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Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Cobbs’

Friday April 18, 2014, 9:27am - by catherinewing

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The Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival just announced its 2014 lineup, and the Magnet Theater is proud to be represented by three of its teams: the veteran duo, Listen, Kid!, and two of its house teams from Sketch Sunday, Baby Shoes and Party.

I recently chatted with Alessandro King of Listen, Kid! about life, sketch writing and sketch directing, and festival first-timer advice.

Listen Kid

Hi, Al.  Nice tie.  How did you and Kevin Cobbs decide to become a sketch duo?  How long have you been a duo?

Listen, Kid! started four years ago when Kevin and I met in Mark Grenier’s Improv Level 1 at the Magnet.  We kept doing really goofy scenes together where one of us would play a prospector or explode through a door or something, and everyone encouraged us to create an indie duo once class was over.  Rick Andrews was the big brother for the class and he said, “If you guys make a duo, I will coach you.”  So we did, and Rick got us hooked up with two Test Drives, and by Spring of the following year we were doing Tuesday night shows pretty regularly, usually with Upstate or the Oakwood Boys.  It was very much a Magnet Theater Fairy Tale.

We decided to focus on sketch in the Fall of 2011 when someone whose name rhymes with Blick Blandrews suggested we join RIPE with Armando.  We put up our first Listen, Kid! sketch show (I think) in April of 2012, and we’ve been focusing on sketch (Magnet shows, festivals, web videos) ever since, although we still do improv every once in a while, usually with our pals We’re Matt Weir as Listen, Weirs!

Listen, Kid!  Kevin Cobbs (left) and Alessandro King (right)

Listen, Kid! Kevin Cobbs (left) and Alessandro King (right)

How do you both collaborate when writing sketches for a show?  Did you work on sketches together when Kevin went on the Second City cruise ship for 4 months?

Our Clinton/Bush sketch is a pretty good example of how we work as a team.  I read on Wikipedia one night that Bill Clinton supposedly lent George W. Bush his DVD copy of the film “W.” and Bush watched it, commenting to Clinton that it had some “sad moments.”  I immediately called Kevin and told him and said something like, “This is the dumbest thing I have ever read.  We have to make this a sketch.  Was Clinton actually being a pal or was he just trolling?  This is the dumbest thing I have ever read.”  I described to him my visual idea (the whole sketch is a series of phone conversations between the two, with each president sitting in a special light), and Kevin immediately wrote the first draft.  It was eerily similar to what I had in mind, only funnier, with the amazing climax of Bush e-mailing Clinton scans of his paintings and Clinton weeping profusely at their profound beauty.  I made a couple of small changes and it was ready to go.

Kevin’s internet access was limited on the cruise, we but still managed to go to Chicago Sketch Fest with Branson Reese and Chi-Town friends sitting in for Kevin, edit a new Mad Men-themed web video, share a couple of sketches, and develop a web series idea.  Stay tuned for further updates.

Listen Kid 2

Listen, Kid! was reviewed very favorably by the Chicago Tribune after your performance at this year’s Chicago Sketch Festival.  Does Listen, Kid! have big plans in store for the future?

We’re focusing on web content, getting ready for Montreal, and developing an all-President-themed live sketch show.  You can keep up with us online at listenkidcomedy.com, on YouTube at ListenKidComedy, and on Twitter @ListenKidComedy.

At the Montreal Sketchfest, you will have the unique honor of performing there as a member of a critically acclaimed sketch duo, and as the director of a Magnet sketch house team, Party., that is also performing in the same festival.  Party. is the first sketch house team that you’ve directed at the Magnet.  Why did you decide to become a director?  How has your experience been so far?

Beth Newell asked me to sub in for Breakfast For Dinner a couple of times last year, and I said, “Yes,” instantly.  I just had an inkling that directing sketch would come very easily to me and bring me a lot of creative satisfaction.  It didn’t seem like, say, coaching improv, which I’ve never tried but always assumed I’d be a disaster at.  (I’m still game to prove this wrong some day.)  I had a lovely time as was expected, and asked Beth to keep me in mind if a directing slot opened up.  When they formed new teams in September, I got asked to direct one for the season.

I absolutely love directing Party., and look forward to every minute of it during the week. They continue to impress me with their commitment and professionalism and blow me away with their rapid growth, particularly as performers.

