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

Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Thursday August 10, 2017, 10:00am - by Promo Team

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?

Spencer Campbell

Which team or show are you on?

Hot Charles

Where are you from?

Ojai, California

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.

What is your favorite place to go on a weekday afternoon when you have no plans or obligations?

 

The dog park, with my real friends.

 

Tuesday August 8, 2017, 1:06pm - by Promo Team

Perri Gross is the host of “Everyone Is Sad,” a stand-up show for comedic performers who are relatively new to stand-up. These performers may appear happy doing improv, sketch, and musical improv–but they are all very tormented and sad and want to stand alone on stage. We sit down with Perri to ask her a few a questions ahead of her August 14th show!

MAGNET: What was attractive to you about hosting a show with relatively inexperienced stand-up comedians?
GROSS: I was lucky to have joined a stand up club in college that helped me work out some kinks in my stand up before performing in shows. We would meet every week and have shows a few times a semester. When I moved to NYC, I couldn’t imagine not having any experience and just hitting the open mic scene. I liked the idea of creating a similar space where people could give stand up a try and the rest of the audience is also new. It helps people feel comfortable to know everyone is on the same page and new. I encourage experienced stand-ups to come to my mic as well so they can get a true reaction from the audience to test out new material. Having new excited comics creates a comradery that is hard to find in the comedy scene.

M: What was the most embarrassing moment of your early days in comedy?
G: At one open mic, I had to stop my set because I felt my material was too upsetting and no one was laughing just making “awww” noises. Most of my material is based off of real stories, and my set that night wasn’t funny it was just sad. I got off the stage, left the venue, and walked all the way home.

M: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve cried, and why?
G: I had a major breakup over the phone near the clock in the middle of Grand Central station. I was dry heaving I was crying so hard. I definitely gave some tourists a great idea of the dreams that awaited them in NYC.

M: What did you start first: improv or standup? What inspired you to make the leap from one to the other?
G: I started doing stand-up first. I did a lot of open mics my first year when I moved to NYC but was looking for an easier way to meet new people and switched over to improv. I found a great community at the Magnet through the classes I took. I was always was hesitant to try improv initially because I like to plan what I am doing. I also hate playing animals and [am] scared to face my fear.

M: Which comedians/improvisers inspired you when you first started?
G: I didn’t watch much stand-up growing up but was probably inspired by watching The Simpsons and Seinfeld with my parents. I did always like George Carlin a lot and found his dark style inspiring and close to my voice.

M: If you could watch any celebrity or public figure try standup for the first time, who would it be?
G: Daddy Yankee. He has a lot to say and I just want him to come out of the wood work. I’m really happy Despacito has put him back on the map and I hope he gets to do a tight 30 soon.

Don’t miss the next Everyone Is Sad, coming up on Monday, August 14th, at 9 pm!

Wednesday August 2, 2017, 7:00am - by evan barden

 

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!

Don’t forget to check out Keisha’s own podcasts: Applying It Liberally and The Soul Glo Project.

Tuesday August 1, 2017, 9:00pm - by Promo Team

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.

MAGNET: What about Kellyanne Conway did you find particularly interesting while you were writing this book?

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.

Don’t miss Jarret’s book release show August 7th, 7:30 pm at Magnet! You can pre-order his book now on Amazon.

Thursday July 27, 2017, 10:18am - by Promo Team

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?

Keith Rubin

Which team or show are you on?

Just Karen

Where are you from?

Maryland

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I started doing improv in high school, and joined an improv group in college to have a group of people who were contractually obligated to be my friends. Then when I moved to New York, I studied improv and sketch at UCB and performed informally there and at the PIT before landing at the Magnet sketch program in a more official capacity.

How long have you been performing/writing?

I’ve been performing since high school, and writing for about four years.

Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

I’d truly love to do an improv scene with Jason Sudeikis and try to out-straight-man each other for the entire duration of it. As for writing, if I could just be a fly on the wall when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hang out, that’s probably about as educational an experience as you could get. Alternatively, I’d love to just watch how Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright operate on a set and take copious notes.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

I’ve recently been working on an impression of the least attractive Hemsworth brother, but…dream scenario? I’d want to impersonate one of the more attractive Hemsworth brothers. And also write something for Martin and Morgan Freeman and call it “The Freemans: Brothers From Another Mother.”

