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Posts Tagged ‘Louis Kornfeld’

Wednesday July 22, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Ellie Kemper Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

This week, the delightful Ellie Kemper takes a quick break from making TV & movies to talk with us about positivity in comedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and of course, improv! In the midst of hosting the TODAY show last week, and performing at Magnet with Christina Gausas (as KempSas), Ellie was kind enough to sit down with our lovable host Louis Kornfeld for a brief interview.

Louis wastes no time getting into it, asking Ellie, “How do you make positivity so funny?” Ellie admits that there is a a fine line between grating and funny when it comes to positivity. And though many positive characters have a naiveté to them, she maintains that you can bring more to those characters than simply ditziness. Louis believes that earlier improvisers shy away from being positive because it feels like there’s not much fuel to burn, yet he observes that Ellie is able to keep positive characters going endlessly. Perhaps it’s a psychological reflection of the performer?

Continuing in this vein, Ellie talks about her one-person UCB show centered around a cheery airline attendant who is falling apart on the inside, which of course brings us to Kimmy Schmidt. On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, all of the characters, and particularly Kimmy, maintain a very upbeat disposition despite the darkness that seems to exist just offscreen or looming right behind them. Why are they able to stay funny? Probably because they all make good on the show’s motto: “You’re stronger than you think.”

In an improv scene, what makes one dark character entertaining to watch and another just sad? Both Ellie and Louis agree that confidence goes a long way and gives the audience faith in the actors trying to pull it off. Ellie talks specifically about how Christina Gausas’s confidence puts her at ease when they play together. The focus that Christina gives her scene partners takes their stress away and let’s them know they’re being taken seriously. Ellie and Louis both feel that anytime you have to sell what you’re doing to the audience, it puts a stress on the scene. A great strength of an improviser is to simply “be here right now.”

Louis then wants to talk about relaxation. How does Ellie deal with the difference in scale between the pressures of earlier performances and auditions, and the types of high-profile projects she does now? Interestingly, Ellie has actually gotten more anxious as time has gone on and, despite her prowess on stage, is still mystified by how other performers improvise so well. Louis digs deeper, asking Ellie if being famous has changed what it’s like to improvise in front of people. She says that audiences will laugh at things that aren’t really very funny and that you run the risk of becoming a lazy improviser. She’s returned to improvising more regularly this past winter after being away from it for some time, and though she felt rusty at first, she’s been loving it.

Louis’ favorite shows are the ones where he knows it was great improv but the audience was lukewarm about it – the pride of content over response. But that pride doesn’t prevent even great performers from going for the response sometimes. Ellie and Louis discuss the terrible feelings associated with making an easy joke in a scene. Guilt keeps you honest.

For his concluding question, Louis asks Ellie to describe what it’s like to come from the grungy, DIY world of NYC improv and sketch, and now, to be working amongst the most successful, absolute best people in comedy. Her answer is simple and reassuring. They’re all cut from the same cloth, right? Hear her answer to that question and all the others on this week’s episode. We know it’s a short one, but we swear on the skull of Del Close that it’s packed full of great stuff.

 

Wednesday July 15, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Bianca Casusol PodcastSubscribe with iTunes

Beloved Magnet Theater alumnae, Bianca Casusöl, visits from North Carolina to talk about her improv origins, making adjustments for shows, and the weird games she plays all alone in her head. Currently a performer and instructor at Dirty South Comedy Theater (dsi) in Chapel Hill, NC,  Bianca spent several years in New York performing at the Magnet on shows such as Megawatt, Kiss*Punch*Poem, and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Fortunately, we caught her while she was in town and convinced her to catch up with her old pal Louis Kornfeld on our podcast.

The conversation appropriately begins with our two stars talking about dropping back into a community after being away from it. Though they both claim to do a poor job at keeping in touch with people, Louis insists that Bianca has an ability to open people up and make them feel like a million bucks no matter how long she’s known them or how long it’s been since they’ve spoken. Has she always been that way? They talk about their birth orders and what that might have to do with their adult personalities.

Bianca started at Magnet on Jan 9, 2010, but she first got into improv at her NC high school with Viola Spolin’s theater games. She had a less than amazing experience with a practice group before taking a long break from the art form. When she eventually picked it up again at Magnet, she says she felt like the kid sister who was always just hanging around, which meant that she got to know the house managers quite well. In contrast to Bianca’s natural ability to make friends with strangers, Louis recently took a personality test and related deeply to a question about being a wallflower.

