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

Armando Diaz Podcast 66 Subscribe with iTunes

Magnet Theater co-founder and all around improv know-it-all, ARMANDO DIAZ, sits down with us to talk about film, improvisation, and what he thinks of the “guru” label. It’s not everyday we get to hear so intimately from one of the greats of improvisation, but Armando stopped by to chat with host Louis Kornfeld and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Who knows – maybe this will be one of many? What we do know for sure is that this episode is not one to be missed.

Our conversation with Armando Diaz begins with the moment he gave up on the film industry. Both he and Louis had forays into the film industry and neither of them particularly liked it. However, it was this rejection of film that steered Armando toward improv. These two encyclopedias of improv and film discuss how improv keeps people more honest than film, how it strips away pretentious defense of art, and how Louis learned more about scene structure and motivation through improvising than attending film school. You need the laboratory of improvisation to learn and grow, says Armando.

Louis notes that, when teaching, Armando talks a lot about culture and art, so he asks Armando where he finds inspiration these days. In giving his answer, Armando opines on the need for art and culture to become local again. They talk about the dual importance of experiencing something together with a group of people, as well as the value of truly having time alone with your own thoughts – time devoid of entertainment and third party interference. In this part of the interview, we find out how many children Armando has! You’ll be surprised.

Tying in Armando’s notion of communal art with David Shepard’s goal of The Compass to be a popular theater, Louis asks how those ideas can be transposed into the improv of today. Armando tries to recall the first improv he saw that set the bar or made a big impression on him. For him, it’s always been about exploring the unknown. If for a period of time you can transcend yourself, those are the best moments. Where does such deep water lie for improv these days? Louis and Armando talk about challenging audiences in a helpful way and how we need imperfections and flaws.

If you came for the good stuff, look no further than Louis asking Armando about the status of his name. He talks about what it means to him to be “Armando.” People will think whatever they want, so he keeps himself grounded in real interactions with other people. He also tells use why he doesn’t love the idea of gurus and relates how the burden of experience can get in the way of trying to learn something new. Not wanting to watch people who have a list of rules in their head, Armando has developed his teaching methods to focus on inspiring students rather than correcting them.

Among a bevy of talk on improvisation, Louis asks Armando why he’s such a reluctant improviser and Armando talks about what it’s like to play with his frequent duo partner, Christina Gausas. Finally, Louis reminds us of this wonderful quote from Elaine May: “The only safe bet is to take a risk.” Amen.

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

Alexis Lambright Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Magnet All-Star performer, ALEXIS LAMBRIGHT, chats with us about The Wrath’s 4-year anniversary, representation in improv, and her various hilarious scripted shows. You can see Alexis all around the Magnet performing with The Wrath on Megawatt, with The Cast on Saturday nights, as host of The Griot Show, as a member of The Stank, and with Rebecca Robles as the soul-singing duo Cocoa Dreamz. This week, she sits down with host Louis Kornfeld to talk about all manner of things related to comedy and we’re excited to have her as a guest!

With The Wrath’s 4-year anniversary having just passed, Louis inquires as to what makes The Wrath work so well – why is this team so amazing? Alexis talks about the team’s dynamics and the importance of having her ideas justified and embraced right away. Louis says that he often references Alexis as an example of someone who plays with their own style yet is never hindered by it. Pretty cool, right?

Stemming from their discussion on The Wrath, Louis and Alexis talk about the pressure she feels to represent not only woman, but also people of color, when she’s performing. This leads into a discussion on diversity in improv, Rita Chin’s recent essay, and some of the things Alexis came to expect as she began improv classes. She stresses the importance of having all voices be heard (and accepted) and answers the question, “Do you work on your own stuff or do you keep trying to fit in [to the theater system]?”

Alexis began taking class at Magnet in late 2008 and she tells us about what brought her to improv in the first place. Her first formal improv training was a weekend-long Second City workshop which she took after being inspired by watching SNL. Louis talks about new students’ ability to convert fear into power and asks Alexis how The Wrath has managed to keep the romance alive after 4 years. Hear about how they’ve spiced it up recently and what Alexis has to say about their foray into musical improv!