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You run Party. like Singapore.  The streets are spotless, we attend meetings punctually and are off-book at every Saturday rehearsal, and we fear you. What is your philosophy as a director?  How did you decide upon benevolent dictatorship as the best way to run a sketch team?  (Editor’s Note: The interviewer, Catherine Wing, is a member of Party.)

If I’m a benevolent dictator, keep in mind that I’m only partially responsible for that dynamic: deep down, there is something inside every one of you that wants me to rule you like a king.

I’m a playwright, so I run my writing meetings like a playwright’s workshop, meaning my goal is to help you write the best version of your sketch.  I have no interest in forcing my own ideas or telling you what I think should happen next.  If I do make a specific suggestion, I try to make it very clear that that’s only one possible route for the sketch.

When show week comes along, I make a setlist and become a director.  At that point, what I say, goes, and the edits I want to happen, happen.  It’s a very different dynamic from the writing meetings.

You guest directed the Magnet sketch house team, Baby Shoes, for their most recent show.  Is it true that they plied you with free liquor, charmed you with their good looks and talent, and took you to Rye Playland to ride the roller coaster?  They are performing at the Montreal Sketchfest too, you know.

They did take me to Rye Playland, and let me just say that Bob Kern and I have only exited the Tunnel of Love in the literal sense of the word.

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What advice would you give to sketch teams that are going to their very first out-of-town festival?

It’s impossible to accurately predict the audience’s reactions.  There will be some sketches they will love, but there will always be something that just bombs and you had no way to stop it.  When that happens, don’t get caught up trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong in the moment: theres nothing to fix, it’s just not their cup of tea.  Get through the sketch and move on to the next thing.  That’s the beauty of sketch as opposed to improv: you get to wipe your slate clean every couple of minutes.

What weird stuff did you learn about Kevin when Listen, Kid! traveled on the road together for the first time?  And what weird stuff did Kevin learn about you?

Each trip is really Kevin’s learning experience because every time I offer to take the wheel, he has to devise new ways to say, “No thanks, I don’t want to die today.”

Listen, Kid! does improv?  Just the two of you?  Do you have guests sit in with you?  Who might they be, and when can we witness this rare opportunity to see Listen, Kid! improvise?

This Friday, April 18th, at 11:30 PM, we will be taking the Magnet stage for the first time since Kevin’s return. We’re going to be doing our classic improv form, which is an improvised movie hosted by decrepit Hollywood producer Irv Newberg and his dim-witted assistant Charlie Tickertape. It’s a great way to see how this all started and there will be special guests, all of them popular recurring characters from the Listen, Kid! universe. There is only one way to find out who they are and that is to come on down.

Thanks, Al!

Al Horse 2

Thursday February 13, 2014, 12:09pm - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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Mail’s here! Kevin Cobbs (The Music Industry, Listen, Kid!), who is performing full time on one of the Second City Cruise Ships, just sent a letter to us here at the Magnet to give us a glimpse of his travels. Check it out! And check out that picture of Kevin in San Juan! Wowie-wow-wow-wow!

Ahoy Magneteers,

Greetings and salutations from the Norwegian Gem.  As I write this I’m about halfway through my four month contract with the Second City, and so far its been an absolutely wonderful experience.

Here on the Gem we typically perform one sketch show, two improv shows and one murder mystery luncheon show per nine day cruise. All of which we rehearsed extensively during our week of training in Chicago.  I’d never been to the Second City before and it definitely felt like hallowed ground for a sketch and improv performer like myself.  It was humbling to get up on their different stages to rehearse.  And as a cool bonus experience, our director let us perform in an improv set with the regular cast on their ETC stage.

My cast here on the Gem comes from LA, Toronto and Chicago and they’re all hysterical improvisers and good people.  We hang out together quite a bit and we’ve also become good friends with some of the crew and some of the other entertainers on board.

When we’re not performing, we have a lot of free time to work on our own projects. So I’ve been writing quite a few pee pee jokes and even some poo poo jokes.

In addition to writing, I’ve used my down time to finally fulfill my main duty as a liberal white person by watching the Wire (it really is great so far). I’ve also used my free time to work out every day in the ship’s gym. I’m totally ripped now and I plan on fighting all of you at the Magnet when I return. One by one. Starting with the weakest (Branson Reese) and then working my way up to the strongest.