Catching us up on her current home, Bianca talks about the improv scene in North Carolina and how dsi has grown by leaps and bounds since she first came into contact with it. One major difference, compared to the NYC theaters, is that dsi does both short form and long form improv. This creates a pressure to perform for and entertain different kinds of audiences, even families with children. Before continuing, Bianca says a really uncomfortable word, but then the two of them talk in detail about making adjustments for various audiences and Bianca claims that manners are just shorthand for respect. We like that phrasing a lot.

On a related note, Louis talks about how easily impressed certain audiences are and that we lose out by judging them for liking what they like. He says that those of us in the comedy world are spoiled because we’re surrounded by people who let us be weird and indulge our ideas, but that many people (kids in particular) don’t have that luxury. This is why they delight in something as simple as an improviser using their suggestion in a scene.

Bianca reveals to us that when people aren’t nice to her, she thinks they’re trying to sleep with her. Louis claims that she has a gift for playing uncomfortable moments in scenes and Bianca chalks a lot of her improv skill up to expressing a lot of feelings on stage and her love of exploring “the weirdos.” Plus, she tells us about the strange games she plays in her head, like “Who is dreaming up the people in the world?” and “What would this person be if they were a beverage?”

Check out this week’s episode for a really fun conversation about all of the above and more. And if you don’t, well then just remember that kids deserve respect too.

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Thursday July 9, 2015, 10:49am - by Magnet Theater

Christina Gausas Stairs

Our guest on this week’s episode of the Magnet Theater Podcast, Christina Gausas, is well known for her work with a variety of amazing improv duos. As a follow up to her interview, she’s returned to give a shout out to all of her duo collaborators over the years and we’ve given her the keys to the Magnet Blog to do just that. Take it away, Christina!


Ellie Kemper – GENIUS
Ellie is the brightest, most radiant light in life, on and off-stage, and she’s a genius. She has infinite talent and wild, limitless lovability. Ellie is the smartest person I know and she’s a creative genius. Her insights, her sensibilities, her clarity, the characters she creates are so captivating. The gifts that Ellie gives to you in scenes are so specific and brilliant. She’s the most engaging, playful scene partner, and, of course, she’s beautiful and warm and generous, it’s exactly who she is and always has been. (We met in 2000.) I could go on for hours & pages about the talent and joy of Ellie, and the one word to encompass Ellie as an improviser and performer is – genius.

Michael Bertrando – SEXY BEAST
Bertrando is an intense talent with gravity and fun, he’s fucking brilliant, too. Being able to do Come Together with Michael has really been a gift. Michael can get onstage and truly create a one-act play. He creates characters who are complex, complicated MEN, and at the same time, he’s hilarious because he digs into the honesty and the emotion and he is fearless. Capital “F” Fearless. He’s wickedly smart, open-minded, he is pure fire onstage.

Susan Messing – The QUEEN
Kevin Dorff is the King, Susan Messing is the Queen, and I would live in that Kingdom forever. Susan is what we all aspire to be. But I don’t know that anyone can come close. I think, just bow down. Susan is the Goddess. It’s Susan’s world and we’re just living in it.

Becky Drysdale – CREATOR
Becky is the most creative, creating, creator I know. She improvises, writes, sings, dances, animates, makes art, builds things, and she makes spaces for other improvisers. The Clubhouse in LA is amazing and she made that for other people. She did that with her school in New York, too. I was watching a documentary about Orson Welles and someone said, “there was never an Orson before him and there will never be a second,” which made me think of Matt Besser, who I admire very much, and wonder if there will ever be someone like Besser again because Improv is now so big. I don’t know Matt well, but he always seems brave to me, anarchistic, confident (all the UCB 4 do) — what Matt and the UCB created was non-status quo. Becky has a similar spirit. She gives it to the Indie teams.

Scott Adsit – CHARMING
I think Scott is one of the most charming improvisers in the country. I loved all of our shows.

Kay Cannon – DEEEELIGHT
I add the “e”s for how exciting Kay is onstage. Kay has the most “come run away and play with me” look in her eyes when you are onstage with her. We were only able to do one show as Cannon & Gausas and it was at a DCM and it was a delight. Kay keeps the energy, and the positivity, and the play, and the smart silliness going. You just feel so happy when you see her big eyes and her big smile. And she’s that way as a friend, too. She always lifts you up.