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Extremely specific, extremely dumb things. In this regard, Clickhole is a godsend to me.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

A Songza playlist entitled “90’s Crowd-Pleasing Hits.” Songza because it is as obsolete as my knowledge of music, and 90’s music because Third Eye Blind is the best band there is, was, or ever will be.

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

“How’s it going?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

If I’m free, probably cooking a nice dinner, and if not, probably seeing or doing the show that’s preventing me from being free and cooking a nice dinner.

 

Wednesday July 26, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

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!

Thursday July 20, 2017, 10:04am - by Promo Team

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?

Chloe Metzger

Which team or show are you on?

Astro Tramps

Where are you from?

My birth certificate says Tecumseh, Michigan, but my aversion to change says a dozen different states at two-year intervals throughout my childhood.

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

My brother was in an improv group in high school, and I remember watching one of his short-form shows as a 14-year-old kid and truly believing they could read each other’s minds. It was honestly awe-inspiring. So I joined the group, learned telepathy—along with a ton of really, really bad improv habits—and then continued to improvise in college with a 12-person Harold team that competed in tournaments and hugged a lot.

How long have you been performing/writing?

Does the time I played Miss Fezziwig in a community production of “A Christmas Carol” count? I was 12. It was moving.

Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

Honestly, my ideal scene partners are my closest improv friends. I consistently have the most fun and the best scenes with the people I really love and trust. But if they were all busy, I’d settle for Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Zach Woods.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

I would love to impersonate Carol Burnett, because I’ve been told by exactly four people that we have similar mannerisms, and I’d like to put my wiggly arms to good use. As for writing, it would be a dream to work with Dan Harmon, or to get paid to write anything and everything for McSweeny’s.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Bits. I freaking love bits, especially when they occur in the middle of an ordinary conversation with a group of strangers at a party. A.k.a. most people’s worst nightmare. That, and super-silly tag runs—the ones where the entire team is breaking, and you feel like you’re being suffocated by a big ol’ cloud of happiness.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

My “soundtrack” is one song played on repeat, 37 times a day, for two weeks straight, until I vehemently hate it and can’t listen to it again for at least a decade. That’s generally a mix of stupidly catchy radio hits, or a favorite oldie from some 2005 indie band (what up, The Hush Sound).

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

“What’s your Myers Briggs personality type? Wait, you’ve never taken the test? Here, let me text you the link. OK, take it right now. I’ll wait. Done?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

At home, making burgers, and avidly avoiding peer-pressured texts to come out for “just one drink.”

If you could only watch films from a certain decade for the rest of your life, which period would you choose?

The early ’00s, because I miss living in a world of cotton-candy-colored velour sweatsuits, Limited Too, and Chad Michael Murray circa “Cinderella Story.” Actually, I would like to only watch “Cinderella Story” for the rest of my life.

Wednesday July 19, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

Writer, performer, and avid footballer, LORENA RUSSI, joins host Louis Kornfeld to talk about making the world a better, more evolved place through comedy and how old they both feel. Lorena and Louis discuss how people often put others in easy-to-recognize boxes, why slower comedy appeals to them more, and Lorena’s experience writing for The Kat Call on YouTube. Tune in to hear them shake hands at the end!

Our episode kicks off with Louis mispronouncing Lorena’s name, but it’s okay because it leads to a great conversation on identity and the importance of her name. Sorry, Louis – there’s no going back! Lorena describes her frustrations improvising as an “alpha female […] masculine center” person which gets them talking about how people very quickly and commonly put others into the most readily recognizable boxes available. Lorena touches on the common occurrence of having to be everyone’s source of information and how it can be exhausting to constantly explain things to people.

Lorena and Louis discuss improv as sport versus improv as theater and which parts of each tend to produce humor. Find out why Lorena prefers watching slower shows and why it’s harder for her to enjoy improv shows these days. Our heroes get to talking about entertainment overload and how digital platforms simultaneously wear us out and provide a higher level of accessibility to performers of color than ever before. Lorena calls out Master of None for not being very good and Louis calls the internet the cigarette of our generation. Wow. Hot takes all around! Contrasting the rapidity of the internet, Lorena and Louis chat about needing time to process things, a conversation that involves acknowledging sadness, using power words, and not allowing “darkness of the soul” to creep in too much.

