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

Posts Tagged ‘stand-up’

Wednesday August 9, 2017, 3:49am - by Promo Team

Lorena Russi is a comedian, actor, and creator of a brand new show at Magnet, Timoteo. Timoteo is a stand-up comedy show that consciously thinks about what our bodies/status bring to performances. Each show will have people from one identity sitting in the audience as comics from the counter community perform a set. It’s an incredibly interesting concept and so we wanted to ask Lorena a few questions before the show’s big premiere next week.

What inspired you to create the show Timoteo?
Timoteo is a show inspired by lack of versatile spaces for marginalized communities. It’s designed so that groups can come together without it being in the context of a bar or to hook up. I was also curious about combining opposites in order to highlight how status and bodies affect space and performance. Essentially, I wanted to design a situation where people of the same tribe can engage, to not only learn more about each other and themselves but witness it through a comedic lens.

What’s the origin of the name Timoteo?
Timoteo was the name of my grandmother’s pet bird in Colombia. Apparently, the bird acted like a dog and was a real treasure of the Russi household. One day someone brought a pig into the apartment -this was Colombia in the 80s, so pigs were the equivalent to a new born baby- and it swallowed the bird. SWALLOWED. THE. BIRD. The poster is a photo of my grandmother and Timoteo together, and I appreciate how their colors, physicality, and tone contrast entirely, but show how they love each other. Since the show is about opposites coming together, I wanted to reflect that in it’s photo/name…even thought I’m probably the only person who understands that.

Your show involves comics performing for audiences that are their opposites. How do you attract these specific audiences to your show?
Well at this point my strategy is just running around to all of the Queer bars, talking to homo ladies, and not bringing up how late on a Monday night the show is. BUT. In practice it’s been pretty incredible to see just through word of mouth alone how people have shown interest. There’s not many shows that make it so that only a certain group or community can attend, which I think has made it interesting for people when I tell them about it. Ultimately it’s meant to bring fun to the audience on another level than just the performance, so word of mouth and carrier pigeons are what are filling the seats.

Your show on August 14th features exclusively straight, cisgendered male comedians performing for a queer female-identifying audience. What inspired you to bring these two groups together in this way?
There’s obviously a bias for the first show because I am a Queer female identifying person, but I wanted to able to experience the show as an audience member, especially for the first one, in order to get a feel for how it is impacting the audience. I also wanted it to be as specific as possible in the two groups and boy howdy is it specific….I’m sorry for saying boy howdy.

What communities would you like to bring together for future versions of Timoteo?
I would love to have POC from NYC with white people from the midwest, Robots/Technology and humans, older adults/young people.

Check out the premiere of Timoteo on Monday, August 14th, at 10:30 pm when Straight, Cisgendered men will do stand-up for Queer, Female identifying people in the audience!

Tuesday August 8, 2017, 1:06pm - by Promo Team

Perri Gross is the host of “Everyone Is Sad,” a stand-up show for comedic performers who are relatively new to stand-up. These performers may appear happy doing improv, sketch, and musical improv–but they are all very tormented and sad and want to stand alone on stage. We sit down with Perri to ask her a few a questions ahead of her August 14th show!

MAGNET: What was attractive to you about hosting a show with relatively inexperienced stand-up comedians?
GROSS: I was lucky to have joined a stand up club in college that helped me work out some kinks in my stand up before performing in shows. We would meet every week and have shows a few times a semester. When I moved to NYC, I couldn’t imagine not having any experience and just hitting the open mic scene. I liked the idea of creating a similar space where people could give stand up a try and the rest of the audience is also new. It helps people feel comfortable to know everyone is on the same page and new. I encourage experienced stand-ups to come to my mic as well so they can get a true reaction from the audience to test out new material. Having new excited comics creates a comradery that is hard to find in the comedy scene.

M: What was the most embarrassing moment of your early days in comedy?
G: At one open mic, I had to stop my set because I felt my material was too upsetting and no one was laughing just making “awww” noises. Most of my material is based off of real stories, and my set that night wasn’t funny it was just sad. I got off the stage, left the venue, and walked all the way home.