Its a blast performing our sketch show to a crowd of 1,100 people each week.  Our improv shows are in a smaller space but equally fun and they’re all short form.  I was originally trained in short form so it feels a bit like returning to my improv roots, which is nice.

Passengers are very complimentary when they see us around the ship.  And we get to visit some beautiful ports: San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Samana, Dominican Republic.  Living on the boat is like living in a floating bubble where all of us performers are pseudo celebrities.  Then when each cruise ends, everything resets and we’re nobodies again for the first couple of days before our first show.

Though I’m enjoying my time at sea, I look forward to coming home to New York and seeing all y’all Magnet people.  Stay warm and I’ll see you in the spring!

Best,
Kevin Cobbs

Thursday May 17, 2012, 12:33pm - by catherinewing

The second show of the Magnet Theater’s sketch company-in-residence, “America!” will introduce you to characters that will take you on a journey through our national psyche, and explore the people and things that define and inform our American-ness.  Like baseball.  And Ira Glass.  And immigrants.

So unfurl your flags and crack open a cold Sixpoint beer: opening night of “Company 29: America!” is coming your way this Friday, May 18th, at 7pm at the Magnet Theater.

Dedicated to producing new and original sketch comedy shows on a continual basis, Company 29 consists of the Magnet’s strongest writers, performers and directors. The goal of Company 29 is to create character-driven, thematically cohesive sketch shows with a unique voice.

Sponsored by: Sixpoint Brewery

These are the writers and performers of America!:

Written By: Paul Barker (Horses, Dumbkowsky), Kevin Cobbs (Listen, Kid!), Tim Eberle (Brick, Alchemy), Amanda Hirsch (Think Improv), Beth Newell (Kiss*Punch*Poem, Dumbkowsky), and Jamaal Sedayao (Brick, Turboner Bigote).

Featuring: Mike Barry (Lead McEnroe), Kevin Cobbs (Listen, Kid!), Ruby Marez (Aquarius), Lauren Olson (Chet Watkins), Christian Paluck (Chet Watkins), Justin Peters (Chet Watkins), Rachel Rauch (Leviathan), Jamaal Sedayao (Brick), Jason Scott Quinn (Silver Fox), and Ross Taylor (Aquarius, The Wrath).

Directed By: Nick Benaquista (Lead McEnroe)

Showtimes:
Fri May 18th, 2012, 7:00pm
Sat May 19th, 2012, 9:00pm
Sun May 20th, 2012, 8:00pm

The Magnet Blog interviewed Company 29 Head Writer, Tim Eberle, to get the inside scoop on Company 29 and how the group prepares for their shows.

Head Writer Tim Eberle with the cast of Company 29

Magnet Blog:  How is Company 29 structured differently from how sketch groups are usually structured?

Tim Eberle:  Company 29 is really structured more like a resident theater company than a sketch group; we’re made up of a writing team, performance, troupe, lighting/sound designer, and directing team. The idea behind the group has always been to bring all of these different aspects together to create full, unique, and cohesive sketch shows, based around a single idea or theme. The scripts are generally character-based and written for specific performers, who work with our director and tech team throughout the rehearsal process to bring the scenes to life in the most engaging way possible. It leads to a “the whole is greater than the total sum of its parts” situation, and really showcases the different talents floating around the Magnet.

MB:  Do the actors write, or the writers act?  Are directors part of the group, or do they rotate/change for each show?

TE:  We definitely have a couple of writer/performers in the group, especially Jamaal Sedayao and Kevin Cobbs. They’re great because they know how to write so well for themselves as well as the other actors in the group. And Jamaal can pull from his Brazilian (I think?) background to give the show some diversity. We have one director (Nick Benaquista) who directs all the Company 29 shows. It’s a big asset having Nick direct multiple shows because he’s developed a great sense for the different writing and performance styles we have, and he can use that when he’s working to build beats and work on characters in rehearsals.

MB:  What is the writing process?

TE:  When we first start working on a new show, the writers will get together to pitch ideas for a theme or structure to the show (like setting the whole show in the world of a public school, as we did with PS2012). Once we’ve settled on the theme, we’ll starting pitching sketch ideas or looking at sketches that people have that could potentially work for the show, and discuss which actors would be the best to play which parts. Over the next few we’ll work as a group pitching jokes, editing the sketches, and tweaking the material to make it work for the actors. So it’s collaborative in that sense, but the onus is really on the individual writers to own their material. We don’t write too many sketches together as a group, but we all work together to make sure the sketches work for the show we want to put on. Once we have enough material, we’ll choose the sketches we want to use in the show, put together the running order, and all that good stuff.

