dubstep remix
Skip to Content
Magnet Theater Blog: News and Ideas about Comedy, Improv Shows & Classes in NYC

Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Wednesday June 14, 2017, 6:30am - by Magnet Theater

 

Musical improv maestro, ALI REED, joins host Louis Kornfeld on another episode of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The conversation hits a variety of topics including living in Kentucky, comparing sports to performing improv, and the pleasures of working with musical director Frank Spitznagel. We find out how Ali is able to balance her schedule as one of the busiest people in musical improv and learn about her ambitious plans for the future of the artform! Huzzah!

Catching us up on her life, Ali tells us that she has had a packed schedule for the past nine months and Louis refers to her as the busiest person in musical improv. They discuss momentum and how it can be helpful to have a full schedule.

In the beginning of the episode, Louis asks Ali about growing up in Kentucky. Doing her civic duty, Ali defines what bourbon is – explaining that if it’s not from Kentucky, it’s not bourbon – and we learn about the importance of Louisville basketball and how it was difficult for Ali to be a fan of their rival, University of Kentucky, while she was surrounded by Cardinal fans throughout college.

On the topic of sports, Ali compares being an athlete to being a performer and Louis imagines that playing sports would be similar to performing improv. Ali agrees but thinks that the subjectivity of performing makes it such that she’s harder on herself – adding that it’s easier when there is a win or a loss.

Ali and Louis take a trip down memory lane to talk about how Ali came to be the hardest working woman in musical improv. On the suggestion from an ex-boyfriend, who had had been taking UCB classes in LA, Ali went online to see if any classes were available. She saw that an improv 101 class has just started registering that night and signed up immediately. She and Louis discuss the solidarity of improv classes and Ali says that she is still friends with everyone from her improv 101 class!

Eventually, Ali found her way to musical improv. A friend of hers said that he was going to do a musical improv class at Magnet to which she replied, “Oh, hell yeah.” Since then, she has been bitten by the “Magnet bug.” Sharing her love with us, Ali teaches Louis about different strategies in musical improv. Louis compares it to regular improv and Ali discusses how performing musical improv is similar to putting on that album that you like while you’re in a certain mood – but it’s much more intense.

They talk about Magnet musical director Frank Spitznagel and his incredible knowledge of music, always able to seamlessly integrate various types of musical elements brought up by suggestions of a genre, television shows, specific musicals, etc. Ali talks about how lucky she feels to have had Frank as a teacher and to share the stage with him.

They explore the bravery that goes into musical improv and how Ali often forgets that it IS brave. She is reminded by it when people come up and tell her “Oh, I could never do that.”  They also talk about the benefits of being located in New York, in comparison to LA or Chicago, because of all of the Broadway folks who are willing to coming sing and perform in musical improv.

Diving further into the artform, Ali wants there to be a more authentic, truthful place for musical improv – instead of just songs about butts (which she also loves). When she teaches, she finds that taking the mundane scenes and heightening them can become the funniest and most touching songs. Louis concurs and mentions a musical improv show he saw that capitalized on those tiny “slice of life” scenes and ended up enhancing the characters’ emotions.

As the episode comes to an end, we learn about Ali’s dream for the future of musical improv. She lets us in on her ambitious plans – stating that she will build her own musical improv empire in New York City.

Thursday June 8, 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?

Alex Braslavsky

Which team or show are you on?

The Nitro Girls (Sketch) and Hot Charles (Megawatt)

Where are you from?

Baltimore, MD

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I remember as a kid, I thought my dad was the funniest guy in the world. He would tell these jokes and get huge laughs. My impression was that that’s the way to make people love you. Fast forward to today, and I’ve been doing improv and sketch for a little while, and now I can safely say that I’m way funnier than my dad. Take that, old man!!

How long have you been performing/writing?

A few years!

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

Scene Partner– Marina Abramovic
Writing Partner– Charlie Kaufman

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

Larry David

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Mr Bean

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

Doves’ “Lost Souls” in its entirety.

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

Do you think we could become close friends?

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

Networking on LinkedIn, baby!

What’s the most useless talent you have?

I can shake my eyeballs. Ask me in person next time and I’ll show ya.

Wednesday June 7, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

Daughter of the wind, KEILANA DECKER, joins our host Louis Kornfeld in episode #125 of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The two dig deep into the topic of “having fun” and the trouble they both have with it. Both of them share their appreciation for fellow Magnet personality Charlie Nicholson –  including a hilarious story involving Charlie’s toothbrush – and as always, we learn about different improv tricks and strategies from Louis and Keilana alike.

