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

Posts Tagged ‘Improv’

Wednesday February 3, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Michael Delaney Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Founding member of legendary UCB ensembles The Swarm and The Stepfathers, MICHAEL DELANEY, sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to talk truth in improv, how time has affected his approach to comedy, and his reverence for the Harold.  Not only has Delaney been doing improv in NYC since before the arrival of the UCB, but he’s long been considered one of the greatest minds in both improv and sketch that this great city has to offer. Listen in to hear Louis interview his former teacher and to find out what gets under Delaney’s skin.

Louis took Delaney’s Level 3 class thirteen years ago and he still has his notes from it. more

Wednesday January 20, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Matt Evans Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Jealous Dad and 1/4th of Hello Laser, MATT EVANS, joins us to discuss straight-manning, his old soul, performing characters, and how he stinks at object work! Hot off the heels of this recent pilot, Jealous Dad, Matt is getting ready for Montreal Just For Laughs auditions and finding that the scripted work he does these days can be more nerve-racking than in the past. He tells us of his history in NYC comedy dating back to 2004 and how much he loves Bob Newhart.

To get the ball rolling, Louis asks Matt to talk about his prep for Just For Laughs auditions and how it’s been trying out new material. more

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

Elena Skopetos Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Champion of sketch and improv comedy alike, ELENA SKOPETOS, joins us on the show to talk about clowning, characters, ComedySportz, and the new J&L Presents! You know her from The Cast, The Executives, AVALANCHE, and her many appearances in other shows, but this is Elena’s first tell-all-interview-podcast with Louis Kornfeld so we suggest you strap on in before you’re swept away to Flavortown. This party is starting and you’re still at the door, buddy!

If you think Louis is messing around to begin this episode, you’re dead wrong. more

Wednesday December 30, 2015, 9:27am - by Magnet Theater

Chrissie Gruebel Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

We couldn’t get enough of CHRISSIE GRUEBEL on stage, so we had her on the podcast to talk about improv, acting, & everything else. A darling of Megawatt’s Metal Boy, Friday Night Sh*w, and Magnet Sketch Teams, Chrissie sits down with Louis and regales him with tales from Philadelphia, New York, and the theater capitol of North America, Scranton. Chrissie is one of our favs and we just know you’re gonna love this episode. May she live forever online!

To begin this episode, Louis claims he knows nothing about Chrissie and Chrissie claims she doesn’t have a Long Island accent. You’ll have to tune in to find out that both of these are lies! more

Wednesday December 23, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Russ Armstrong podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Boy howdy are you in for a delicious episode with the one and only RUSS ARMSTRONG. A writer for Uncommon Sense (MTV), performer galore (Master of None, Montreal Just for Laughs, 30 Rock), and improviser who has played on many a Magnet ensemble, Russ has plenty to discuss with host Louis Kornfeld regarding television, union workers, life balance, and confidence. Find out how Louis is feeling (creatively) and if Evan is real or just a made up character. All of this and more in Episode #70!

This episode begins with Russ and Louis talking about the podcast itself and how Louis must strive to stay ahead of his students that listen to it. Once past all of that nonsense, Louis asks Russ about his current gig writiing for the MTV show Uncommon Sense hosted by Charlamagne Tha God. What is the schedule like for such a show and how has Russ’s life changed since he began writing for television on the regular? Discussing work/life balance is something any corporate drone is probably familiar with, but getting to hear a comedian’s take on the matter provides a perspective most might not hear.

Further exploring what it feels like to write for a TV show, Louis wonders if the vibe of a writers room can ever mimic that of an improv team or even, improv theater. Somewhere along the line, Louis insults all union workers, as he is wont to do. Russ counters, asking, “Is there any place that’s really like an improv theater?” We’re paraphrasing with those quotation marks.

Russ answers questions about being funny on days when you’re not feeling funny and how you push yourself through those times. He also provides insight on writing for other voices, hosts, shows, and audiences. Plus, he discovers that Louis’ life is very much like a Dove soap ad. What does that mean? You’ll have to listen. Later, Louis launches insightful inquiries regarding Russ’ comedic sensibilities and sense of a linear life. Though he may not have known where he was going as a kid, Russ finds more use for goals and planning theseadays.