M: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve cried, and why?
G: I had a major breakup over the phone near the clock in the middle of Grand Central station. I was dry heaving I was crying so hard. I definitely gave some tourists a great idea of the dreams that awaited them in NYC.

M: What did you start first: improv or standup? What inspired you to make the leap from one to the other?
G: I started doing stand-up first. I did a lot of open mics my first year when I moved to NYC but was looking for an easier way to meet new people and switched over to improv. I found a great community at the Magnet through the classes I took. I was always was hesitant to try improv initially because I like to plan what I am doing. I also hate playing animals and [am] scared to face my fear.

M: Which comedians/improvisers inspired you when you first started?
G: I didn’t watch much stand-up growing up but was probably inspired by watching The Simpsons and Seinfeld with my parents. I did always like George Carlin a lot and found his dark style inspiring and close to my voice.

M: If you could watch any celebrity or public figure try standup for the first time, who would it be?
G: Daddy Yankee. He has a lot to say and I just want him to come out of the wood work. I’m really happy Despacito has put him back on the map and I hope he gets to do a tight 30 soon.

Don’t miss the next Everyone Is Sad, coming up on Monday, August 14th, at 9 pm!

Tuesday August 1, 2017, 9:00pm - by Promo Team

Junior Varsity’s Jarret Berenstein is releasing his first book, The Kellyanne Conway Technique: Perfecting the Ancient Art of Delivering Half-Truths, Fake News, and Obfuscation– With A Smile, this August from Racehorse Publishing. He’s celebrating its launch with a show at Magnet and some of his favorite stand-up comedians. We sat down with Jarret to talk about his Kellyanne, his book, and the upcoming release show August 7th.

MAGNET: What about Kellyanne Conway did you find particularly interesting while you were writing this book?

JB: Before writing this book I assumed that people needed at least some integrity to survive. I thought it was like food or oxygen, and that a person with zero integrity would shrivel up and dry out like a desert grape. Kellyanne appears to be living sans integrity though, and that’s pretty interesting. And worrisome!

M: Which part of the process in making this book was the most fun?
JB: Definitely writing the “everyday life” examples. In the book, I talk about how we can use Kellyanne’s brand of spin get out of tight spots in our everyday life, so coming up with those types of problems (speeding ticket, late for work, double murder, etc) and then translating a Kellyanne move to fit that situation was really fun.

M: Why do you think a book, in particular, is a great medium for this kind of humor?
JB: I’ve seen a lot of articles and videos online about what Kellyanne does and why it’s effective, but they mostly just scratch the surface. You need to have the full length of a book to go through all the different types of Conway nonsense and also have the space to thoroughly make fun of each of them.

M: If you had to boil down the essence of Kellyanne and her technique down to 3 words, what would they be?
JB: Overflowing with bullshit.

M: Who is this book perfect for? Who is this book totally NOT for?
JB: I think the book is perfect for everyone! Even if you’re more conservative, I think anyone can appreciate what’s silly about Kellyanne.

M: Tell us a little about your book release show!
JB: The show is on Monday, August 7th at 7:30 pm at the Magnet. It’s gonna feature some great standups like Seaton Smith (from Fox’s Mulaney) and Liza Treyger (incredible comic with one of the best Comedy Central Half Hour specials I’ve ever seen), and possibly a short reading from the book! There’s talk of the publisher bringing free beer and a copy of the book for people in the audience (while supplies last) but don’t hold me to that.

Don’t miss Jarret’s book release show August 7th, 7:30 pm at Magnet! You can pre-order his book now on Amazon.

