Posts Tagged ‘interview’
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?
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!
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.
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!
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.
Spartan improviser, Executive actor, and director of Object Work, CHARLIE NICHOLSON, sits down to discuss his upcoming Directors Series, harnessing risk on stage, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Throughout the episode, Charlie and host Louis Kornfeld find a great deal of common ground as they discuss things like ambiguity on stage, forgetting one’s self in a show, and how to approach leading an ensemble. It’s a beautiful episode with beautiful people and how about that pic, right??
To begin, Charlie opens up about his nerves regarding each show and how he channels them into preparation. He tells us why he loves The Medusa and how he seeks to inject something different into each show the performs. Louis latches onto the topic of small moments and they discover their mutual reverence for well-placed ambiguity. Then, Louis offers that works of art may serve as outcrops of ourselves which help us frame ambiguous moments. How philosophical.
Moving from the abstract to the human, Louis asks Charlie about his style as an improviser and they talk about Charlie’s love for risk-taking on stage. They also touch on Charlie’s favorite thing to experience in a scene partner. Louis makes a puzzle analogy, folks! Charlie talks about forgetting himself amidst a show and the conjuring of magic on stage. What does is mean to play “out of control?” Charlie and Louis offer up two competing definitions and discuss each. Plus, learn how Charlie’s natural curiosity fuels his performance and find out his recommended reading for Louis.
With its upcoming run looming, Charlie passionately shares with us his thoughts on April’s Directors Series, Object Work, which came to him in a dream. He espouses his love for extending ourselves beyond our bodies and bringing life to the lifeless. Additionally, Charlie shares how he approaches directing a group of experienced performers he so adamantly admires and he and Louis go on to discuss different learning and teaching styles. To wrap up the episode, Charlie shares some of his favorite books and media, and of course, he and Louis discuss RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Please, don’t forget to go see Object Work this April. Thursdays at 10pm.
*Charlie wants us to note that, at time of recording, he goofed on the authors name of Silently and Very Fast. He said “Catherynne Valero” but what he meant was “Catherynne Valente.”
Get ready, because heartthrob DEVIN O’NEILL joins us to talk about her lifelong pursuit of comedy, performing for children, and how following your feet is the best! From The Cast to Sketch Teams to Megawatt and INSPIRADO, hear about Devin’s many comedic ventures and how she most prefers to approach scenework. Plus, a cameo from Ed Herbstman and Louis being an old man!
Louis begins this episode pointing out how nervous Devin seems to be. What’s she got to be nervous about? It’s just a podcast! All kidding aside, she quickly masters her fear in time for Louis to ask her about her favorite quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” On her way to discussing imaginary friends, Devin manages to insult Louis’ age and it’s good fun for all. Laughing off his obviously hurt feelings, Louis wants to talk about Florida, which is where Devin is from originally. She tells us of this odd and, at times, amazing state and then claims that she’s wanted to be a performer and comedian since she was three year old! Wow. And the best part? It’s true!
Devin has been performing for as long as she can remember and, in adulthood, spent time acting in a children’s theater company which toured throughout Florida. All this before she moved to NYC to do improv and create funny characters. She got into improv thanks to her friend and Magnet House Manager, Bimini Lee Wright, after watching a UCB class show and then seeing *Kiss Punch Poem*. Sorry, 101 class, but Devin ended up taking classes at Magnet. Circling back to children’s theater, Devin and Louis discuss why playing for children is both incredibly difficult and totally amazing. They answer the question we ask in retrospect: How does an improv audience compare to a room full of unabashedly honest children? Plus, Louis provides a theory as to why improv is populated by such a bunch of smarties.
Back to the present, yes? Devin came to New York to to pursue comedy, something which stemmed from her work in Commedia dell’Arte. She tells of about all the different shows she does, plus(!), she’s got a full-time job. Needless-to-say, she has a lot to balance day-to-day and being on stage allows her a central focus compared to the scatterbrain nature of daily life. She and Louis ponder advice for enjoying second beats and talk about innovative thinking versus adaptive thinking, or initiating versus responding, if you prefer. She advocates adding a feeling of inclusiveness to how you begin a scene, no matter what kind of initiation you provide, and as promised in the lead, they talk about their feet knowing better than their minds!
To wrap things up, Louis and Devin wax poetic on The Cast, which for the record, Louis thinks is better than 98 Degrees. Devin tells us how crazy fun the show is and gives a lot of well-deserved credit to their director, Hannah Chase. Plus, Ed Herbstman makes a cameo and Devin talks about being friends with the one and only Justin Torres!!
- Bimini Lee Wright
- children's theater
- commedia dell'arte
- Devin O'Neill
- Hannah Chase
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet sketch teams
- magnet theater
- magnet theater podcast
- magnet training center
- new york
- new york city
- sketch comedy
- Student Council
- Sulaiman Beg
- The Cast
The Cast member and hilarious human, GERI COLE, joins the show to talk about travel, her utopian hometown, and how to bring more voices to the comedy table. Geri spends her weekdays working on Sesame Street and her weekends creating one-of-a-kind improv shows with The Cast, so we’re thrilled that she’s taken some time to talk to us about true wealth, her time in Barcelona, and what she loves about her sweet, sweet hubby! Listen in, kiddos.
