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Posts Tagged ‘peter mcnerney’

Tuesday May 19, 2015, 7:52pm - by Magnet Theater


The Improv Conservatory Program is Magnet’s advanced improv training ground.

The program is focused on building a systematic transition from highly-proficient student to successful performer. It’s also a training ground for veteran improvisers interested in fine-tuning their skills. To do this, the Conservatory Program offers students a variety of specific classes featuring a higher degree of individualized attention tailored to each students’ strengths and weaknesses.

Conservatory classes fall under following categories:

Level Five: Intro to the Conservatory
Conservatory Skills
Conservatory Performance
Team Performance Workshop


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!

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…

Tuesday June 17, 2014, 9:00am - by Magnet Theater

Subscribe with iTunesPeter McNerney
Have you listened to the Magnet Theater Podcast yet?  Why NOT?  Get in on it before you fall behind.  In the latest episode, Louis Kornfeld sits down with Magnet Performer and Instructor Peter McNerney!  They chat about the fear of making choices, failing in order to succeed and the joy of making lies.  Wanna justify lying all the time?

Subscribe and Listen in iTunes or listen below with Soundcloud…

Monday January 20, 2014, 5:05pm - by Magnet Theater


Magnet Theater recently chatted with Beth Newell, one of the creators of Reductress.com, an online satirical news site that’s been called The Onion for women. Beth is also Managing Director of Magnet Theater’s Sketch Teams and currently performs in the improv duo Sad Kids. The conversation was mostly about shoes and purses, but Magnet managed to shift the conversation to comedy, the transcript of what followed is below.

Photo of Beth Newell at the Reductress Office

Beth Newell seen here at the Reductress headquarters, a giant uterus shaped cave.

MT: Reductress.com is a very smart and funny. I loved the ad for ‘Vagina Whitening Tampons.’ And your coverage of New York Fashion Week.

BN: Thanks. We did some videos that got passed around, which was fun.

ad for vagina whitening tampons

The new dick joke?

MT: And you’ve tapped into a lot of talent in the Magnet community to help, which is great.

BN: Thanks. There are a lot of funny women with good ideas and a lot of sharp comedy skills at Magnet.

MT: Is Reductress.com run by mostly women?

BN: Yes, it is. It’s run by women. There are some men involved, too.  We’re not actively avoiding using men, but since our playground is women’s media, women have a unique perspective that more directly serves our point of view.

MT: So basically, ‘no dudes’ is what you’re saying?

BN: No. But because we make fun of the way the media speaks to women and its presumptions about the way women think, it’s natural for women to be more equipped at exposing the comedy targets.

MT: So no dudes. I get it. Moving on-


Friday March 1, 2013, 11:33am - by WillyAppelman

Congrats to Magnet performer Peter McNerney (Trike) on ‘Stuff You Should Know’, now airing on The Science Channel!  The show takes place in The How Stuff Works office, and everyone in the office are podcasters.  Peter plays Marcus, a conspiracy theory podcaster.  He’s skeptical, cynical and assumes the worst in every situation.  Check out ‘Stuff You Should Know’ on iTunes, and keep an eye out for Peter’s most recent episode, ‘Trust No One’.

You can see Peter in a Burger King commercial now airing on Comedy Central and performing Saturday’s at 10:30 with Trike.

Thursday September 6, 2012, 3:56pm - by WillyAppelman

This Thursday Sept. 6th at 10pm marks the debut of The Magnet Theater’s 8th Director’s Series!  This month, Neil McNamara directs Deep Dish, a long form improv show interspersed with character monologues, a staple of Chicago-style improvisation.  In Chicago, McNamara has worked with Second City, The Annoyance, iO and Boom Chicago. Fresh to New York, McNamara is bringing a Chicago staple to the east coast, DEEP DISH!

Featuring Peter McNerney, Beth Newell, Nick Kanellis, Julia Hynes and Neil McNamara.

Every Thursday at 10pm in September!  More Info HERE.

Wednesday August 1, 2012, 1:27pm - by WillyAppelman

Thursdays at 10pm in August!

This Thursday at 10pm is the debut of “The Weave” directed by Rick Andrews!   The show is the latest installment of the Magnet Theater’s Director Series, a monthly series of performances where a director presents a different improv form with a completely different cast.  The only rule is that there are no rules.  Watch Magnet’s best improvisers perform organic freeform improvisation in two mind blowing parts!  Featuring: Russ Armstrong, Peter McNerney, Chet Siegel, Alan Fessenden, Frank Bonomo, Alex Marino and Special Guests!

For more information, take a look at our Facebook event!

Join us afterwards for a special opening night party at Smithfield!



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

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

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

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

Sponsored by: Sixpoint Brewery

These are the writers and performers of America!:

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

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

Directed By: Nick Benaquista (Lead McEnroe)

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

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

Head Writer Tim Eberle with the cast of Company 29

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

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

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

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

MB:  What is the writing process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MB:  Why “America!”?

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

Thanks, Tim!

The audience enjoying the show and the Sixpoint brews.

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

Photos: M.Woody Fu