Wednesday July 26, 2017, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

 

Magnet performer, stand-up comedian, and author Jarret Berenstein joins host Louis Kornfeld in the most recent edition of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The conversation hits a lot on politics and how Jarret feels he sounds like a “tin hat conspiracy theorist” when discussing them. Check out this podcast to learn about Jarret’s upcoming book about Kellyanne Conway, his early days as a stand up comic, and how he still plans on living in a mansion with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Jarret and Louis start out the podcast with a discussion on acting in sketches and the pros and cons of memorizing lines. Louis admits that memorizing lines in a whisper never works for when he actually needs to perform them out loud. Jarrett describes the mastery of learning all of your lines as “its own kind of fun.”

After the brief pre-podcast conversation, we learn that Jarret has a book coming out, “The Kellyanne Conway Technique: Perfecting the Ancient Art of Delivering Half-Truths, Fake News, and Obfuscation―With a Smile.” He was hired by the publishing company to make fun of Kellyanne Conway because knew someone at the publishing company who figured he’d have time to do write the book. (Also, because he’s funny. Duh.) He discusses his frustration with watching her lies and getting even more frustrated with the fact that her candidate won.

They start to talk about revenge against comedians – how unfunny people like Mike Huckabee and Kellyanne Conway are now trying to be comedic themselves. Jarret explains that he was unable to watch Kellyanne Conway’s stand-up comedy tape because he knew it would anger him too much. They discuss how the people who are considered funniest tend to be more liberal and how when conservatives make jokes they gain support not because people think they are funny but because people agree with them.

Louis thinks that Jarrett is very well-tempered when it comes to politics. We learn that Jarret spent all of November on Reddit and spent much of that time fighting with other users who he figures were Russians acting like Americans who support Trump, and how he realized it was such a waste of time. Though he was extremely angry, he realized “that rage is not going to change anyone’s mind.”

Jarret talks about his stand-up comedy and how he wants to start putting political humor into his act but he knows that when he starts talking about politics he sounds like a “tin hat” conspiracy theorist. He describes his faces in improv vs his faces in stand up. While he improvises, Jarret notices that he will break often and have a hard time not smiling because he’s having fun. While in stand-up, he explains, his face is more “I’m looking at you in a serious way even though what I said was ridiculous.”

Louis asks Jarret if he feels confident as a performer with ten years of stand-up comedy experience. Jarret thinks that he is and tells Louis about how comedians can grow as performers. Jarret reflects on starting out as a stand-up comedian at “bringer” shows and how embarrassing they are as a comic.

Despite his current focus on stand-up, Jarret’s first love was improv. He talks about SNL, Comedy Central, listening to comedy albums – about not even knowing what the jokes were about but liking the rhythm of stand-up. He remembers playing MASH with his friends where he ended up living in a mansion with Gwyneth Paltrow as a paid improviser. That would be the life.

To close out the podcast, Louis discusses Kliph Nesteroff’s book “The Comedians” and how it does a great job going through the history of comedy. Jarret and Louis agree that relevance is an interesting aspect of comedy – Jarret thinks that “it’s weird that generations can grow up not seeing the best version of somebody.”

Pick up Jarret’s book, “The Kellyanne Conway Technique” when it’s released in August and come to his book launch show at Magnet on Monday, 8/7, at 7:30 pm!

Wednesday May 31, 2017, 12:43pm - by Magnet Theater

 

Hot 97 DJ turned improviser, CIPHA SOUNDS, sits down with our host Louis Kornfeld to tackle a variety of subjects in the improv world including diversity in improv, trying out for Harold teams, and how their improvising skills translate to daily life. Cipha gives a lesson on what white people love and tells Louis how he has used these secrets to perfect the ideal improv show. Cipha also plugs his two new shows coming out and explains how they will aid him in his mission: spreading the word about improv comedy.

We begin our episode with Louis asking Cipha about a rumor he’d heard: Did Cipha once skip a DJing gig while on tour with Jay-Z and Beyonce to do an improv show? It turns out that the rumors are true and Cipha admits that when Christina Gausas asked him to sit in on a “Maravilla” show, he just couldn’t say no! Cipha talks about being the host of the Hot 97 morning show for years – the most popular time slot – and how that job gave him a lot of responsibility. That responsibility added stress and finally, an associate at Hot 97 told him to get check out improv as it might help to loosen him up and relax. He went to see Harold night at UCB, signed up for a class soon after, and continued watching shows constantly. Though Cipha felt out of place at first and simply marveled in the initial magic of watching improv, he soon started to figure out strategies to conquer it. After seeing Connor Ratliff kick someone’s head off of a roof he decided, “Okay. This is what I do now”.