Armando Diaz – EMPEROR
If you’re reading this right now, please ask Armando to improvise more. No one else can as quickly and completely become a character the way Armando Diaz can. And I feel like he understands Comedy better than all of us. And, by “all of us”, I mean, the whole, entire world. We have this treasure, this wealth of insight and improv and comedy intelligence right here in New York City and I feel like we should be seeing and using him all the time. For the sake of the future! (Sorry, Armando, no sleep for you.)

Megan Gray – The GIFT
Megan has that natural grace and comfort onstage that comes from a place of love. Much like Ellie, that light and radiance. She’s a very strong and also giving improviser. I love being onstage with Megan but I also love watching her because I always feel secure. She’s funny and talented and also commanding onstage. My eyes go right to her. I always want to know what her characters are going to say. Also, when you watch her in a group, she’s the first one to “throw herself on the grenade.” She gives unbridled support without worrying about herself. Plus, as an AD, she gives so much to the community, she really diversifies and shares, and opens doors to performers and provides opportunities to shows.

Louis Kornfeld – the ORIGINAL
I think Louis has one of the most original stage personas and it comes completely from being who he is. I think a lot of people want to play to be perceived as “smart” or “intelligent” or “understanding something you don’t” but it’s always bullshit. Louis is the most NO BULLSHIT player there is. And because of that, we get to see this smart, intelligent improviser, who’s comfortable JUST FUCKING BEING. (As far as we can see.) And he’ll create a scene that might have a central, long discussion and it’s interesting as hell because it’s authentic and it isn’t full of self-aware bullshit, it’s just honest. I hear him refer to himself as a “straight man.” I have to say, I’ve never thought that. He’s always anchoring to me. Playing with MegaLou was great.

Michael Delaney – GOLOVKIN
Boxing fans will understand. Gennady Golovkin is a boxer with every weapon in a full arsenal and he has precision. He doesn’t remind you of anyone else because there’s never been anyone else like him. That’s Michael Delaney to me. He has every talent an improviser could hope for and he has precision. When you’re watching Michael Delaney or you’re onstage with Michael Delaney, you’re experiencing the best of what the work can be, at all times. He’s a true Master of Improvisation. We are lucky to have him. It’s another “bow down” situation.

Billy Merritt – JOY
Billy and I did one show in Dave Furfero’s Ampersand at the Magnet. When I think of Billy, I just think Joy. He welcomes you onstage and it’s fun and easy and unquestioned for the whole show. We did Kevin Mullaney’s Mullaney Chain at DCM 17. It was Kevin, Ellie, Sean Conroy, Billy, and me. I was in a scene with Billy where we were husband & wife talking to Sean’s character (who was off-stage) over the phone. I said, “check the caller ID” and Billy said, out loud, to the phone, “Check Caller ID”, while we were in the middle of the conversation. It was hilarious and a moment where we could get into a fun “not that way, look at the phone,” “what? why?” and those ideas and that kind of play can only come from the joyous, incredibly fun, smart mind of Billy Merritt.

Kevin Dorff – KING
Kevn Dorff is the King and that’s really all I have to say. He’s so incredibly talented, strong, intelligent, striking, commanding, and fun. He can say more with one look or one word than anyone else onstage. Which is why I should simply say – KING.

All words not in italics written by the wonderful Christina Gausas.

Wednesday July 8, 2015, 5:48am - by Magnet Theater

Christina Gausas Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

We welcome a national treasure of the improv comedy world, Christina Gausas, into our studio for a conversation about ensemble support, form development, Del Close, improv notes, and wanting your scene partner. Still basking in that post-DCM glow, Christina begins her conversation with host Louis Kornfeld recapping her DCM, talking about the support of the ensemble, and being in the moment.

Louis brings up the difference between bragging and acknowledging you’ve had a great show. Christina says that bragging feels counterintuitive because the whole thing relies on ensemble. Without the rest of the team, the hilarious line you delivered would have never happened. In the same vein, they discuss the difference between a real gift and a “bailout” gift and the two parts to every improv gift: the giving and receiving.

Following dual admissions of performance anxiety, Christina and Louis talk about some of Christina’s Chicago teams and how they went about developing new forms. Both agree though, that content — great scenework — comes before any concern about which form a team chooses. Christina’s advice? Create something that is your own and put the work into it. Also, explore the intention behind a show.