At the beginning of the episode, Keilana reveals that she has prepared for this recording by listening to other episodes of the podcast and fears that she will simply regurgitate dialogue she’s already heard. Keilana tells us about going home to Chico, CA recently and she and Louis chat about going home to see their parents and how belittling it can feel.

Speaking of home, Keilana talks about leaving hers and coming to NYC to do improv. At first, she was so intrigued and confused by how these experienced improvisers were able to have fun while performing and Louis connects with Keilana over the idea of having a hard time “having fun” on stage. Louis draws a line in the sand and says that he doesn’t like fun because “fun is cheap.” Our host and guest digress a bit, admitting that there is a benefit in allowing yourself to being exposed in front of people who are in a position of accepting and supporting you. Keilana talks about the different levels of exposure, giving the example of how she felt like she wasn’t able to tell improv teammates if and when she didn’t feel good about her performance. Tangents aside, Keilana and Louis circle back around to the topic of having fun and Louis provides the following analogy: “I love dancing – except when there are other people around doing it.”

Louis talks about a book he is reading that explores how different people deal with their wounds: people who use their wounds to better themselves and people who give into their wounds – the “born losers.”  Our two heroes realize that they are both people who don’t like the excessive amount of attention improv necessitates, but who love the art form nonetheless. Louis describes improv as airing out your wounds publicly (for about 20 minutes) and they both relate to how scary and empowering that can be.

We hear about Keilana’s newest love: spontaneous one-person applause. She tells us about her appreciation for the recognition in the one person who is willing to clap by themselves, which means more than simply laughing along with everyone else, of which she says, “You can laugh because you don’t understand something.” Of this kind of bold self-expression, Keilana is reminded of her appreciation for Charlie Nicholson (her Bodywork team member). She talks about a fun game he plays by hiding his toothbrush around her apartment when he stays over. Louis describes Charlie as a person who is willing to try out something new, that hasn’t been done, just to see what happens with it.

To round out the episode, Keilana and Louis discuss how a really good scene just requires one “yes, and,” how improv helps us harness the childlike wonder we’ve forgotten about, and why cleverness has a habit of ruining improv scenes. Plus, Louis describes a dream he thinks everyone has had (no one has) and Keilana builds a beautiful metaphorical firework.

 

Thursday June 1, 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?

Jennette Cronk

Which team or show are you on?

Honeymoon

Where are you from?

Tampa Bay Area of Florida

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

When I got to NYC, my friend Paddy said, “Let’s go take a free class at Magnet!” He had already gone through UCB. We had a blast in Rick’s class. Then we took Hannah’s class and loved it! Of course, Michael’s musical free class hooked me for all eternity! Once I tried musical improv, I thought, “Yeah, this is what I’ve been looking for my whole life.”

How long have you been performing/writing?

My first big production was Trial By Jury, and we performed it in a historic court house. I was in second or third grade then (and the only kid in the production). I’ve been performing or writing in some capacity for a really long time.

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

Dawn French! I love everything she does.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

Can I say Dawn French again? Or Tracy Ullman, she’s a huge role model for me.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Farts. I wish I could say I was more sophisticated…. Maybe a good slip-and-fall…

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

Kidz Bop covers of Danzig

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

“Were you followed?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

If I don’t have show, I’m at someone’s show!

What is the worst purchase you have ever made?

I bought a “high-waisted control-top thong” once. It was exactly as awful as it sounds. Thanks, Groupon!

Wednesday May 31, 2017, 12:43pm - by Magnet Theater

 

Hot 97 DJ turned improviser, CIPHA SOUNDS, sits down with our host Louis Kornfeld to tackle a variety of subjects in the improv world including diversity in improv, trying out for Harold teams, and how their improvising skills translate to daily life. Cipha gives a lesson on what white people love and tells Louis how he has used these secrets to perfect the ideal improv show. Cipha also plugs his two new shows coming out and explains how they will aid him in his mission: spreading the word about improv comedy.