Then the improv chatter heats up! Russ shares a lesson he’s learned and proclaims that while improv starts with a mentality of “Your ideas are great!” it can often translate to something too cozy and too safe for growth. Ultimately, Russ says, you have to like your own ideas. Louis wants to know, when the pressure is on, how does Russ avoid letting fear and insecurity block him from that goal? Russ asks, “Is fake confidence different from real confidence?” Plus, Russ invents a character named Evan who doesn’t exist, asks Louis how he’s feeling creatively, and tells us what he says to people who tell him to cheer up! You can’t stop this episode and it doesn’t matter!!!

Wednesday December 16, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Christina Dabney podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Everyone’s favorite vegan, CHRISTINA DABNEY, stops by the podcast to talk about telling the truth, homeschool education, her sketch team Stockton, and of course, yoga. Plus, Louis spends some time criticizing modern learning and, wouldn’t you know it, Christina gives a shout out to her mom and dad. It’s a thought-provoking episode that you’re just going to love.

Christina and Louis begin this episode talking about people opening up to one another in both the context of improv and in everyday life. Both have found, in different ways, that it’s easier for them to be truthful when they feel it will help others – Louis perhaps to illustrate a point to a class; Christina to make people feel more comfortable in social settings. Outside of those helpful moments though, they acknowledge being oddly closed off at times, which gets them talking about anxiety as a human condition.

They get more into improv as Christina posits that the particular things a character cares about will allow it to relate to other characters. Louis asks Christina if she thinks relationships change over time and then probes into her homeschool education (which somehow includes traveling clowns) and the virtues of such a learning experience. Louis guesses that today’s education system, at best, prepares one to tolerate boredom at one’s future boring job.

Though she feared she’d be terrible at improv,  because it was all about being funny, Christina shares that her supportive teachers convinced her to continue and she eventually fell in love with it. Hear the story of how her first taste of improv coincided with her first yoga experience and what she loves about them both. Louis asks her, “Why are so many people turned on by doing something that has no future whatsoever?” Christina claims we enjoy pushing ourselves just to know we can do it. Louis also asks, “Is yoga just stretching?”

Finally, they touch on the practice of taking a step back from something you love so that you can return to it refreshed and we hear about Christina’s sketch team, Stockton.

All of that, and! We find out the answer to the age old question, “Who does Louis hate in his yoga class?”

Wednesday December 9, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Rob Webber podcast Subscribe with iTunes

A mainstay of Magnet Sketch Teams and long-time NYC improviser, ROB WEBBER, joins us to discuss his life of comedy, dish on how he wanted to teach music once upon a time, and provide advice that can aid any team. In addition to being a writer/actor for Wendigo and the director of Adults, Rob has been doing comedy in NYC for 20 years now and he has a lot of insight on what makes great teams, how to find success on your own terms, and his favorite kind of improv. Dig in, children.

Since Rob has been in the comedy game for two decades, Louis begins this interview by asking him how he has he integrated comedy with the rest of the life. Whether it’s been comedy or his first passion of wanting to be a music teacher, Rob talks about how he’s spent most of his life following his interests very closely. He first came to New York to study musical theater, where he learned Viola Spolin exercises, and then picked up Second City in the late 90’s when it opened here. Rob tells us about those few years during which Second City had a New York branch and describes legendary teacher Martin de Maat.

Born out of those SC days was Rob’s long-running indie team Johnny Lunchpail, which was a team that Louis fondly recalls looking up to when he began improvising. Rob talks about that team, as well as the team he most looked up to when he started out: Burn Manhattan. Louis and Rob discuss the Johnny’s style of physical, viewpoints-influenced play and Rob tells us what he found most useful about Spolin’s exercises. He gets frustrated these days with people “burning their steps” and encourages players to take their time.