Going further back, Louis talks to Alexis about her family, moving around as a child, and where she feels most at home. He also asks about her friendship and artistic relationship with Rebecca Robles. As Alexis puts it – they’re like the Odd Couple. Although they maybe have different energies, they have very similar work styles. She talks about their act Cocoa Dreamz, which is a Motown-era singing duo, and how that show allows her to channel her mother and aunts. On an unrelated note, Louis talks about finding inspiration in sad people and taking what you don’t like about someone and choosing to make it what you love about them.

Finally, they wrap up the episode discussing Alexis’ one-woman-show, The Alexis Lambright Tell-A-Thon: Combating Adult Virginity, which has enjoyed runs at Magnet, NY Fringe, and Hollywood Fringe. They talk about the origins of the show and the writing of it, as well as the attention it received as a result of an NY Post article, which wasn’t without its compromises. Louis opines that coping with scary things allows you to move forward and become who you are. We think he’s probably right.

Enjoy this episode. It’s great listening.

Wednesday November 4, 2015, 7:42am - by Magnet Theater

* Subscribe with iTunes

Justin Torres is all over the Magnet Theater these days, performing with GOATS, Heartbeat, and Premiere, and now, he’s a guest on our podcast! In this episode, we learn about Justin’s experiences studying at the four major improv training centers of NYC, how he approaches different shows with different teams, and his advice for people looking to get into voiceover work. It’s a truly wonderful episode that will surely put a smile on your face. Listen in!

Right off the bat, Louis asks Justin how he has quietly become the hardest working man in improv. In just the last few years, Justin has studied improv at every theater in the city and currently performs or rehearses fives days a week. He talks about being on a new team and how it’s necessary to have a positive outlook and energy with each other. Drawing on his house team experience, he discusses the interplay between veterans and newbies in an ensemble. What are his favorite things about improvising? He loves putting a smile on his teammates’ faces and he’s really into group mind. If you’ve ever watched him improvise, you’ll recognize too that he is not afraid of doing something that “breaks” the show, which is just a part of his pursuit of playing in order to surprise himself. He also has a particular fondness for dynamic stage pictures.

What are Justin’s approaches when playing with his three different groups? He tells us about GOATS’ love of getting crazy together, hearing the heartbeat of Heartbeat, and being the guy who is always putting Premiere on the brink of failure. From there, Louis gets into how gracious Justin is prone to being. Not only is Justin incredibly thankful about his improv life, but he’s very specific about his gratefulness. As he tells us, we’ve only got so much time with these teams, so you’ve got to be grateful for it. Louis talks about being on both sides of getting cut and how people respond to it. In particular, he admires Justin’s non-attachment to results. How does a team react to being cut and what does it tell us? Improv is a great way to be constantly working with your fears and insecurities. Justing thinks it can help you realize yourself in the time you have available. It’s all about doing improv as a corollary for life. What do you want to do? You can do it in improv.

Louis gives a shoutout to Justin’s improv blog, Improv, NYC and asks Justing to provide advice for a new improviser coming to NYC. He talks about what the four different theaters have to offer a new improviser and then provides advice for people going through different schools at the same time.

Finally, Louis asks Justin about his career in voiceover work. He gives very concrete advice for people looking to get into it, including: “Who to take VO classes from?” “What should you keep in mind before jumping in?” and “What does one need to get started?” Justin’s voiceover archetype is “Honest Everyday Guy,” and while we agree wholeheartedly with the first part, we’re convinced he’s far more than just an everyday guy.

Monday November 2, 2015, 11:00am - by Magnet Theater

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Now this is exciting — Magnet founder and improv mastermind, Armando Diaz, is set to begin teaching four classes in the month of November! If you’ve never had the chance to study with Armando, look no further.

Brand new to Magnet? Take Level 1 For Experienced Improvisers! Looking to sharpen your skills? Instant Brilliance is gonna be perfect for you! Finally fulfilling that “We should do two-prov” comment you made at the bar months ago?? Whoa baby – Dynamic Duos is here for ya!! Don’t even want to do improv??? Then take that Sketch Writing Level One!!! There’s truly something for everyone, all taught by the one (and only) Armando Diaz. Sign up now now now!