Talking about Lorena’s experience writing for The Kat Call, we hear about what a great environment it was to work in and how it was a part of an overall arc within Lorena’s comedy career of asking the question, “What are we trying to say?” After mentioning how old she feels for the third or fourth time, Lorena wonders how she might accomplish being less angry at the world. Stay tuned for further critiques and assessments on social media! She and Louis also tackle the concept of playing flawed characters on stage and how there is a responsibility to make sure the audience knows they’re flawed. This leads to discussing the responsibilities of making the world a better, more evolved place in general, but particularly for communities that are threatened. We almost go down a Trump rabbit hole, but pull up just in time! Louis says something mysterious and cool: that we have to “grieve the result of our nightmares.”

Finally, our host and wonderful guest attempt to end this episode on a positive note, but you’ll have to listen to see how they do. And of course, Evan takes a picture of Lorena and Louis for social media purposes!

Thursday July 13, 2017, 10:03am - by Promo Team

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?

Kristen Loe

Which team or show are you on?

Trouble Town

Where are you from?

New Jersey

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I grew up watching comedy but other than some comedy videos I would make as a kid, I didn’t write or perform much. When I moved to NYC, a friend convinced me to take an improv class and I was hooked. I’ve been steadily depleting my bank account in the name of comedy ever since.

How long have you been performing/writing?

About four years.

Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

This is a hard one to narrow down! Tina Fey, Amy and David Sedaris, Donald Glover, the cast of Monty Python, and George Saunders. I did a poor job narrowing this down.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

Dr Leo Spaceman from 30 Rock.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

I love a high status idiot. I also will never say no to watching an epic fail video compilation.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

A good mix of classic rock, rap, punk for nostalgia, and unabashedly some Pitbull because damn, he can crank out a good summer jam.

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

Do you have a dog? If so, can I play with your dog?

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

I know it sounds both lame and cliché, but probably at home watching a show or reading a book in bed.

If you could make up an AOL Instant Messenger-esque acronym (G2G, BRB, LOL, etc.) that would apply to you, what would it be?

AOL acronym: LOF – let’s order fries 😎

Wednesday July 12, 2017, 6:50am - by Magnet Theater

 

Opera singer turned full-time musical improviser, KIKI MIKKELSEN, joins us to talk about all of her shows, Edinburgh Fringe, and the challenges of writing. You can see Kiki doing musical improv nearly every day of the week with her teams and shows Vern, Public Pool, Happy Karaoke Fun Time, Premiere: The Improvised Musical, Blank! The Musical, and Baby Wants Candy. Kiki is a bonafide musical improv all-star and we’re so happy that she’s on the show!

Kiki and Louis settle in for the first real conversation they’ve ever had and they don’t know it at first, but they’ll cover a lot of ground. “Tell me about yourself,” Louis begins. We hear about how Kiki came to be a full-time musical improviser and a bit about her upcoming trip Edinburgh for its Fringe Festival, which will be her first time participating. With so much improv in her life, Kiki and Louis both wonder if she can possibly keep friends outside of improv. Don’t worry, it’s a question we all must face when confronted with the obsession that is improv!

We backtrack a bit to discover where Kiki hails from (PA) and where she went to school (OKC). One of very few improvisers with an opera degree, Kiki gives Louis a crash course in opera voice types and tells us a bit about how long they take to develop. She talks about getting into improv and comedy while still working on her opera dream and she throws down this hot take: improv people are more fun than opera people! Her story starts with discovering short form and comedy in general with her best bud Lindsay Calleran. It wasn’t long before Kiki was jumping into classes at UCB, The PIT, and Magnet. Within her expansive improv education, she speaks fondly of her very special Level One Musical Improv class at Magnet with instructor Michael Martin, leading Kiki and Louis to discuss the various overlapping micro-communities within the greater improv community.

Louis asks Kiki to talk about the litany of different shows she’s a part of and they begin with Baby Wants Candy, which is about as big as it gets in musical improv! She’ll be heading to Edinburgh Fringe with BWC and talks about what she’s expecting. She also talks about her house teams Vern and Public Pool, as well as the shows Premiere: The Improvised Musical, Happy Karaoke Fun Time, and Blank! The Musical. Find out what excites her about each show and how are they all different.

Exploring beyond her current penchant for musical improv, Kiki and Louis discuss the roots of her humor and desire to perform comedy. Kiki recalls that she didn’t grow up watching a ton of comedy but then found Christopher Guest movies. Plus, Louis shares his secret dream with us. After revealing to Louis that she finds writing to be difficult to break into, he gives Kiki some inspiration for writing and they talk about how to stay motivated. Finally, Kiki expresses her belief that building something together is always funnier than working alone.