Christina indulges Louis’ request and shares some fond memories of the late, great Del Close. He was an artist who valued authenticity, creating complete characters, and not being topical simply for the sake of being topical. He wanted people to find the universal implications behind the suggestion, to not be literal with it but be expansive with it. While many might bring up Del because they really love discussing the rebellious and outlandish aspects of his life, Louis says that he most likes the idea that Del pushed people to go beyond their limits. Plus it’s possible that he was the Forrest Gump of the improv world. Don’t believe us? You’ll have to listen.

Inspired by Del’s approach to notes, Christina and Louis talk about the use of direct notes and how they can be useful or harmful. Both maintain that players need to develop the habit of taking notes easily. Louis pitches his idea that an improv team should approach the craft with a smart mob mentality and Christina tells us how great acting integrates with great improv. Finally, hear about Christina’s most recent revelation that people should truly want their scene partners at all times.

This is a great episode featuring one of the game’s very best players, so we recommend you turn the volume up to 11.

Wednesday July 1, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Will Hines Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this week’s episode, we’ve got actor, writer, and 14x UCB All-Star, Will Hines. We caught up with Will while he was in town for the 17th Annual Del Close Marathon and what ensued was a beautifully nerdy conversation about improv theory, improv practice, teaching methods, and some of Will’s early days at UCB.

The interview begins with Will and host Louis Kornfeld talking about how to navigate fighting in improv scenes. They insist that the characters must be able to have philosophical debates, not mere wizard battles. They sympathize with students learning improv though, since a bad fight and good fight feel very similar in the moment. Plus, arguments have a lot of good elements that improvisers should practice — commitment, point-of-view, feeling — but if they only serve to defend the character, they won’t be very helpful. Will goes into detail about his philosophy that scene partners must “shake hands” at the top of a scene.

If you’re wondering whether these two veteran company men discuss the philosophies of UCB and the Magnet, wonder no longer! Will and Louis get to the meaty stuff and talk about the differences between Harolds at Magnet and UCB. From there, they discuss a variety of improv “rules” and postulate that most rules are in need of a specific scope to make them useful. Will talks about the rigidity of his 10th grade english teacher and they debate the benefits and limitations of strict versus nurturing improv teachers. Though Will always loved Matt Besser’s no-bullshit approach to teaching, he says that Armando Diaz was his breakthrough teacher. He describes the two of them as the ying and yang of UCB teachers during his time coming up through classes.

We get to hear a bit of Will’s improv origin story, he and Louis discuss improv’s “huggy” vibe, plus, these two “kings of calm-edy” explore their thoughts on being funny while acting as the straight man and/or lower energy player. Louis shares with us that he’d just had his most embarrassing audition ever and Will admits that he has a lack of confidence when it comes to being funny. The two of them snap out of their temporary self-loathing to talk about Will’s days playing with Monkeydick, which was Louis’ favorite Harold Night team when he was a student there.

There’s so much great stuff in this episode for Magnet and UCB fans alike, not to mention every improv nerd out there, we’re not even sure where to start. Just trust us and give it a listen.

Packed with these extras:

The Brothers Hines have only one rule for their shows — what is it?

Louis admits his biggest weakness as a teacher and performer.

What do these guys think of the Star Wars Prequel trilogy???

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Wednesday June 24, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Joe Miles Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

An improviser with Ariana Grande (the improv team) and founding member of BRICK, the handsome Joe Miles stops by our studio to talk with host Louis Kornfeld about discovering improv, the influence of music on his life, and touchy improv scenes. Joe talks to us about coming to NYC from Cleveland (Go Cavs!) in order to further his career as a rapper, but then discovering improv and being sucked into it. Still a drummer all these years later, Joe tells Louis how he uses music as inspiration for characters and Louis tells Joe about his past as an illustrator. We hear about Joe’s favorite music and the two men wonder if new genres will ever be invented. Also, Joe describes how he psychs himself up for a show, answers the questions of how he’s changed as a performer, and discusses BRICK’s run of shows where they did a different form each week. If that’s not enough, Louis mentions the presence of our engineer Grant, who disapproves of Louis’ musical leanings. Check it out!

