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Friday April 3, 2015, 12:00pm - by Magnet Theater

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Magnet, Sulaiman Beg and Kelly Donahue have developed an Oral History of the Magnet Theater.

The full story will be released in early April, but over the coming weeks we will be releasing some interesting stories that didn’t make the final cut.

The first in this series is a profile on how the teachers & founders first discovered improv in their own lives. Read Part 1 here.



Herbstman: You know that last thing you think about before you go to bed is usually different every night. For me it was the same thing every night. It was, I’ve got to audition and get into Second City. It became pretty consuming for me. I cared about it a lot. My stomach would be turning. It worked out. I auditioned and they hired me.

Andrews: I just loved it. I just thought it was so much fun. I had never done any theater, I had never done anything artistic of any kind. But i was just super fun. I was really bad at it because I had terrible ADD I couldn’t focus on anything. It was a nice challenge for me to have to learn how to listen, to get good at that. I just remember it was one of my favorite things to do.

Herbstman: After I did five levels with Razwowsky he was like, now do you really want to learn how to do this? And he told me to go study at IO with Del. And I did. At 17, I went and took my first class with Charna.

Diaz: Back then, Improv Olympic would just take up residency in some bar. I didn’t question it back then, it was just kind of like, of course, that’s how you take comedy classes. Having started a theater, I realized wow, she had to do whatever she had to. It was just kind of like, a very gypsy kind of existence.

Herbstman: My iO Level 1 class was Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Neil Flynn, Ali Farahnakian, John Rosenfeld, Andrew Moskos — those guys started Boom Chicago. Shortly thereafter, maybe 6-8 months after that there was Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Rachel Dratch was performing there and also taking classes. There were under 50 people doing iO at the time.

Diaz: Del was just teaching the last level. You got into Del’s class and then you stayed in Del’s class forever. There was no graduation. You kept on showing up Monday night. There were like 30 people in the class, people on house teams.

Herbstman: I chose to go to Northwestern because they had a great improv group there that I wanted to be a part of and I also wanted to continue taking classes at IO, which I did all through college. Pretty much just wanted to get into Second City. That was my only goal. College was mostly just how do I get more stage time and do more improv and get better at it so I can be prepared for my Second City audition.

Diaz: Sometimes guests would come by. I remember [Chris] Farley, he graduated from IO and then was cast in Second City and he was doing Second City Mainstage, I remember him showing up and then sitting in on Del’s class. That was such an insane experience because it was Del in the first place which, he was was so scary, and smart, and such an authority. And you had all these other people that were amazing improvisers. You felt like, “What am I doing here? I’m just a freshman and here’s all these seniors.”

Andrews: In high school, my friend and I were annoying in improv and a lot of people didn’t really like us, contrary to how they might remember it now. We auditioned every year for everything. We didn’t get cast in anything. Nobody ever asked us to be in a group with them. The first time I ever got cast to be in a group with other people was when I went to college and that was after I was doing improv for like seven years. The team was called Suspicious of Whistlers, which is not a good name.

McNerney: I went in and I auditioned for The Meow Show at Northwestern, and I didn’t know it, but they had combined their auditions with this new long form group, called Titanic Players and so I accidentally auditioned for that. I came for The Meow Show. I didn’t know what long form was. But I got cast on the Titanic Players. My sophomore year there was a new freshman group cast and I became the first assistant director. Junior year I became a coach, and I cast Nick Kanellis on the next freshman team. He and Matt B. Weir, and Zoe Garmin from the Mindy Project were all on that team. My senior year, Russ Armstrong and Nick were in The Meow Show with me.

Marino: Ed was at iO West when I got there. I saw him onstage a bunch of times there. I thought he was great. I was like, who the fuck is that guy? This guy’s great. He sat in with a group called Tiny Hostages that did The Movie. They did that on a night that I performed. I auditioned for a Harold team at IO. Didn’t get on one. Not getting on a Harold team put me on a path to expedite my move out to New York, to do so as soon as possible. I moved there in 2003.