Instant Brilliance starting November 14th

Level 1 For Experienced Improvisors starting November 15th

Sketch Writing Level One starting November 16th

Dynamic Duos starting November 21st


Saturday October 31, 2015, 10:00am - by Magnet Theater


We’re so very excited to announce the new Conservatory Circuit Fall 2015 season, debuting Friday, November 6th at 10pm at the Magnet Training Center. Congratulations to everyone!

Grant Goldberg
Rich Rosario
Trixze Smith
Micheil Yohannes
Ed Cara
Ashley Jordan
Sierra Pasquale
Zoe Dennis
Coach: Tim Canty

Lee Rosenberg
Ryan McVerry
Patrick Grizzard
Jamer Bellis
Stacy Dunn
Angela Dohrmann
Irene Lacis
Sarah Brunet
Coach: Collin Batten

Peter Vale
Lorina Ladrillono
Pratima Mani
Brendan Jordan
Jamie Genoa
Kerry Kastin
Jonathan Fuchs
Andrew Joelson
Coach: Eleanor Lewis

Brad Engle
Daniel Buchbinder
Jodie Pfau
Deepak Jayasimha
Annie Howard
Rachel Zeolla
Elias Colombotos
Perri Gross
Coach: Shacottha Fields

Wednesday October 28, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Roman Rimer Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Comedian and activist, ROMAN RIMER, visits us from San Francisco to talk about using comedy to punch up, learning from personal confrontation, and the development of our cities. This is an episode unlike any we’ve had thus far, dealing with matters of social tolerance, capitalism, and human nature. It’s a thought-provoking episode and we’re thrilled to have Roman as a guest!

A one-time Magnet student and performer, Roman now lives in the Bay Area. Louis is quick to point out that, perhaps more than anyone he knows, Roman truly straddles the line between comedy and activism. As he puts it, he is always looking to use comedy to “punch upward.” Amongst the causes he champions, Roman is particularly interested in combating police brutality, prison abolition, and cannabis legalization. Roman talks a bit about growing up in the Bay Area and Chicago and how, as a child of the 1980’s he feels as though the media and authority figures of that time were very much interested in scaring people into conforming, especially children. Louis leads them into talking about the “us vs them” mentality which is so prevalent in our society.

Roman studied Theater and Psychology in college and eventually made his way to NYC, where he was immediately confronted with the challenge of being an artist in a capitalistic society where funding was difficult to come by. We hear a bit about how Roman got his start in the arts and Louis deconstructs our “top dog” nature. He then asks Roman about traveling all around the country doing his solo shows, which have always been heavily autobiographical. Given that Roman shares such personal details through his shows, Louis wonders what it’s like to be so intimate with strangers in strange places. Has he encountered a lot of people he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with? Roman describes a performance where he was confronted by an audience member and how both men have grown from the experience. Louis wonders, are we as a species getting closer as time goes on, or is the gulf widening? Louis likens improv training to Professor X educating the X-Men as a force for good, which is a beautiful thing to think about.

Where is Roman’s art these days? He tells us about his podcast called The Weekly Review on Mutiny Radio out of San Francisco, which deals with current events and activism. Speaking of – what’s going on in San Francisco right now? It sounds horrible, right? At least, that’s Louis’ take. They discuss the development of San Francisco and the changes that have been occurring in NYC as well. Finally, Louis asks Roman how the improv scene can address the issue of diversity? What resource does Roman want you to check out? Find out all that and more.

One this is extraordinarily clear from this episode, Roman Rimer is making a dedicated effort to change the world around him and it’s damn impressive.

Wednesday October 21, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Phoebe Tyers Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Magnet performer, writer, and talk show host, PHOEBE TYERS, joins host Louis Kornfeld to talk about the outsider view of comedians, her background in playwriting, and so much more! Phoebe performs regularly on Megawatt with The Music Industry and on Magnet Sketch Teams with Stockton. Additionally, you can catch her late night talk show Phoebe Tonight Tonite regularly at the Magnet. She and Louis dive deep into the psyche of comedians in this episode, which is perfect for all you performers and writers out there. Tune in!

This episode begins with Phoebe and Louis talking about finding comedy despite not being comedy geeks. Adding to that, Phoebe talks about how she doesn’t even like being the center of attention. So how did it come to pass that this woman became so taken with the world of comedy?

