if actors are looking for something different in a scene besides the laugh and while Miriam can’t answer for them all, she answers saying that she is always looking for connection.

Moving forward to today, our illustrious duo talk about making adjustments in their own shows after “going to church” by seeing an act like TJ & Dave. “How can you not overcompensate?” they ask. Louis claims that when you’re doing an impression of someone you admire, you’re doing the opposite of what makes them who they are. Miriam and Louis talk about tapping into a sense of not knowing why something works and chasing that invisible high. Miriam describes trying to find a similar sense of magic in scripted work and the challenge of such a task. At this phase, Louis wants to know, what keeps Miriam excited about this improv stuff? He also recalls his love of The Tiny Spectacular, Magnet’s one-time, uber-stacked, Saturday night show.

They end the episode discussing how Miriam approaches teaching and how long-form has a way of finding its way back to short-form. Finally, the question is answered: What’s the ulterior motive to a hug?

Wednesday May 4, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Charlie Todd Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Founder of Improv Everywhere and UCB stalwart, CHARLIE TODD, joins us to talk about causing scenes, his early days at UCB, and Two Beers In, his new political roundtable podcast! In addition to his infamous prank collective and budding podcast, Charlie plays at UCB on Saturday nights with The Curfew and has hosted UCB CageMatch on Thursday nights for the past 13 years. We’re so happy that Charlie took the time to sit down with us and we know you’re gonna love this episode!

Louis begins the episode diving full force into Improv Everywhere, but not before he describes a conflict he had just witnessed on the subway. Charlie contrasts Louis’ tale by explaining how the mission behind IE is to create positive public moments that foster community. Our duo discusses the path that IE has taken over the years and Charlie tells us about the origin of the project, which started with a Ben Folds prank. They talk further about the rise of IE in parallel with the emergence of blogs, YouTube, and internet connectedness. Charlie describes the current YouTube landscape and notes how the competition between creators and corporations has grown as of late. He also talks about branded content and how artists pay for their creative processes. Louis asks how Charlie deals with cases of when brands or other organizations co-opt IE concepts and the use of viral content for the sake of marketing.

Moving away from the business side of things, Louis wants to know which prank ideas pass Charlie’s bar for inclusion, how he feels about going global, and what it’s like organizing large groups of people to do things without a set outcome. Charlie walks us through a somewhat recent run-in with the police and tells us how IE deals with authority. Louis expresses to Charlie how the work of Improv Everywhere makes New York feel a bit smaller and you’ll find out why Charlie really hates the term “flash mob!”

Switching gears, Louis talks with Charlie about his early days at UCB. Fun fact: He heard about the UCB from Hollywood’s T.J. Miller while studying theater in England! Another fun fact: Charlie took his Level 1 with Armando back in 2001. Since he’s been around for UCB’s meteoric rise, Louis asks if Charlie was he able to see the history happening as it unfolded, or if it was more of a sudden realization? Plus, how cool was it when Conan was still in New York? Right, guys?? And it just wouldn’t be a podcast with Louis Kornfeld if they didn’t explore something philosophical like the cyclical nature of performing improv on the same stage for years on end.

Charlie and Louis wrap up this episode discussing Charlie’s newest project, Two Beers In, a tipsy political comedy podcast and live show which he co-hosts with his wife Cody Lindquist. It’s a political roundtable where everyone has chugged a couple beers before the talking starts. Do yourselves a favor and check it out!

Thursday April 28, 2016, 8:17am - by Magnet Theater

hot air baloons (small 2)

Announcing the Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program

The Magnet Theater is excited to announce the Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program for 2016. The aim of the scholarship program is to provide access to improv classes to excited and motivated students for whom money is a barrier, and to add new and diverse voices to the Magnet’s vibrant and open community.

Applications are now open for the Magnet Diversity Scholarships–those selected will receive full program scholarships through Magnet’s Improv program. The scholarships will cover Levels One through Level Four, and contingent upon acceptance, Level 5 and Team Performance.

In this first round of the program for 2016, the Magnet will be awarding up to $30,000 worth of scholarships to those selected through the application process.

We are excited to be able to offer full program scholarships, which we feel will provide the best experience to those selected. Due to the limited number of full scholarships available and the expected number of applicants, it is likely that applications will be competitive.

The Magnet Diversity Scholarship Program is aimed at increasing our diversity of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and age. Students of all experience levels are encouraged to apply, and the scholarships are open to both those who have never studied at Magnet, and to those who have partially completed the program.

Applications are now open and can be filled out here. The application includes general information, and some short essay questions. Applications are due May 18th by midnight, and we hope to notify selected students by Wednesday, June 1st.

There will be a delightful Q & A / informal brunch on Sunday, May 15th from 11am to 2pm, open to all.

For any questions, please email diversityscholars@magnettheater.com or Rick@magnettheater.com

Click here to apply.

Wednesday April 27, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Stefan Schuette Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

A joy to watch on UCB’s Harold Night and TourCo, STEFAN SCHUETTE, joins host Louis Kornfeld for a heavy dose of improv nerdery and to share his improv journey with us. Stefan moved to the city five years ago, has studied everywhere, and currently flies all around the country performing improv. He loves the craft so much and he’s so damn funny, we just had to have him on!

Not too long ago, Stefan hosted his own improv podcast (Improv Noise), on which Louis was a guest, so you can consider this the episode of Frasier when Ted Danson shows up! Louis starts out by asking Stefan to walk us through his route to a life of comedy. Stefan had been doing improv forever in various places and styles when, five years ago, he finally moved to NYC to chase the dream. First being cast at UCB as a member of UCB TourCo, he was then placed on Lloyd Night and quickly rose to Harold Night, where he currently plays with Some Kid. Louis asks him to compare the experience and approach of performing with TourCo versus Lloyd Night and then goes on to contrast Lloyd with Harold Night.