We begin our episode with Louis asking Cipha about a rumor he’d heard: Did Cipha once skip a DJing gig while on tour with Jay-Z and Beyonce to do an improv show? It turns out that the rumors are true and Cipha admits that when Christina Gausas asked him to sit in on a “Maravilla” show, he just couldn’t say no! Cipha talks about being the host of the Hot 97 morning show for years – the most popular time slot – and how that job gave him a lot of responsibility. That responsibility added stress and finally, an associate at Hot 97 told him to get check out improv as it might help to loosen him up and relax. He went to see Harold night at UCB, signed up for a class soon after, and continued watching shows constantly. Though Cipha felt out of place at first and simply marveled in the initial magic of watching improv, he soon started to figure out strategies to conquer it. After seeing Connor Ratliff kick someone’s head off of a roof he decided, “Okay. This is what I do now”.

Unfortunately, in his 101 class, Cipha did not feel like he was as involved as he could be. One person that helped him get his footing was UCB veteran Chris Gethard, who saw Cipha tweet that he was taking classes and has since offered him advice many times over. He even let Cipha sit in on a practice session with a team he was coaching, something Cipha describes as “getting a free show but with notes.” Tracking his development at UCB up until the present, Louis asks Cipha about his UCB East improv show “Take It Personal,” which he briefly describes as, “ASSSSCAT for hip-hop.” The show involves Cipha bringing on guests from the hip-hop world to tell stories that serve as inspiration for the show’s improv.

How did “Take It Personal” come to be? Cipha went from failing to make a Harold team to running a Friday night show that’s lasted four years now. Cipha tells Louis about his first time not getting onto a Harold team, talking about how he cried in a restaurant when he read the names of the people who got on, his name absent from the list. Since then, he’s built a show that combines his two loves – hip-hop and improv – and he’s done it by appealing to the traditional audiences of both arts. How? One secret that Cipha lets us in on: he knows what white people love. You’ll have to listen for Cipha’s complete list, but he knew that for his first “Take It Personal,” he wanted to jam-pack the show and its promotions with as many things as he could: a martial artist, someone reading RZA lyrics, the actor who played Marlo on The Wire, and of course his guest, N.O.R.E.

This attempt at bringing together hip-hop and improv audiences leads Louis to ask Cipha about diversity in the improv world. They discuss how people from different backgrounds may understand certain references and how to bridge the gaps between improvisers’ backgrounds. Cipha talks about how he got his comedy start doing stand up in the “urban scene” and how he’s always hated how people try to split it down the middle – “urban” shows vs “regular” shows. Cipha also explains why it’s so important to spread the word about improv to a variety of people just so they come see it with their own eyes. It’s harder to get people to try it for themselves without them knowing what it is.

Talking more about improv technique and theory, Louis explains getting advice from Armando Diaz about playing “game” and both Louis and Cipha discuss their styles and strategies in improv. Louis shares about how he will most often go for the emotional part of a scene and Cipha responds by explaining why he likes to play support characters. They also talk about being a good listener, “half-ideas,” and using physicality to get into character. Louis recollects some wise words of advice on character and notes that you don’t want to play so close to yourself that you’re unable to see what is funny.

Cipha admits that improv has helped him battle a lifelong proclivity towards shyness and says that thanks to improv, he is not afraid to go anywhere now or talk to anyone. This revelation surprises Louis, who would think that as a radio DJ, Cipha wouldn’t have issues with shyness, but Cipha describes how being a DJ or even a stand up can be incredibly isolating and doesn’t necessarily help get you out of your shell the way working on a team does.

Louis and Cipha delve into the world of stand up and how the crowd differs from improv audiences. They talk about how it’s easier to notice that one person in the crowd who’s not enjoying the show and Louis brings up a certain improv show he did where a Russian couple was breaking up in the front row during throughout his set. He had no idea until after!

To cap things off, Cipha plugs his two shows coming out: “Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks” – a stand up comedy-based show for Tru – TV and “Hip-Hop Improv with Cipha Sounds” an improv show that will be released through Tidal. He hypes both by adding that his end goal is to spread the word about improv to the entire world.

Thursday May 25, 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?

Duaa Osman

Which team or show are you on?

Chillionaire

Where are you from?

Sudan & Ohio

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

A complete accident. I’ve always done stand-up and I’ve written short comedy stories but I didn’t get into improv until I moved to New York 4 years ago and then got into sketch shortly after. Needless to say, I feel I’ve been deprived of a very essential part of my life. I blame my parents.

How long have you been performing/writing?

I’ve always been the class clown in school so I guess that counts as a performance. Writing was something that I enjoyed doing since I was a kid but I would say I wasn’t actively in comedy (writing and performing) until 5 years ago.