In addition to his work at Magnet, Rob has also studied at UCB and was on Harold Night for about 5 years. He talks about he evolution of My Kickass Van becoming Gigawatt and eventually, Arsenal, and notes that Giuliani made a lot of performance venues for comedy by closing down strip clubs. Louis and Rob get into game, plot, narrative, and story, which can be a confusing goulash of terms and definitions, even for the most seasoned improviser.

To wrap up the show, Louis asks Rob some big questions about writing, performing, and directing sketch comedy. Rob provides guidance and insight on what makes great sketch writers and performers. Most of it boils down to this: Look out for people and take care of the unsexy stuff. Louis asks a super obnoxious question, but gets writing advice out of it. And finally, we hear the compare and contrast benefits of the Second City approach to creating sketch versus the more UCB/Magnet approach.

Extra finally, Rob talks briefly about teaching improv in Brazil. What?! So cool!

Wednesday December 2, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Quinton Loder Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Longtime performer and jack-of-all-trades, QUINTON LODER, joins his good friend Louis Kornfeld to talk about Topeka, The Boss, and being an improv hand-grenade. Not only does Quinton perform weekly with The Boss, but we is quite literally in charge of many of the Magnet’s day-to-day operations. Pretty cool, right? From Kansas to Chelsea, Quinton tells us about his improv life.


Tuesday December 1, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater


For the entire month of December, all daytime weekday rentals at the Magnet Training Center are only $10 an hour! That’s right – between the hours of 11AM and 7PM, Monday through Friday, 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. 😉

Wednesday November 18, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Armando Diaz Podcast 66 Subscribe with iTunes

Magnet Theater co-founder and all around improv know-it-all, ARMANDO DIAZ, sits down with us to talk about film, improvisation, and what he thinks of the “guru” label. It’s not everyday we get to hear so intimately from one of the greats of improvisation, but Armando stopped by to chat with host Louis Kornfeld and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Who knows – maybe this will be one of many? What we do know for sure is that this episode is not one to be missed.

Our conversation with Armando Diaz begins with the moment he gave up on the film industry. Both he and Louis had forays into the film industry and neither of them particularly liked it. However, it was this rejection of film that steered Armando toward improv. These two encyclopedias of improv and film discuss how improv keeps people more honest than film, how it strips away pretentious defense of art, and how Louis learned more about scene structure and motivation through improvising than attending film school. You need the laboratory of improvisation to learn and grow, says Armando.

Louis notes that, when teaching, Armando talks a lot about culture and art, so he asks Armando where he finds inspiration these days. In giving his answer, Armando opines on the need for art and culture to become local again. They talk about the dual importance of experiencing something together with a group of people, as well as the value of truly having time alone with your own thoughts – time devoid of entertainment and third party interference. In this part of the interview, we find out how many children Armando has! You’ll be surprised.

Tying in Armando’s notion of communal art with David Shepard’s goal of The Compass to be a popular theater, Louis asks how those ideas can be transposed into the improv of today. Armando tries to recall the first improv he saw that set the bar or made a big impression on him. For him, it’s always been about exploring the unknown. If for a period of time you can transcend yourself, those are the best moments. Where does such deep water lie for improv these days? Louis and Armando talk about challenging audiences in a helpful way and how we need imperfections and flaws.

If you came for the good stuff, look no further than Louis asking Armando about the status of his name. He talks about what it means to him to be “Armando.” People will think whatever they want, so he keeps himself grounded in real interactions with other people. He also tells use why he doesn’t love the idea of gurus and relates how the burden of experience can get in the way of trying to learn something new. Not wanting to watch people who have a list of rules in their head, Armando has developed his teaching methods to focus on inspiring students rather than correcting them.

Among a bevy of talk on improvisation, Louis asks Armando why he’s such a reluctant improviser and Armando talks about what it’s like to play with his frequent duo partner, Christina Gausas. Finally, Louis reminds us of this wonderful quote from Elaine May: “The only safe bet is to take a risk.” Amen.