McNerney: I moved to New York in 2005. I knew I was going to do improv. I knew UCB was out here. I drove all my stuff out here the week before graduation, dropped my stuff off at my sublet and then drove to my Level 1 with Chris Gethard and then the next day drove back to graduate. And then the day after graduation, flew back to take my second class.

Andrews: I moved to New York in 2009 to do grad school. This was a point where I was like, I need to keep doing improv. I applied to PHD programs. But, I only applied to grad schools in New York and Chicago, so that I could keep doing improv which should have been a pretty good sign of, hey, just go do your thing.

Wednesday April 1, 2015, 12:00pm - by Magnet Theater

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Magnet, Sulaiman Beg and Kelly Donahue have developed an Oral History of the Magnet Theater.

The full story will be released in early April, but over the coming weeks we will be releasing some interesting stories that didn’t make the final cut.

The first in this series is a profile on how the teachers & founders first discovered improv in their own lives.



Armando Diaz: I grew up in Illinois, south suburbs Chicago, a place called Country Club hills. It was a regular old suburb. There weren’t really country clubs. I had this friend in high school, Kevin Dorff, who kind of woke up comedy in me. He was voted class clown. Really funny guy. We’d write little sketches back and forth during class. I didn’t realize they were sketches back then.

Ed Herbstman: I lived in the suburbs of Chicago and about fifteen to twenty minutes away from my house by car was Second City. We would go to the improv sets on weekends. The weekend sets were 10:30 – 11:00 on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. We went to every single one.

Diaz: I was in film school at Columbia College, in the program they had suggested if you’re interested in being a director, one thing you want to do is take an acting class from the acting department. I took a class and the teacher had graduated from the Second City training. He was a traditional actor but he would have us do a lot of improv in the class. That was fun. I had never done that before.

Alex Marino: My counselor at church camp in high school was a guy named Michael Lewis, he introduced me to improv. He was really involved with a short form troupe called Comedy Sportz, which had a franchise, weirdly, in Bakersfield, California, where I grew up. I got on my high school Comedy Sportz team, and if you got on, every Saturday you would meet for a couple hours next to a comic book store, in an abandoned tanning salon, and do improv.

Rick Andrews: My dad found some listing for ImprovBoston, when I was 11 or 12. They used to have Sunday afternoon shows, which was a terrible idea. We went down and saw a show, and no one was there but my family. They weren’t even supposed to do the show, they were supposed to cancel if it was less than ten people. But they did the show. It was great. In my mind, it was great.

Louis Kornfeld: My senior prom, myself, Charlie Whitcroft and Corey Grimes decided not to go to prom. Instead, we pooled our money and got a hotel room together. We got like a bottle of whiskey, and that was our night. Megan came too. The next day, we had some time before we had to check out, so we walked around the neighborhood a bit. This was like on 22nd Street. We were walking and we just happened to bump into the UCB 4 who were all outside smoking outside of their old theater. They’d just opened it.

Megan Gray: We would go in to see UCB shows in high school. We had heard they have teen classes and we were like ahh, I don’t know. We were always too scared, or we didn’t have time. We were making videos and stuff.

Peter McNerney: I had done a little short form in theater class in middle school and high school. My first week at Northwestern, I saw The Meow Show, which was this historic short form and sketch show that’s been around since the 70s. Ed was in it, and Melanie Hoopes and Rachel Hamilton and Julia Louis Dreyfus. It was this big deal show and I saw that and I was like I want to do that!

Gray: I was a dramatic writing/screenwriting major, and I had read somewhere that Conan O’Brien had said improv is a good way for writers to get over writer’s block so I thought that would be really cool.

Kornfeld: Megan’s dad signed us up for UCB Level 1 in October 2003. Me and Megan, and Corey and Charlie. And in that class we met Kelly Buttermore and Jon Bander. We also met Damon Ketron in Level 2.

Herbstman: When I got a car at 16, I would just go by myself and be one of the weirdos that was in line for every show and would see every show. At that time it was Dave Razowsky, Steve Carell, Amy Sedaris. I had just missed Colbert. It was just awesome. I mean imagine seeing Steve Carell four nights a week do improv. And Dave Razowsky who’s just awesome. And them doing it together. It was just really funny.