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

Writing partners: Donald Glover, Aaron Sorkin and Emma Thompson. Scene partner: Sylvester Stallone because I can’t understand a word he says and I like a challenge.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

I would like to impersonate Sarah Palin for obvious reasons. Or a pilot. I would love to write for Trevor Noah, Jane Austen, and most recently, Jordan Peele. Or any show that will pay me to have the honor. Seriously, pay me.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

British comedy panel shows. They’re so funny, I almost forget all about colonialism.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

I don’t like music so this is a tough one. Do podcasts count? I would say a melodic mashup of 2 Dope Queens, The Nerdist, and NPR. Oh and Blink-182 just to have something classical.

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

Can I guess what your name is based solely on how you look? It’s important to note, based on this question, that I don’t make a lot of great first impressions.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

You can’t find me. I lock myself indoors doing absolutely nothing because Saturday nights are for not working and not making plans. I just stay home, either writing screenplays or playing video games and hope there isn’t a fire that will force me to go outside and talk to people. Or perhaps at an open-mic. You’ll never know!

What would you name your boat if you had one?

I would name my boat Oprah so people would be fooled into getting on, thinking I could heal their problems.  THAT is how you throw a boat party when you have very few friends.

 

Wednesday May 24, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

International man of mystery, ROMAN PIETRS, sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to discuss his improv life, his various profession(s), and being a dad who does improv. The Warm Blooded team member explains his proclivity toward using emotion during improv and Louis unearths out some of the reasons why Roman is a person of great intrigue. The topics in this episode range from European walking tours to male-perm quiche parties, so you know it’ll be great.

We begin this episode with a sneaky little cold open in which Roman and Louis delve into their family histories including a generation that seemed to largely reject their given names.

Diving into the episode proper, Roman divulges that he planned ahead by checking emails in order to refresh his Magnet Theater memory. When discussing musical improv, Roman explains that he has “more of a musical mind than a lyrical mind” and gives an example of a song about a box. It’s the kind of improv that Roman refers to as, “speaking in tongues.” Louis also shares his perspective of letting yourself go onstage and opening your mouth without an idea.

The two chat about their experiences with emotion on stage and we find out that Roman’s safe place is going to a highly-inflated emotional state. Louis was uncomfortable with the idea of playing with emotion at first, but now he believes that emotion is everything. Roman discusses his recent struggle with breaking on stage – due to the hilarity of his teammates – and describes his team, Warm Blooded, as an ensemble that creates “passionate musicals that borderline on the obscure.”

Louis begins to figure out some of the reasons why Roman has the reputation of being a “man of mystery.” In addition to working in improv and graphic design, Roman also helps run a European walking tour industry (taking place in Budapest, Prague, etc.). After helping his wife out with a craft idea, they eventually got to be on Shark Tank. “Male-perm quiche party” is a term that Louis had never heard of, however Roman used it as a way to raise money for a good cause and in turn share a cover story with Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses. Lastly, we hear about an interesting taxi driver whom Roman learned a lot about. And that’s just the stuff we had time for in this podcast recording!

Thursday May 18, 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?

Amy Lynne Berger

Which team or show are you on?

The Nitro Girls

Where are you from?

Naperville, IL.

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I’m certainly one of those kids who grew up watching SNL – but even more than that, I watched sitcoms that highlighted funny women and they made it look so easy! Watching Lucille Ball, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Fran Drescher, and Christina Applegate DAILY certainly pushed me in the direction of comedy. I went to NYU Tisch and got to train in being a ~serious~ actor, which I LOVE, but it also felt very self-indulgent and lonely at a certain point. As soon as I graduated, I decided to sign up for improv and sketch to mix things up and I completely fell in love with the supportive group dynamic of it all!

How long have you been performing/writing?

I’ve been acting since the age of 4 when I played a Cuban Orphan on The Untouchables TV Show! I’ve only been seriously doing comedy/writing for about 3.5 years.

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

Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She’s perfect. I think I could play her daughter and am available to do so.
I also would love to write with Mindy Kaling – I think we’d understand all of each other’s pop culture references.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for? 

I would love to impersonate Jessie J because she is absurdly cool and it would mean I had the best vocals in the world. I would love to write for Steve Carrell!