As promised, we get a deep dive into a number of improv techniques and approaches. On the Harold structure itself, Louis and Stefan discuss what we can call a Harold: Does it need to be a particular structure, or can it be anything long-form? He talks about TourCo performances and how they strive more to show the crowd funny scenes than the mastery of a form. Our pair makes a fuss about preparing the audience for what they’re about to see and Louis asks Stefan about his approach to interviews at the top of shows.

Although he considers himself more of an organic player, Stefan has been playing almost strictly premise-based improv for two years now, so he provides advice on building those premise muscles. Louis inquires about Stefan’s coaching and what he most often focuses on, and we are given a beautiful analogy that relates improv to a baseball card stuck in bicycle wheel spokes. They discuss having longer-term goals to focus on with your team and Stefan provides more advice on second beats, third beats, and callbacks. They also explore how group mind influences performances.

As we approach the end of the episode, Louis asks Stefan about how he comes across as a human and what it means to be “specific.” To wrap it al up, our dynamic duo talks about the Keith Johnstone style of improv, which is found all over the world. One thing’s for sure: they love opening doors.

Thursday April 14, 2016, 11:42pm - by Magnet Theater


Congrats to all of our new Spring 2016 Conservatory Circuit teams! Come see one of their shows, Fridays at 10pm, April 22nd through May 27th. Huzzah!

Patrick Haggerty
Will Cheng
Shalini Tripathi
Sarah Poirier
Virginia Dickens
Timothy Fenn
Dana Moore
Adam Taylor
Coach: Ashley Glicken

Kate de Longpre’
Aditya Otiv
Adam Pasulka
Matthew Manganiello
Natasha Gleichmann
Peter Appleby
Kirsten Henning
Andrew Joelson
Coach: Michael McLarnon

Adina Forsstrom
Joe Lemonik
Eric Stone
Rebecca tran
Yimin Peng
Annemarie Cullen
Tomer soran
Ed Cara
Coach: Tim Canty

Nicole Edine
Stephanie Oghweh
Melanie Rubin
Sarah Schlesinger
Tim Layman
Justin McElwee
Daniel Lisle
Dave Adams
Coach: Matt Sellitti

Wednesday April 13, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Rebecca & Armando Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

To celebrate our 11th Anniversary, guest-host Rebecca Robles interviews Magnet founder Armando Diaz about his first dance, marching band, and the power of “no.” Some of you might remember from Rebecca’s first appearance on the podcast, Episode#40, that she’s Armando’s #1 fan, so we thought it would be just so fun to have her interview Armando herself! Here’s to another year of the Magnet Theater and t0 wonderful people engaging in delightful conversation!

Rebecca begins the episode with a special gift for Armando that she found on the train platform. This of course leads Rebecca to ask Armando if he sides with God or the Devil. It’s so profound, you might think that Branson Reese is conducting the interview. Will Rebecca and Armando provide any answers as to whom we should follow?

Truth be told, we don’t really want to provide any answers to any questions – you’ll just have to listen. But let us assure you that the following things happen in this episode:

  • Armando talks about his birthday being Halloween
  • Rebecca asks about first dances and first kisses
  • We find out which instrument Armando played in marching band!
  • Rebecca makes a very special phone call on air!
  • A super important lesson is learned

Truly, this is an episode 11 years in the making. Please listen and please enjoy!

Wednesday April 6, 2016, 6:32am - by Magnet Theater

Adam Twitchell Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Student Council member and a big wig in The Music Industry, ADAM TWITCHELL, sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to discuss production value, physical comedy, and his indie team EagleFox. Adam compares his two most recent sketch teams, comments on the evolution of the sketch program at Magnet, and even shares some ideas for sketches taken straight from his notes. Finally, he talks about being jobless. This episode with lift you up!

We pick up in the middle of a conversation between Adam and Louis regarding the sketch “Lost at Sea,” which Adam wrote and performed with sketch team, Wendigo.(You can watch it below.) He and Louis discuss writing sketches that have a bit of production value and he walks us through the creation of “Lost At Sea.” Jumping off of on the themes of physicality and stage pictures, Louis asks Adam about his silent movie show and and he talks about how he’s a big fan of not only that category of films, but playing with genres in general.

Speaking on tropes and old films, Louis and Adam ponder how to go about writing something original in an era where everything has been done. Adam is now a member of sketch team Student Council and he relates how it is working with them versus his previous team, Wendigo. He also tells Louis how much he enjoys sketches that require a decent amount of research, even if he’s writing about the business of something like the Wonka corporation.

Adam reads some real ideas for sketches from his phone and tells us what he gets from “the room” during the creative process. He and Louis talk about traveling to sketch festivals and how shows should flow. Having been a part of it since the very beginning, Adam answers questions about how  the sketch program at Magnet has progressed since its inception. Louis shares some of Armando’s best advice for sketch and asks Adam what wisdom he would impart upon someone who is greener in the scene.

Getting controversial, Louis asks Adam whether he prefers improv or sketch, OR if he loves them both equally, like children. Without giving anything away, we’ll just tell you that Adam recently joined Megawatt veterans The Music Industry and still finds time to play with his indie team EagleFox from time to time. He notes that camaraderie is the #1 best taste to making an indie team great and keeping spirits high. At Louis’ behest, he details the legend of EagleFox’s “Hair Mona Lisa,” which is a part of INSPIRADO folklore.

We conclude this episode with Adam discussing his “quarter-life rediscovery,” his current jobless state, and by finding out our guest’s top five desert island comedy picks.