Diaz: I ran into Kevin Dorff one day and he had just gone to see a show at Improv Olympic that his sister recommended. He mentioned it to me and said, “Hey you gotta take this class.” It was with Charna. We went to this German bar, and it’s empty. It’s Wednesday night at 7:00. There’s no internet, everything is done by phone. We sat there for 20 minutes, and nobody showed up. It was just me and Kevin and the German bartender. Finally, […] Charna called the bar and was like, oh we’re pushing back the class a week. I don’t know why we did, but we came back the next week and people showed up and we had our first class and it was just like.. By the end both of us were just like, totally excited, totally pumped. It was great.

Herbstman: I was seeing so many shows at Second City, eventually they were like you could take classes here, and I was like, are you kidding me? I got a job tearing tickets, being a house manager, seating people. Suddenly, I was working there on the weekend and that meant free classes for me. So I would seat people and watch every single show, because I had to sit there and watch the show while the show was going on which was great.

Andrews: I kept seeing a bunch of of shows at ImprovBoston, and the AD was just like, take our class. He popped my friend Mike and I into their adult classes. So it was two 12-year old boys and a bunch of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. We were annoying. We were mature for 12, but the would put us at, like, 15.

Marino: When I got a car, and was able to drive myself there, I went and started taking classes in LA at iO West. I lived in my car for awhile in Los Angeles, just taking classes at IO, until some people in one of my classes learned that and was like, don’t do that, you shouldn’t do that, you should come live with me. And they put me up on couches.

Herbstman: My teacher for Level 1 and Level 2 was Dave Razowsky. Level 3 was Steve Carell. I had Level 4 and 5 with Dave Razowsky again. It was great. And I was 16-17, didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or where to go to school or wherever but I knew improv was the one core fundamental thing that I wanted it all to revolve around.

Continue to Part 2…

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

Shacottha Fields Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Improviser, actor, and brave soul, Shacottha Fields joins host Louis Kornfeld on this episode of the podcast to talk about her solo show, following your heart, and how she got started in improv. We begin with a discussion of Shacottha’s solo improv show, 1 Deep, a one-person Harold that begins with its star clowning and taking in the audience. Raised by her grandparents, Shacottha finds that she’s an old soul who knows herself quite well, which prompts Louis to talk about the difficulty many adults have with connecting to their heart and has him asking our guest,  “What does it mean to follow your heart? Shacottha tells us what she thinks people should be taking away from improv shows. Plus, we hear about the sudden realization she had that moved her to try acting. (Spoiler: She almost opened a daycare!) Shacottha is truly someone who follows her fear and this episode contains so many little life lessons, it should be filed under Self-Help. If that’s not enough for you, listeners will find out humanity’s main job on this planet and whether or not Louis is ready to have kids! Also, a heads up for folks in Juno, Alaska — tune to hear when 1 Deep will be visiting you in April!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #38 below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday March 25, 2015, 12:21pm - by Magnet Theater


You’ve seen the infomercial, you’ve visited in person, but if you want to get the low down on the new Magnet Training Center, you’ve got to come by our Open House this Friday, March 27th. The evening will begin at 5:30pm with a town hall style meeting which will last roughly an hour. After that, Magnet owners and staff will be hanging out until 8:30pm to answer questions and talk about anything under the sun. This is a great chance for the entire community to come together, see the progress that the Magnet is making, and chat with some of the people helping with its development.  If you haven’t seen the new digs, what are you waiting for??? Come say hello! All are welcome!!