Phoebe tells us why, despite making life her a mess, comedy has enriched it in a way she never thought possible. This “wildly dyslexic” comedian speaks with Louis about the secret language and point of view of comedians everywhere that link them to each other and separate them from the “pinks.” Is it possible to enjoy simple things if you’re conditioned to look for the skewering point?

Louis asks Phoebe about her approach to character work in improv and we hear about how certain characters allow Phoebe to share herself with the audience. They explore character and what it means to be truly playing with your teammates. Although she was first mystified by the structure and inner workings of improv, Phoebe comments on the fact that it’s now become more like second nature. They talk about being zen and you get to hear about it.

Maybe you had no idea, but before comedy, Phoebe was a playwright! She and Louis compare and contrast playwriting with sketch comedy and it’s all kinds of interesting. Is length the biggest difference between the two disciplines, or is it more nuanced than that? Hear about Louis’ head-fuck confusion with the “assumed genius” of great playwrights. Plus, Phoebe and Louis take the pretension of certain writers to task.

They talk about Phoebe’s late night show, Phoebe Tonight Tonite, and bringing a little bit of soul to everything she does. At the center of her universe is the idea of telling a good story. They circle back to discussing the beauty of being able to enjoy simple things in life and Phoebe’s experience of acting in a pilot directed by Michael Showalter.

Wednesday October 14, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Kevin Cobbs Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Whoa, boy! Watch out now, because local southern gentleman and big juicy peach, KEVIN COBBS, sits down with host Louis Kornfeld on Episode #61 to talk about getting his start in Atlanta, being a musician, and his comedic love of stupidity. They talk about Kevin’s guides to New York, his experiences working for Second City, and what else, but being a college radio DJ. You can catch Kevin every Wednesday at Megawatt with The Music Industry and you ain’t gonna wanna miss this episode!

And the episode begins with a song of rebellion! Just kidding, folks. This episode starts off with Kevin talking about being from Atlanta, getting his start in comedy at Dad’s Garage, and moving to NYC in 2010. Although he thought New York was a nightmare when initially visiting, Kevin was still filled with wonder when he first moved here. Does he have a master plan for his career or does he just take things as they come? As Louis wades through questions related to career goals, he also finds that for Kevin, the creative process is all about collaboration.

They back up to talk once again about Kevin’s improv beginnings at Dad’s Garage in Atlanta and what the scene was like down there. We find out that, similar to Episode #60’s guest T.J. Mannix, Kevin was a graveyard-shift college radio DJ! Louis asks about Kevin & Jimmy’s Guide To New York and they discuss the awkwardness of doing comedy with the public. Where do Kevin’s comedic sensibilities come from and what’s he usually going for? Kevin answers these questions and talks about working with long-time buds Jimmy O’Connell and Al King.

Kevin has done two stints with Second City cruise line casts and so he and Louis get into what that life is like. Most recently, Kevin was doing 11 shows a week, which was far more intense than his first time around. The busier schedule was more enjoyable, he says. Louis wants to know what was the difference Kevin saw between his two experiences and they discuss the advice of, “You gotta be good even when you’re not.” Plus, so much is explained when we find out that Louis loves the Kardashians.

One thing is made clear, and that’s that Second City knows how to build a sketch show. Gaining such professional experience has helped Kevin become comfortable as a sketch director here at Magnet, where he has directed Wendigo and The Executives. Hear about Kevin’s approach to directing sketch and how he focuses on keeping a show moving.

Enjoy all of this, plus, we discover how far into his own future Kevin can see and we hear him speak briefly about his experiences writing for Sesame Street! Go Panthers!!!

Wednesday October 7, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

TJ Mannix Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Musical improviser, gifted actor, and flat-out handsome man, T.J. MANNIX stops by the podcast to talk about pursuing his dreams in NYC, the craft of acting, and the upcoming New York Musical Improv Festival [NYMIF]. This is our 60th episode and we’re excited to share it with one of Magnet’s beloved instructors and long-time performers. T.J and host, Louis Kornfeld, discuss T.J.’s wide range of experience as an entertainer, everything from DJing for college radio to getting the right take on Law & Order, and of course, Louis opines on NYC’s romantic appeal. Give it a listen, kiddos!

Hear about T.J.’s time spent as a middle-of-the-night college radio DJ and about how Louis didn’t start listening to music until college. Find out what Louis’ first two cassette tapes were and what songs kept T.J. connected to English while studying abroad in Germany. Plus, Louis talks about his years in “local local broadcasting” on Staten Island.