MB:  What’s the timeline of putting a show together, from conception to show time?

TE:  Usually about 2 months. We like to have about three weeks to write and edit and then a little over a month for rehearsals, since scheduling rehearsals for a cast this big and this busy is obviously difficult, and we want to have enough rehearsals for each sketch.

MB:  Was there anything you learned In the process of putting together the first Company 29 show, that you decided to do differently for this upcoming show?

TE:  We’re not going to do the character bits that we did with PS2012 this time around.  They were funny as character pieces in the last show, but they disrupted the flow of the whole piece.  This time, we’re following a more standard sketch revue structure.

MB:  Will there be rolling auditions/submission invitations for folks who are interested in joining Company 29?

TE:  We’ve had the same cast for the last two shows, and they’re fantastic.  We don’t have any plans to hold big auditions in the near future, but we’re always looking to add people here and there. We brought Justin Peters on for this show because we needed someone to play a racist ex-minor-league baseball player, which seemed right in his wheelhouse. We’re bringing on a couple of new writers for the next show as well, and are always looking for more sketch-writers who like the style of sketch that we do.

MB:  Why “America!”?

TE:  The idea really came from the fact that for a little while we thought about doing a political theme for the next show. The more we batted the idea around, the more sketch ideas came up that centered on general Americana, beyond just politics. It seemed like a really fun and relatable theme to play with, so that’s where we went. We ended up with sketches about Ellis Island, Johnny Appleseed, Ira Glass, Kenyan marathon runners, and, interestingly enough, nothing about politics. Which is probably for the best. I don’t think anyone really likes political sketch comedy. Not enough silly voices.

Thanks, Tim!

The audience enjoying the show and the Sixpoint brews.

Company 29 is proud to be sponsored by Sixpoint Craft Ales. Based in Brooklyn, Sixpoint is an innovative craft brewery that makes bold and delicious beers. It is also committed to supporting local creative endeavors, and Company 29 is thrilled to have them as a sponsor. For all you craft beer lovers, Sixpoint is having beer specials at the Magnet for opening night on Friday. Drink up and enjoy the show!

Photos: M.Woody Fu

Wednesday April 18, 2012, 9:04pm - by admin

In celebration of its 7th Anniversary, Magnet held its first completely ridiculous and ironically meaningful award ceremony. It was the 1st Annual Maggie Awards and everyone played fell into their appropriate roles immediately; the winners were falsely modest and the nominees who lost pretended it was an honor just to be nominated. The presenters were sharp and read the prompter with varying degrees of skill and self conscious sexiness.

Here are some moments from the ceremony for those of you in the community who couldn’t be there, and those of you who were there and aren’t sure this actually happened.  Enjoy

Here is a video of the opening number.  Peter McNerney was our Billy Crystal, accompanied by Steve Whyte and  Joel Esher.  Also appearing in the opening number were Michael Lutton, Jen Sanders and Santa Claus. 

Click after the jump for the complete list of nominees and winners.

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Saturday March 3, 2012, 5:12pm - by catherinewing

The opening night of Company 29’s show, PS 2012, played to a sold-out crowd last night. Under the directon of Nick Benaquista, the show ran smoothly, with top-notch performances by some of the best performers at the Magnet, and effortless transitions between sketches. This was a great start for Company 29, the Magnet Theater’s very first sketch company-in-residence. more

Wednesday February 29, 2012, 5:03pm - by catherinewing

This Friday, 3/2 at 8:30pm marks a historic occasion at the Magnet Theater. It is the opening night of “PS 2012,” the inaugural show of the Magnet Theater’s very first sketch company-in-residence, Company 29. Set in and around a public school, PS 2012 will introduce you to characters from the school bus to the schoolyard and the academic beyond.

Dedicated to producing new and original sketch comedy shows on a continual basis, Company 29 consists of the Magnet’s strongest writers, performers and directors. The goal of Company 29 is to create character-driven, thematically cohesive sketch shows with a uniquely Magnet voice. more