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Magnet Theater Blog: News and Ideas about Comedy, Improv Shows & Classes in NYC

Posts Tagged ‘new york’

Wednesday May 6, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Laura Grey Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

This week on the podcast we welcome prolific performer, writer, and director Laura Grey to talk with us about comedy and living a life surrounded by it. With credits at theaters such as Magnet, UCB, and Second City, Laura has come a long way since her time as a creative writing and poetry major at Northwestern University. Host Louis Kornfeld talks to Laura about the early days of Comedy Central, getting her start in Chicago, and of course, Game of Thrones. They discuss the dynamics of performers in Chicago and New York and how they connect to the audiences differently. Plus, Laura provides advices on creating characters and tells us what she thinks of her comedic voice. There’s a lot of other great stuff in this episode that will no doubt make you a better person, so we suggest you give it a listen!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #43 below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday April 29, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Hannah Chase Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this week’s episode, Magnet performer, director, and instructor Hannah Chase joins us to talk about improv, self-criticism, and why everyone should see a therapist. Host Louis Kornfeld asks Hannah about her upcoming Directors Series, “The Cast,” and forthcoming elective class, “Play!” Both projects remind host and guest alike that sometimes the easiest way to participate in something you enjoy is to create it yourself. Find out how playing piano in her younger years has influenced Hannah’s approach to improv and the role that self-criticism plays in both. Louis offers that we replace the concept of failure in improv with that of uncertainty and also urges us to find in our neighbors what we find fascinating in ourselves. Plus, both Hannah and Louis attempt to appease demands made by Peter McNerney and Ed Herbstman, to great success. Check it out!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #42 below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday April 22, 2015, 7:08am - by Magnet Theater

George Basil Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

It’s the Magnet Theater Podcast’s ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY (!!!) and to celebrate, we’ve got Magnet alumnus George Basil on the show. George stopped by while he was in town for the theater’s 10th Anniversary and talked to host Louis Kornfeld about getting into improv, Michael Keaton, and the art of living. These two friends who met in the Magnet’s first Level 2 improv class fill this episode with artistic philosophies, discussing nonlinear skill progression, rallying against the monetization of art, and how that which inhibits us also enables us to be great. Plus, find out the artisan job George took when first moving to NYC and where that scar came from. This is a feel-good episode if there every was one and we can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our one year anniversary than with an old friend. Check it out!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #41 below via SoundCloud.


Thursday April 16, 2015, 4:21pm - by Magnet Theater


The new Magnet Training Center at 22 W. 32nd Street marks a huge development in the history of the Magnet and the New York comedy community. For the first time since most anyone at Magnet can remember, we’ve got all of our classes running under the same roof, bringing our community of students, teachers, and performers together on a nightly basis. It also means that more classes are being offered in improv, musical improv, sketch comedy, and storytelling than ever before and that’s great news for all of New York, whether you’re a comedian, actor, singer, storyteller, or audience member.

Our new home has 10 classrooms, a studio theater, two dedicated writers’ rooms and two multi-stall bathrooms (so luxurious!). There are vending machines, a water fountain, and places to hang out before and after class. Simply put, it’s a bigger, better space to keep up with our growing needs as a training ground for the best comedic minds in the world. Plus, it’s got a view of the Empire State Building. Pretty swanky, right?

And did we mention that our new training center is right in the heart of New York City’s Korea Town? We are now smack in the middle of a block packed full of great restaurants, cool cafes, and killer karaoke bars. Whether it’s a team dinner before The Circuit, or a night of singing after your musical improv class, K-Town has you covered.

This is a new, exciting chapter for us and it wouldn’t be possible without the enthusiasm, hard work, and continued brilliance of our students and staff.

Thanks for being the best community around. If you haven’t seen the new digs yet, please stop by when you can, or sign up for a class! For a sneak peak, check out the fun infomercial below.

Magnet Training Center

Hours: 11am to 11pm

22 West 32nd St, 10th Floor

(212) 244-2400

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

Rebecca Robles Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Episode #40 of the show has Rebecca Robles in the studio and with her she brings immediate laughter. Host and teammate from The Boss, Louis Kornfeld, speaks with Rebecca about the romantic nature of engaging with things that you weren’t around for, like antiques and old music, and they chat about how jumping into an external character can remind you of who you are internally. Always a hustler with the best of intentions, Rebecca tells us about her variety talk show, The Rebecca Robles Show and assures us that we are not alone in this world. PLUS! Playing with The Boss, David Letterman’s influence, secrets about Armando Diaz, a shoutout to Matt Antonucci (<3), and Rebecca reveals her unused bit for The Maggies. Tune in to hear it all!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #40 below via SoundCloud.

Thursday April 9, 2015, 11:46pm - by Magnet Theater


The Maggies are upon us once again! Tonight marks the night we award such meaningful prizes as Best Laugh Award and the Herbstman Humanitarian Award and celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Magnet. Before we do all of that though, check out this video of the opening number from last year’s Maggies. It’s got master of ceremonies Peter McNerney singing and dancing all over the place. See you tonight!

Wednesday April 8, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

YANA Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Join us on this week’s episode to hear from Aaron Gold and Grant Goldberg, creators and hosts of You Are Not Alone: An Uplifting Show About Depression. Host Louis Kornfeld asks our two golden boys about their show and how something so connected to depression can be funny. The show, which features essays on depression and improv inspired by them, always maintains a comedic sensibility despite its heavier themes. The hosts are quick to remind us that although “depression” is in the title, so is “uplifting.” Our guests talk about dealing with the private shame of depression versus the the public display of it and how guilt can play a major role in one’s process. Hear Louis expound upon his notion that we as a species are becoming so aware that we’re fragmenting into individual sectors and that improv can help us bridge some of those gaps. If you like the blending of comedy and psychology, or want to hear what’s next in store for humanity, tune in!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #39 below via SoundCloud.


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.