Posts Tagged ‘interview’
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Magnet, Sulaiman Beg and Kelly Donahue have developed an Oral History of the Magnet Theater.
The full story will be released in early April, but over the coming weeks we will be releasing some interesting stories that didn’t make the final cut.
The first in this series is a profile on how the teachers & founders first discovered improv in their own lives.
DISCOVERING IMPROV – PART 1
Armando Diaz: I grew up in Illinois, south suburbs Chicago, a place called Country Club hills. It was a regular old suburb. There weren’t really country clubs. I had this friend in high school, Kevin Dorff, who kind of woke up comedy in me. He was voted class clown. Really funny guy. We’d write little sketches back and forth during class. I didn’t realize they were sketches back then.
Ed Herbstman: I lived in the suburbs of Chicago and about fifteen to twenty minutes away from my house by car was Second City. We would go to the improv sets on weekends. The weekend sets were 10:30 – 11:00 on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. We went to every single one.
Diaz: I was in film school at Columbia College, in the program they had suggested if you’re interested in being a director, one thing you want to do is take an acting class from the acting department. I took a class and the teacher had graduated from the Second City training. He was a traditional actor but he would have us do a lot of improv in the class. That was fun. I had never done that before.
Alex Marino: My counselor at church camp in high school was a guy named Michael Lewis, he introduced me to improv. He was really involved with a short form troupe called Comedy Sportz, which had a franchise, weirdly, in Bakersfield, California, where I grew up. I got on my high school Comedy Sportz team, and if you got on, every Saturday you would meet for a couple hours next to a comic book store, in an abandoned tanning salon, and do improv.
Rick Andrews: My dad found some listing for ImprovBoston, when I was 11 or 12. They used to have Sunday afternoon shows, which was a terrible idea. We went down and saw a show, and no one was there but my family. They weren’t even supposed to do the show, they were supposed to cancel if it was less than ten people. But they did the show. It was great. In my mind, it was great.
Louis Kornfeld: My senior prom, myself, Charlie Whitcroft and Corey Grimes decided not to go to prom. Instead, we pooled our money and got a hotel room together. We got like a bottle of whiskey, and that was our night. Megan came too. The next day, we had some time before we had to check out, so we walked around the neighborhood a bit. This was like on 22nd Street. We were walking and we just happened to bump into the UCB 4 who were all outside smoking outside of their old theater. They’d just opened it.
Megan Gray: We would go in to see UCB shows in high school. We had heard they have teen classes and we were like ahh, I don’t know. We were always too scared, or we didn’t have time. We were making videos and stuff.
Peter McNerney: I had done a little short form in theater class in middle school and high school. My first week at Northwestern, I saw The Meow Show, which was this historic short form and sketch show that’s been around since the 70s. Ed was in it, and Melanie Hoopes and Rachel Hamilton and Julia Louis Dreyfus. It was this big deal show and I saw that and I was like I want to do that!
Gray: I was a dramatic writing/screenwriting major, and I had read somewhere that Conan O’Brien had said improv is a good way for writers to get over writer’s block so I thought that would be really cool.
Kornfeld: Megan’s dad signed us up for UCB Level 1 in October 2003. Me and Megan, and Corey and Charlie. And in that class we met Kelly Buttermore and Jon Bander. We also met Damon Ketron in Level 2.
Herbstman: When I got a car at 16, I would just go by myself and be one of the weirdos that was in line for every show and would see every show. At that time it was Dave Razowsky, Steve Carell, Amy Sedaris. I had just missed Colbert. It was just awesome. I mean imagine seeing Steve Carell four nights a week do improv. And Dave Razowsky who’s just awesome. And them doing it together. It was just really funny.
Diaz: I ran into Kevin Dorff one day and he had just gone to see a show at Improv Olympic that his sister recommended. He mentioned it to me and said, “Hey you gotta take this class.” It was with Charna. We went to this German bar, and it’s empty. It’s Wednesday night at 7:00. There’s no internet, everything is done by phone. We sat there for 20 minutes, and nobody showed up. It was just me and Kevin and the German bartender. Finally, […] Charna called the bar and was like, oh we’re pushing back the class a week. I don’t know why we did, but we came back the next week and people showed up and we had our first class and it was just like.. By the end both of us were just like, totally excited, totally pumped. It was great.
Herbstman: I was seeing so many shows at Second City, eventually they were like you could take classes here, and I was like, are you kidding me? I got a job tearing tickets, being a house manager, seating people. Suddenly, I was working there on the weekend and that meant free classes for me. So I would seat people and watch every single show, because I had to sit there and watch the show while the show was going on which was great.
Andrews: I kept seeing a bunch of of shows at ImprovBoston, and the AD was just like, take our class. He popped my friend Mike and I into their adult classes. So it was two 12-year old boys and a bunch of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. We were annoying. We were mature for 12, but the would put us at, like, 15.