Unfortunately, in his 101 class, Cipha did not feel like he was as involved as he could be. One person that helped him get his footing was UCB veteran Chris Gethard, who saw Cipha tweet that he was taking classes and has since offered him advice many times over. He even let Cipha sit in on a practice session with a team he was coaching, something Cipha describes as “getting a free show but with notes.” Tracking his development at UCB up until the present, Louis asks Cipha about his UCB East improv show “Take It Personal,” which he briefly describes as, “ASSSSCAT for hip-hop.” The show involves Cipha bringing on guests from the hip-hop world to tell stories that serve as inspiration for the show’s improv.

How did “Take It Personal” come to be? Cipha went from failing to make a Harold team to running a Friday night show that’s lasted four years now. Cipha tells Louis about his first time not getting onto a Harold team, talking about how he cried in a restaurant when he read the names of the people who got on, his name absent from the list. Since then, he’s built a show that combines his two loves – hip-hop and improv – and he’s done it by appealing to the traditional audiences of both arts. How? One secret that Cipha lets us in on: he knows what white people love. You’ll have to listen for Cipha’s complete list, but he knew that for his first “Take It Personal,” he wanted to jam-pack the show and its promotions with as many things as he could: a martial artist, someone reading RZA lyrics, the actor who played Marlo on The Wire, and of course his guest, N.O.R.E.

This attempt at bringing together hip-hop and improv audiences leads Louis to ask Cipha about diversity in the improv world. They discuss how people from different backgrounds may understand certain references and how to bridge the gaps between improvisers’ backgrounds. Cipha talks about how he got his comedy start doing stand up in the “urban scene” and how he’s always hated how people try to split it down the middle – “urban” shows vs “regular” shows. Cipha also explains why it’s so important to spread the word about improv to a variety of people just so they come see it with their own eyes. It’s harder to get people to try it for themselves without them knowing what it is.

Talking more about improv technique and theory, Louis explains getting advice from Armando Diaz about playing “game” and both Louis and Cipha discuss their styles and strategies in improv. Louis shares about how he will most often go for the emotional part of a scene and Cipha responds by explaining why he likes to play support characters. They also talk about being a good listener, “half-ideas,” and using physicality to get into character. Louis recollects some wise words of advice on character and notes that you don’t want to play so close to yourself that you’re unable to see what is funny.

Cipha admits that improv has helped him battle a lifelong proclivity towards shyness and says that thanks to improv, he is not afraid to go anywhere now or talk to anyone. This revelation surprises Louis, who would think that as a radio DJ, Cipha wouldn’t have issues with shyness, but Cipha describes how being a DJ or even a stand up can be incredibly isolating and doesn’t necessarily help get you out of your shell the way working on a team does.

Louis and Cipha delve into the world of stand up and how the crowd differs from improv audiences. They talk about how it’s easier to notice that one person in the crowd who’s not enjoying the show and Louis brings up a certain improv show he did where a Russian couple was breaking up in the front row during throughout his set. He had no idea until after!

To cap things off, Cipha plugs his two shows coming out: “Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks” – a stand up comedy-based show for Tru – TV and “Hip-Hop Improv with Cipha Sounds” an improv show that will be released through Tidal. He hypes both by adding that his end goal is to spread the word about improv to the entire world.

Wednesday May 25, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Rob Penty Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Improviser and storyteller extraordinaire, ROB PENTY, talks about why he hates Stella, how humor can help us deal with life, and the arc of his comedy career. He and host Louis Kornfeld also discuss their complex feelings on absurd humor, what Rob loves in comedy, and of course, The Wrath – Rob’s long-running Magnet house team. There’s a
cool karate belt analogy and plenty of Penty to warm your heart. Check it out!