Wednesday June 17, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Andrew Yurman-Glaser Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Native son of New York State, Andrew Yurman-Glaser (Broad City; Magnet’s The Wrath, Friday Night Sh*w; UCB’s Mermaids; Upstate) joins us in the studio to talk about improvising, coaching, and the dynamics of a good team. Host Louis Kornfeld dives in by asking, “Do you remember when you got good at improv?” Humility abounds as Andrew tells of getting his improv start in college and how he’s grown over the last nine years in NYC.  He goes on to compare his Megawatt team, The Wrath, to an orchestra and tries to shed some light on how a team maintains their integrity over the course of years. Louis asks if Andrew plays differently on Lloyd Night, Harold Night, Megawatt, or Friday Night Sh*w and Andrew talks about when shows feel the most successful. Hear Louis’ favorite things about how Andrew improvises, Andrew’s thoughts on the importance of listening, and of course, how improv makes you a better person. Plus! Did Andrew’s parents watch him play a masturbator on Broad City? Does Louis like giving notes?? Has this episode been recorded in front of a group of prisoners???  Find out the answers to all of these questions and more on Episode #48.

**PS** Andrew plays with his very good friend Dustin Drury as UPSTATE on Monday, June 29th at 8:30PM. These two former INSPIRADO Oh Shit! champions only get a chance to play on occasion these days, so make sure to check out this show!

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Wednesday June 10, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jean Villepique Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

We’ve been lucky to welcome so many out-of-town guests recently and we’re excited to say that our latest visitor is the incredible Jean Villepique. One of the earliest teachers and performers at Magnet, Jean was recently back in town from Los Angeles to perform in Bummers Presents: Running. Our host, Louis Kornfeld, gets the ball rolling in this episode by asking about the origin story of Bummers, Jean’s annual(ish) writing and storytelling collaboration with Rachel Hamilton, Tami Sagher, and Melanie Hoopes. She and Louis discuss catching up with good friends by performing with them and the detriments of the more typical checklist conversations people tend to have when they haven’t seen each other recently. Jean talks about her first exposure to improv doing commedia dell’arte as a teen, joining The Meow Show at Northwestern University, where she met Magnet founder Ed Herbstman, and some of her early days at iO Chicago and Second City. Louis also asks his former Level 2 teacher about her improv show Switchboard, encouraging players to take risks, her stint on The Office, and bringing personal stuff to the stage. Hear about the time someone grabbed Louis by the beard! Listen in awe as Louis pontificates that we’re more than mere mammals! Sit in wonder as these two talk about doing drugs! It’s a great episode, so give it a listen.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #47 below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday May 27, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jo Firestone Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

A purveyor of weird in an increasingly codified comedy landscape, Jo Firestone sits down with us to talk about her numerous shows, how she approaches her art, and of course, City Museum in St. Louis. Host Louis Kornfeld kicks off this episode asking Jo whether she creates shows for her resume or because they interest her. As a prolific producer — she hosts Dr. Gameshow on WFMU, Punderdome 3000, Friends of Single People, and Firestone Success Academy (among many others) — Jo says you have to do it for yourself. She and Louis discuss how it feels weird to listen to and celebrate your own shows and Louis challenges Jo to create a new show with the suggestion of “farm.” Hear about Jo’s recent ventures to see art rather than comedy and how seeing bad art encourages you to take risks. Jo pontificates on the question of quantity versus quality and how she considers the audience when creating shows. Plus! Jo tells us the stupidest ideas she has ever gone through with and one of the very best moments from her many shows. Catch her now because she’s about to go on tour with a rock band and before you know it, she’ll be bigger than hip hop.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #46 below via SoundCloud.

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Wednesday May 20, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Joe Bill Podacast Subscribe with iTunes

Chicago improv legend and co-founder of The Annoyance Theater, Joe Bill, stops by the studio to talk with host Louis Kornfeld. Fresh off a trip to France and England, Joe tells us about his recent attempt to perform improv in French, how he still gets nervous for certain shows, and how he has learned to channel that energy. Louis talks to Joe about improv elder Martin de Maat and how he influenced The Annoyance’s approach. Also, find out what, “Take care of yourself” means to Joe and hear about his extensive experience teaching and training corporate groups. These two well-spoken gentlemen also discuss the capacity of the “group mind,” “the rules of improv,” and “much more.” Stream or download ASAP, people!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #45 below via SoundCloud.

 

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