Marino: When I got a car, and was able to drive myself there, I went and started taking classes in LA at iO West. I lived in my car for awhile in Los Angeles, just taking classes at IO, until some people in one of my classes learned that and was like, don’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, you should come live with me. And they put me up on couches.
Herbstman: My teacher for Level 1 and Level 2 was Dave Razowsky. Level 3 was Steve Carell. I had Level 4 and 5 with Dave Razowsky again. It was great. And I was 16-17, didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or where to go to school or wherever but I knew improv was the one core fundamental thing that I wanted it all to revolve around.
To be continued…
- alex marino
- armando diaz
- ed herbstman
- io west
- Kelly Donahue
- kill your darlings
- Los Angeles
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- Magnet Theater Oral History
- Megan Gray
- new york
- new york city
- oral history
- peter mcnerney
- rick andrews
- Second City
- Sulaiman Beg
- The Meow Show
Improviser, actor, and brave soul, Shacottha Fields joins host Louis Kornfeld on this episode of the podcast to talk about her solo show, following your heart, and how she got started in improv. We begin with a discussion of Shacottha’s solo improv show, 1 Deep, a one-person Harold that begins with its star clowning and taking in the audience. Raised by her grandparents, Shacottha finds that she’s an old soul who knows herself quite well, which prompts Louis to talk about the difficulty many adults have with connecting to their heart and has him asking our guest, “What does it mean to follow your heart? Shacottha tells us what she thinks people should be taking away from improv shows. Plus, we hear about the sudden realization she had that moved her to try acting. (Spoiler: She almost opened a daycare!) Shacottha is truly someone who follows her fear and this episode contains so many little life lessons, it should be filed under Self-Help. If that’s not enough for you, listeners will find out humanity’s main job on this planet and whether or not Louis is ready to have kids! Also, a heads up for folks in Juno, Alaska — tune to hear when 1 Deep will be visiting you in April!
Or simply enjoy Episode #38 below via SoundCloud.
Whoa boy — we’ve got an interview with the one and only Jeffrey Sweet! The famed playwright, historian, and author of Something Wonderful Right Away joins host Louis Kornfeld for this extended episode of the podcast. They start out by discussing the relationship between the Jews fleeing the Cossacks and the rise of satire in America. Jeffrey talks about the origins of improvisation with The Committee and Second City, highlighting some differences between the two as well as commenting on folks like David Shepherd and Del Close. Time is spent discussing the six heavy hitters that the improv world lost in 2014: Sheldon Patinkin, Gary Goodrow, Ted Flicker, Harold Ramis, Mike Nichols, and Joan Rivers. They also get into the domino effect of Something Wonderful Right Away influencing Mick Napier and Charna Halpern to develop their theaters and how Jeffrey might be the illegitimate grandfather of the long-form improv scene in NYC. Jeffrey also talks about how Stephen Colbert and John Stewart are so important to the comedic and political landscape today and gives us his take on the modern incarnation of SNL. The interview continues to discuss the link between improvisational theater and folk art and how the satirists have now become a part of the system. It’s an episode filled with so much historical, political, and cultural discourse that Jeffrey pauses several times over the course of this interview to ask, “We are talking about comedy, right?” Indeed, we are.
Or simply enjoy Episode #37 below via SoundCloud.
- Charna Halpern
- David Shepherd
- del close
- Elaine May
- Gary Goodrow
- Harold Ramis
- Jeff Sweet
- Jeffrey Sweet
- Joan Rivers
- John Stewart
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- magnet theater podcast
- magnet training center
- Mick Napier
- mike nichols
- new york
- new york city
- Second City
- Sheldon Patinkin
- sketch comedy
- Something Wonderful Right Away
- Stephen Colbert
- Ted Flicker
- The Committee
On this episode of the podcast we are joined by Jon Bander, a seasoned performer with Premiere: The Improvised Musical (Magnet), Aquarius (Magnet), Dagger (The PIT), and Characters Welcome (UCB). Host Louis Kornfeld jumps right into a discussion on musical improv with Jon, talking about Aquarius’ signature form, The Malkovich. They revisit Jon’s first-hand account of the development of musical improv in NYC and discuss how it differs from traditional long-form improv. He also recounts for us how he went from hating musical improv and character comedy to performing them almost exclusively and loving it. We hear about the separation between the subdued, real-life Jon and the high-spirited, on stage Bander. Plus! Louis and Jon discuss mean comedy, the roles the audience plays in improv, and the show Characters Welcome.