T.J. moved to NYC in 1997 from North Carolina, where he had lived for a few years. He was working for Blockbuster Video and acting on the side, but was finally convinced by visiting actors from New York to give his dream a shot. He subsequently moved to NYC and got a job at the Jekyll & Hyde Club, which he explains was a very different place when he worked there. He talks all about all the fun the staff had and what it was like having it as his first gig in New York. Louis gives his thoughts on surveys, which we know you want to hear.

It’s been about 10 or 11 years now that T.J. has been a performer without a “day job,” so Louis wants to know, “What is it like to be a working actor?” Amongst the advice T.J. bestows, he says you’ve got to “9-to-5 it” because you’re the CEO of your own company. He gets into the life of a working actor and he and Louis end up disucussing NYC neighborhood culture. Next, Louis wants to know, “What’s the strangest job you’ve had in recent memory?” You’ll get to hear all about that, but [spoiler alert] it wasn’t playing Santa Claus at Radio City Music Hall, but he talks about that fun experience as well, even giving away some Rockettes stage secrets.

Without a doubt, T.J. loves the process of acting. He talks about learning on your feet as an actor and tells of his experience working on Law & Order: SVU. He embraces and cherishes the challenge of just about any acting job and recognizes both the strengths and weaknesses in different kinds of actor training. He and Louis talk about small moments on stage and dealing with auditions. Plus, T.J. gives a great tip for playing villains.

Finally, the episode concludes with a discussion of the upcoming 7th Annual NYMIF, Oct 15-18 at Magnet Theater. Working with co-producers Robin Rothman and Michael Lutton, the festival is in its 7th year and has 215 performers coming to the stage. T.J. talks about what the festival has meant to the musical improv community and he shouts out some returning favorites that he’s looking forward to seeing!

Wednesday September 30, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Alan Fessenden Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Step right up and listen to Episode #59 of our show with veteran performer, beloved instructor, and resident clown, ALAN FESSENDEN. Alan joins host Louis Kornfeld to talk about clowning, theater, nervousness, and of course, a deep dive into improv philosophy. It’s always great to hear two seasoned performers discuss the ins-and-outs of improvising and this episode is no exception!

Louis begins the interview by asking about Alan’s background in clowning. Though he says that blackmail got him to take his first clown class, Alan soon found himself very interested in the process of finding one’s own clown and how performers can magnify certain characteristics of themselves for use in clowning. Louis asks him to describe what a  clown show might look like and we get to hear Alan’s clown Bartholomew say “vagina” several times. Clowning has helped Alan open up a particular path of communication within himself that informs all performance he now does.

Getting into his background before improv and comedy work, Alan tells us of going to school for theater and trying to forget that he once did musical theater. He’s come around to appreciate the latter at this point in life, which causes Louis to opine that dismissing any type of genre or show isn’t any good for us. These vets talk about the arc of doing your first shows, filled with excitement, to the hard work of getting good, and then becoming an expert. Despite his experience, Louis like to always feel a little bit lost and confused. Similarly, Alan likes the first time he runs an exercise with a class or team, because he’s exploring it with them, rather than simply handing something off to a group.

Hear Louis and Alan talk about nervousness and fear before and during shows!

Louis gets to talking about how Alan improvises and engages with the audience, particularly within Hello Laser. Describing his own development, Alan feels like he had a great freedom of play for a while, then became complacent, and now he fears losing it. They debate relaxation versus putting forth effort in improv and Louis shares with us that he feels tight if he finds his body going for laughs. There’s a nice bit about exploring and being playful even within scenes where you know where you’re trying to get to and Alan talks about eating cake.

Plus, Alan shares great enthusiasm for Louis’ thoughts on “Yes, And” and his habit of playing shows with a secret. They talk about experiencing life and moments, and Alan worries that maybe he doesn’t teach comedy, just moments. While it’s good to know that something is funny, he wants to know, can it be real? They also talk a lot about finding truth and being challenged, which is something that theater is perhaps more readily suited to do than improv.

Finally, Louis and Alan touch on the ability to laugh at who we are and the difficulty of being good people. How can you be a part of the problem even when you’re trying to fix it?