Louis DIVES right into a hot, controversial topic: Rob’s undying hatred of the sketch group Stella. Louis attempts to defend the trio but the best he can muster is Rob’s acknowledgement that maybe the TV show was okay. Rob challenges the notion of, “If it makes you and your friends laugh, it can make an audience laugh,” and they both offer examples of random sketches they love and/or hate. Why do people like truly absurd humor? For fans of obscure sketch shows, they recall some of The Dana Carvey Show’s best pieces.

With so much criticism of comedy up to this point in the episode, Louis switches gears to ask what Rob DOES like about comedy. They talk about bravery in comedy and how it can work for us within the greater context of our lives. One benefit they explore is the ability to laugh at something uncomfortable and how helpful that can be. Rob provides us with some background on his comedy career, starting with standup, and the arc it has taken over the years. Plus – Find out what’s been jazzing Louis about improv lately!

To bring it all home, Rob makes a cool karate belt analogy and Louis asks about his time spent with The Wrath. Give this one a listen and check out Rob’s website, Actually, It’s Rob Penty Dot Org.com

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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Friday February 6, 2015, 11:45am - by Magnet Theater

NWAF Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

**SPECIAL RELEASE**

Gather around, friends! For this episode, we’ve got Carly and Justin from Now We Are Friends, a monthly variety show in New York City that features improv, sketch, and live music. They sit down with our host Louis Kornfeld to talk about their show, which is celebrating its second anniversary this Sunday, February 8th. The show’s host, Justin Morgan, and show creator/performer/producer, Carly Monardo, get into what the show means to them and we all learn the value of friendship in the arts. They discuss the long history of comedy and music sharing performance spaces, plus, Louis endorses NWAF as a refreshingly douche-free show! Huzzah!

Catch their 2nd Anniversary Show this Sunday, February 8th, at The Parkside Lounge at 9PM!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #31 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday December 10, 2014, 6:00am - by Magnet Theater

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Host Alex Marino sits down with stand-up, improviser, writer, and podcaster Brian Frange to talk about all things comedy. Brian brags about being the best actor in his high school but admits that becoming a stand-up ruined his chops. He discusses his feat of doing 70 open mics in 30 days and his appearance at this year’s Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival. Plus, Brian talks about founding Awkward Silence Comedy at Indiana University, how to find your comedic voice, getting started in stand-up and The Unbelievable Podcast, which he hosts. Frazzled Frange might even make an appearance!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #24 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Thursday September 4, 2014, 9:22am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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Ever thought about taking the show on the road? So have these guys! Monday, September 8th at 8:30pm, three Toronto performers, James Hartnett, Tim Gilbert, and Marty Topps, are taking the Magnet stage to bring you their best work as a part of their New York and Philadelphia tour. I (Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller!) got the awesome opportunity to not only see Marty Topps (Isaac Winter!) perform in Montreal, but got to conduct an e-mail interview with him for the Magnet’s blog.

Marty Topps is an award winning musical comedian from Toronto who burst onto the scene with his debut album, “A Loving Tribute to TapouT.” The album was ranked the #2 Comedy Music album of 2013 by BiteTV. Marty followed this up with a musical short film, “Beep Beep” which won First Place in the Laugh Sabbath Film Fest at NXNE 2014. Marty’s live performances have led to accolades like Best Newcomer at the 2014 Montreal Sketchfest and Audience Award (Best Musical Sketch) at the 2013 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.

 

Where are you from originally?…and what’s that place like?!

I’m originally from Stratford, Ontario. Stratford is a nice town. It was pretty wild growing up in the shadow of the undisputed King of Pop, Justin Beaver but I also found it really inspiring because it made me #believe I could grow up to be a song-and-dance-man just like him.

What’s your training background?

I have no formal training. I went to University for Film but I dropped out cuz that was the cool thing to do at the time. And then I taught myself to play keytar cuz that was also the cool thing to do at the time… And it still is, right? Right?!

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