Enjoy Episode #36 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Stand up, radio host, and improviser Chris Duffy joins us this week on the podcast to discuss the various shows he produces and how learning and laughing go together so well. Host Louis Kornfeld asks Chris about the origins of his show You’re The Expert, a radio program, podcast, and live show that asks a panel of three comedians to guess what an academic expert studies all day. We hear about the other stand up shows Chris hosts which they all combine elements of education, shared experience, and comedy. You’ll learn about Chris’s obsession with lists and who he hopes to emulate along the way. Is Chris a highly disciplined comedian? Find out! Also hear about giving gifts and walking through life with open arms rather than arms crossed. Plus, Chris shares his biggest bomb ever and talks about getting into comedy because it felt important. Tune in, friends!
Enjoy Episode #35 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Our guest this week, Charlie Whitcroft, has known our host, Louis Kornfeld, for 23 years and they have been best friends just as long. Join us on this episode for a trip down Memory Lane as Louis and Charlie revisit their younger days, but also reflect on the upcoming 10 year anniversary of the Magnet. Part of a group of improvising friends, Charlie was the long holdout and the last to join in on the improv fun. He talks about being intimidated at first and how he got over his hesitation. These two friends discuss turning points in life and how they’ve seemingly led parallel existences over the last two-plus decades, both becoming grown ups in the improv world. As an improviser who (Louis claims) plays great heart-to-heart moments, we find out how Charlie brings that sense of patience to his teaching. Plus, we hear about the raw, early days of the Magnet Theater, the mystery of Kevin Dorff workshops, and Charlie’s new Directors Series, Rashamon.
Enjoy Episode #34 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Long-time Magnet performer and all-around swell guy, Sean Taylor, joins host Louis Kornfeld in the studio for an interview. A military brat growing up, Sean has called New York City home longer than anywhere else and, since moving to NYC right out of college in 1999, Sean has watched the improv boom happen first-hand. He’s gone from diehard ASSSSCAT fan to a Harold Night player to an instructor at Magnet. He and Louis discuss the underground nature of those earlier days and how the UCB seemed to bring a sense of positivity, respect, and empathy to the NYC comedy scene. Sean tells us how community plays such an important part in his life, whether it’s comedy, eating pizza, playing softball, or meeting his wife. Louis asks Sean about teaching the weekly Drop-In Class and his upcoming elective course Here, Now, discussing the difference between working with a steady group of students versus one that changes week to week and his love of discovery in two person scenes. As a teacher, he applies the debugging skills from his work as a computer programmer to classes in an effort to guide people away from fear-based choices to joy-based ones. These two vets also discuss the early days of Magnet, the difference between agreement and acceptance, and the privilege of being continually inspired by other improvisers.
Enjoy Episode #33 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
On this episode of the podcast, we welcome UCBT performer, instructor, and improv nerd Brandon Gardner into the studio to talk about college improv, his class focused on creating improvised plays, and various elements of compelling improv. Our host, Louis Kornfeld, begins the hour getting into Brandon’s vast experiences working with college improv teams and bookends the 60ish minutes by taking it all back to those formative years. In the meantime, Brandon describes why he became interested in bringing elements of theater to the improv stage and how he challenges actors to improvise and improvisers to act. For all our fellow improv nerds out there, you’ll love as Louis and Brandon parse through topics such as displaying emotion versus emoting authentically; playing to the top of your intelligence versus playing to the top of your integrity; story versus plot; and dramatic comedy versus comedic drama. These two veteran teachers trade exercises and generally advise on what is essential to playing satisfying improv scenes. Check it out!
Enjoy Episode #32 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Gather around, friends! For this episode, we’ve got Carly and Justin from Now We Are Friends, a monthly variety show in New York City that features improv, sketch, and live music. They sit down with our host Louis Kornfeld to talk about their show, which is celebrating its second anniversary this Sunday, February 8th. The show’s host, Justin Morgan, and show creator/performer/producer, Carly Monardo, get into what the show means to them and we all learn the value of friendship in the arts. They discuss the long history of comedy and music sharing performance spaces, plus, Louis endorses NWAF as a refreshingly douche-free show! Huzzah!
Catch their 2nd Anniversary Show this Sunday, February 8th, at The Parkside Lounge at 9PM!
Enjoy Episode #31 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.
Our host Louis Kornfeld sits down with Ross Taylor, director of February’s Directors Series: Shlongform, to chat about growing up in Missouri, touring with Second City, and doing comedy in NYC. Having somewhat recently celebrated his five year anniversary of NYC and improv, Ross tells Louis about getting his start in hometown Missouri with speech and debate before moving on to do theater at Mizzou and later getting into comedy. Regarding his show Shlongform, Ross talks about why he’s marrying short form with long form and our duo discusses the historic attitudes towards short form in NYC. Having both done tours with Second City’s cruise ship ensembles, Louis and Ross dive into their experiences entertaining folks on Norwegian Cruise Line boats and how those experiences translate back to their work in New York. Ross also chats about working with his long-running team The Wrath and divulges how to keep a team strong and inspiring. Plus, Louis asks Ross about The Oakwood Boys, his religious country music duo, and the guys talk about the collegiate feel of the improv community. Tune in!