We gave it away in the intro, but the first thing Geri and Louis discuss on this episode is travel _ specifically about how Geri loves to do it despite the fact that it gives her terrible anxiety. Louis can’t pick up and go nearly as easily as Geri can, so asks about the psychology behind having a travel bug. One thing that helps Geri overcome her anxiety and see new places is her love of observing people. She talks about being very generous with her attention and the act of people watching. She then tells of her moving to Barcelona for a year and how her “naive by nature” personality led her to NYC.
Enough about all the cool places Geri has lived, let’s talk about where she’s from! Geri grew up in Columbia, Maryland, which is a planned community designed to be a utopian town prioritizing racial and economic integration. No joke! Hear her talk about this fascinating and truly inspiring place. This leads into an exploration of the idea of true wealth and what makes a person truly rich. Geri makes up some statistics and, spoiler alert, money isn’t the (only) answer! Louis also asks, can you be “good” at having money? Fascinating!!!
These days, Geri works at Sesame Street (along with a number of other Magnet students and performer) and it’s been her street away from home for seven years now! That fun fact aside, Louis transitions to what he deems the heavy and controversial part of our podcast. He wants to know how we can bring more voices to the comedy table. He also asks, how are we contributing to good in the world and not just adding more crap? Geri attempts to answer these absolutely massive questions from Louis and provides us with some insight into how we might do it. They wonder, is there any real science behind what they’re saying? If you’re a scientist, let us know!
Then, out of nowhere, Louis pivots to talk about The Cast! Geri claims the show is so good because they’re having a friggin’ blast up there. Color us convinced! Louis tells Geri what his students say about the show and she admits that what she loves most is how they fearlessly cram for shows.
Lastly, and certainly not leastly, Louis makes Geri list three things she loves about her husband, Andy Mills. Tune in!
Singing, improvising, and teaching fool, NIKITA BURDEIN, joins us to talk about emigrating from Soviet Russia, discovering improv in NYC, and how to approach auditions. Amidst all of that, he and host Louis Kornfeld discuss religion, what makes theater so special, and finding comfort in declaring who you are. Recorded yesterday, released today – this is a fresh, hot ‘cast!!!
First thing’s first: Louis wants to know how the incredibly busy Nikita Burdein is able to do everything he does! Nikita performs Tuesday through Friday at Magnet and spends many other days coaching, teaching, practicing, or playing elsewhere. We got tired just writing that! [See him on Musical Megawatt, Megawatt, The Directors Series (April & May), and Premiere.] Given his jigsaw puzzle schedule, Louis wonders if Nikita is a very disciplined person. Well, he was born in Soviet Russia, a fact which might give you a hint.
Nikita and his family came to America (Chicago) when he was four years old with the help of the Jewish Federation by way of Italy. It’s a very fun story, so we do hope you listen. He tells us how his immigrant background influences his improv and Louis suggests that his own brain is beginning to fail him. The two discuss puberty hair before seamlessly segueing into a discussion on Judaism. Though culturally and ethnically Jewish, Nikita was raised a devout Atheist who eventually went on Birthright at the age of 26. Louis shares with us his frustrating feelings regarding Israel and they both try to figure out what the connection is between Jews and their prominence on Broadway.
Having spent time exploring how Nikita arrived in this country, Louis asks about his journey from Chicago to New York. Nikita talks about getting into theater during high school because of his brother and getting into film in college, again, because of his brother. He went to NYU and graduated an editor, which is something he still does to this day. Along the way, Nikita finally began improvising at the age of 28 and totally fell in love with it. He and Louis chat about the connection with the audience that live theater provides and how improv has a built-in benefit of knowing that the people out there with you love what they do. There’s a lot of love going around the improv community, Nikita reports. Though very active and quite visible as an improviser today, Nikita says he was in the closet about being an improviser initially. On a related note, Louis asks Nikita how much energy he gives to other people’s thoughts of him, which morphs into a discussion about coming out and sexuality. Nikita came out to his parents at age 23 and tells us that it made him a more honest person all around. And he hasn’t looked back since!
Louis takes the opportunity, with both Megawatt and Musical Megawatt auditions right around the corner, to discuss auditioning and to ask Nikita for advice on the matter. He also asks Nikita about the end of his run with Deep Queens on Megawatt and the somewhat recent start of his time teaching Musical Improv Level 1 at the Training Center. Has he discovered anything since he began teaching? You betcha. But you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out. (And no skipping to the end!)
- Deep Queens
- Hall of Mirrors
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- magnet theater podcast
- magnet training center
- musical improv
- musical theater
- new york
- new york city
- Nikita Burdein
- Object Work
Ariana Grande’s BFFL, ANDY MOSKOWITZ, is on the podcast talking substance abuse, vulnerability, and of course, Mother’s Day. Andy talks about getting his improv start in Philly doing ComedySportz and shares with us his Behind The Music moment. Plus, he and Louis try to write a joke together! Tune in for a whale of a good time.
- Andy Moskowitz
- Ariana Grande
- Behind The Music
- comedy writing
- dark humor
- Louis Kornfeld
- magnet theater
- magnet theater podcast
- magnet training center
- new york
- new york city
- Philly Improv Theater
- short form improv
- sketch comedy
- The Late Show