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Watching Tami Sagher. She’s another person I would love to work with as a scene/writing partner. I have a big comedy crush on her because she has a way of making me laugh harder than I ever have and then cry because of her groundedness and honesty…. and then laugh AGAIN for good measure given it’s a comedy show.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

It’s a LOT of musical theatre…but then mixed with some powerhouse vocalists like Jessie J (especially her acoustic stuff), Adele, and Christina, followed by rap when I’m needing a good pump up walking down those NYC streets (I’m looking at you “Rap God”), followed by more pop (because who am I kidding) – I love me some classic Usher, Black Eyed Peas, Britney, and Spice Girls, and then topped with fan favorites like The Beatles and The Beach Boys!

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

“What’s your favorite food?”

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

It’s safe to assume I’m in Astoria eating penne alla vodka from Napoli Pizza & Pasta watching SNL with my B41 fam!

What was your favorite toy growing up?

My Baby Simba stuffed animal.

 

Wednesday May 17, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

ADX performer and veteran of Megawatt, FRANK BONOMO, joins host Louis Kornfeld to talk about his discovery of improv, Magnet’s early days, and how he approaches the artform now. They also reflect on the importance of the SoHo Apple store to the New York improv scene and how cool it was to see Mike Myers perform at Magnet. There are loads of other great tidbits in this episode and we’re happy to return from our spring break with one of the greats. Huzzah!

Frank jumps into our interview not knowing what to expect and Louis quickly tries to determine how long they’ve known each other. Beginning in 2006, Frank was in the second wave of Magnet students, so he’s known Louis for quite some time and has been around the theater for years. Back then, he was working at the Apple store in SoHo when his now brother-in-law, Joey Dembner, suggested taking a class at Magnet. By the time Frank started classes, he and Joey weren’t the only improvisers working there and he tells us a bit about the connection between the improv crowd and that particular Apple store, which also employed notable Magnet alum George Basil (HBO’s “Crashing,” TBS’s “Wrecked”).

Louis asks Frank about his first impression of improv, which he says was, “What a weird, fun thing to stumble upon.” Talking about the early days of Magnet, both Frank and Louis recall seeing the Mike Myer’s stage show that eventually became his movie, “The Love Guru.” (Fun fact: the Deepak Chopra signature on the back wall at the theater is real!) Frank also reminisces about what it was like to learn the history of Harold-based improv at a time when it was only about ten years old. They discuss the long-running, now long-defunct, show “The Tiny Spectacular” and some of the incredible performers who were a part of it. As one for the earlier people at Magnet who had not studied anywhere else, Frank has a unique perspective on the theater’s beginnings.

Our duo debates whether or not improv is accessible to a person off the street and Louis asks Frank which performers he watched closely when he was a student. They also discuss Frank’s style of play, which Louis describes as both very physical and highly adept at calling back subtle patterns. They wrap up the episode discussing the difference between using your strengths to your greatest advantage and simply relying on them like a crutch.

Thursday May 11, 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?

Adam Payne

Which team or show are you on?

Squash

Where are you from?

Studio City, California

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

Back when I was feeling a little sad and lonely after a breakup that could have gone better, I decided that I needed a new hobby. And having seen several episodes of Who’s Line Is It Anyway growing up, I thought improv would be a good option. I signed up for a class, and even I was initially surprised that we we’re doing these things called “scenes” rather than playing Party Quirks again and again, I was hooked.

How long have you been performing/writing?

Although I’ve been a behind-the-camera filmmaker since I was in high school, and I was an avid friend-of-the-theater-kids in college, I didn’t actually start performing myself until my Level 1 Improv class show. I’m trying to make up for lost time now!

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

Jill Bernard aka the living embodiment of everything good in improv. I met Jill a couple years ago at Camp Improv Utopia and her improv so fun, surprising, and effortless, and her personality was so warm and uplifting. She’s perfect.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

I love feeling surprised. So really love it when someone says something completely by accident, and the whole team comes together to explore, heighten, and realize the logic in that surprise. Those moments can make me cry a little bit.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

Half acoustic guitar ballads, half sped up anime intro songs. Sometimes a mix of the two.

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

“So what brings you to [place we’re both at]?”
If you’re looking for icebreakers for online-only conversations, you’ll need to find that advice somewhere else.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

Ideally, at a bar that allows board games. Or someone’s apartment that allows board games. Or we can just hang out at my place and play board games. I have a lot of board games.

What is your favorite Disney movie?

Are we including Pixar? Then The Incredibles.
Are we including Disney-distributed movies? Spirited Away.
Are we not including those other two things? Then The Lion King.