Magnet Training Center Open House

Friday, March 27th, 5:30-8:30pm

22 West 32nd St, Floor 10

Wednesday March 25, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jeffrey Sweet podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Whoa boy — we’ve got an interview with the one and only Jeffrey Sweet! The famed playwright, historian, and author of Something Wonderful Right Away joins host Louis Kornfeld for this extended episode of the podcast. They start out by discussing the relationship between the Jews fleeing the Cossacks and the rise of satire in America. Jeffrey talks about the origins of improvisation with The Committee and Second City, highlighting some differences between the two as well as  commenting on folks like David Shepherd and Del Close. Time is spent discussing the six heavy hitters that the improv world lost in 2014: Sheldon Patinkin, Gary Goodrow, Ted Flicker, Harold Ramis, Mike Nichols, and Joan Rivers. They also get into the domino effect of Something Wonderful Right Away influencing Mick Napier and Charna Halpern to develop their theaters and how Jeffrey might be the illegitimate grandfather of the long-form improv scene in NYC. Jeffrey also talks about how Stephen Colbert and John Stewart are so important to the comedic and political landscape today and gives us his take on the modern incarnation of SNL. The interview continues to discuss the link between improvisational theater and folk art and how the satirists have now become a part of the system. It’s an episode filled with so much historical, political, and cultural discourse that Jeffrey pauses several times over the course of this interview to ask, “We are talking about comedy, right?” Indeed, we are.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #37 below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday March 18, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Jon Bander Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this episode of the podcast we are joined by Jon Bander, a seasoned performer with Premiere: The Improvised Musical (Magnet), Aquarius (Magnet), Dagger (The PIT), and Characters Welcome (UCB). Host Louis Kornfeld jumps right into a discussion on musical improv with Jon, talking about Aquarius’ signature form, The Malkovich. They revisit Jon’s first-hand account of the development of musical improv in NYC and discuss how it differs from traditional long-form improv. He also recounts for us how he went from hating musical improv and character comedy to performing them almost exclusively and loving it. We hear about the separation between the subdued, real-life Jon and the high-spirited, on stage Bander. Plus! Louis and Jon discuss mean comedy, the roles the audience plays in improv, and the show Characters Welcome.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #36 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Monday March 16, 2015, 12:05pm - by Magnet Theater

polaroids scattered 10years

Hey Magnet Community!

In case you didn’t know, our beloved Magnet Theater turns 10 years old next month and we’re hoping to celebrate in a big way. We are hoping to put together a collection of as many photos and videos as possible so that we can scrapbook a decade of memories. And we need your help! Do you have photos of Magnet shows, rehearsals, or classes?  We want them! And the older, the better! If you can help us, please email promo@magnettheater.com with files, links to Dropbox/Drive, or physical drop off requests. However you want to get us your memories, we want your help!

Chrissie & Evan

Magnet Promo Team

Wednesday March 11, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Chris Duffy Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Stand up, radio host, and improviser Chris Duffy joins us this week on the podcast to discuss the various shows he produces and how learning and laughing go together so well. Host Louis Kornfeld asks Chris about the origins of his show You’re The Expert, a radio program, podcast, and live show that asks a panel of three comedians to guess what an academic expert studies all day. We hear about the other stand up shows Chris hosts which they all combine elements of education, shared experience, and comedy. You’ll learn about Chris’s obsession with lists and who he hopes to emulate along the way. Is Chris a highly disciplined comedian? Find out! Also hear about giving gifts and walking through life with open arms rather than arms crossed. Plus, Chris shares his biggest bomb ever and talks about getting into comedy because it felt important. Tune in, friends!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #35 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Monday March 9, 2015, 8:00am - by Magnet Theater


From here on in, ALL classes will meet at the new Magnet Training Center located on the 10th floor of 22 West 32nd Street. Your classroom assignments will be posted on the lobby display.

Hope to see you at the new space soon!

Wednesday March 4, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Charlie Whitcroft Podcast Subscribe with iTunes
Our guest this week, Charlie Whitcroft, has known our host, Louis Kornfeld, for 23 years and they have been best friends just as long. Join us on this episode for a trip down Memory Lane as Louis and Charlie revisit their younger days, but also reflect on the upcoming 10 year anniversary of the Magnet. Part of a group of improvising friends, Charlie was the long holdout and the last to join in on the improv fun. He talks about being intimidated at first and how he got over his hesitation. These two friends discuss turning points in life and how they’ve seemingly led parallel existences over the last two-plus decades, both becoming grown ups in the improv world. As an improviser who (Louis claims) plays great heart-to-heart moments, we find out how Charlie brings that sense of patience to his teaching. Plus, we hear about the raw, early days of the Magnet Theater, the mystery of Kevin Dorff workshops, and Charlie’s new Directors Series, Rashamon.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #34 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.