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

Posts Tagged ‘The Wrath’

Wednesday June 15, 2016, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Scott Lawrie 2Subscribe with iTunes

Founding member of Magnet mainstays The Wrath, SCOTT LAWRIE, tells us how he got into improv, of his time working in broadcast television, and what it means to be “taken care of” on stage. Learn a bit about Scott’s upbringing, his penchant for preparedness, the hallmarks of field production, and his love of The Golden Girls. We love Scott. Scott loves you. And you’ll love Scott after listening to this (if you don’t already). Check it!

Our episode kicks off by discussing Scott’s love of “dream characters” and how he was roped into improv in the first place. A fan favorite on Magnet’s stage, Scott says she started improvising relatively late after getting a career in broadcast news off the ground. He tells of how his predilection for preparation has influenced his life and eventually, his comedy. Taking improv classes got Scott saying “yes” more often and highlighted how numerous shifts in power could be. Looking to dig a bit deeper, Louis asks Scott where his comedic sensibility comes from and identifies two of Scott’s improv trademarks. Scott illuminates some of the advantages of growing up with financial concerns and other life challenges while also discussing with Louis the ideas of awareness in the world and being in touch with oneself.

Venturing into another aspect of Scott’s background, Louis inquires about his career in broadcast journalism and working at NBC. One thing that hooked Scott on the field while he was studying it in college was the ultimate goal of helping people tell their stories. He talks a bit about working as a producer in Las Vegas and then deciding to give NYC a try, which has turned into an 11 year experiment. Getting into the nitty gritty, Louis and Scott discuss the hallmarks of field producing, accountability and ethics in media, and what Scott looks for when watching the news now. He also steps us through his path from broadcast news to broadcast comedy! Scott worked for years at The Colbert Report (from nearly the very start to its end) and more recently, at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. How did improv help him make that life shift?

Wading further into the improv waters, Scott tries to answer what it means to be “taken care of” on stage. He talks about lucking out with his first and only team, The Wrath, holding onto their sacred rehearsal time, and how it’s the best way to end a tough Monday. Louis identifies one of improv’s greatest byproducts and where it comes from, and Scott (perhaps) coins the term, “Thelma & Louise’ing it together.” Louis makes mention of power in improv and how The Wrath’s comedy has a way of always hitting hard. For over four years now, they’ve given the Magnet comedy that is personal and yet pointed at society. How do they do it? What does Scott look for when improvising? To answer these questions, and those beyond, Scott and Louis discuss the television shows Designing Women and The Golden Girls. Scott notes the relation of these shows to young gay men and Louis draws the fine line between order as a force of evil and order as an agent of good.

To close, we’re sad to inform you that Scott will soon be moving to the West Coast, but it sure sounds like he crushed it in New York. We’ll miss you, Scott!

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 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 August 5, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Mike Dwyer Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Magnet instructor, writer, and performer, MIKE DWYER, takes a few minutes out of his comedy-making schedule to talk with host Louis Kornfeld about simplifying improv scenes, the difference between talent and skill, and how he missed the point of film school. These two gentlemen find that they have remarkably similar paths to becoming comedians and relate over their experiences studying with Rebecca Drysdale. You can catch Mike performing with The Wrath and Friday Night Sh*w at Magnet and Southpaw at UCBeast.

Louis kicks off our interview by referencing a recent show of Mike’s with The Wrath. He describes a quintessential Mike Dwyer move, which is characterized by very quickly finding an opportunity that others might miss and then using it to crack a scene wide open. Louis wants to know how Mike is able to be such a lightning fast player and more specifically, how he’s able to take on points of view so quickly. Though Mike thinks that his process is more patchwork than precision, he says that he approaches scenes knowing that his characters are doing what they do on purpose, which leads quickly to POV. He certainly doesn’t think of it as, “Better have an answer real fast.”

Despite his patchwork approach, Mike tells us that he does have conscious goals, and currently, he is working on making scenes be as simple as possible, even dumb, if they have to be. There should be no over-complicating a scene, which happens very often in group scenes. Mike says that it comes from a feeling of wanting to add your own thing, but that it’s liberating to know that everything you need is already there. Louis thinks maybe the over-complication comes from AND-ing too hard and that people botch the YES too often. Mike and Louis get into the difference between passively accepting offers versus enthusiastically accepting them and agree that you don’t have to add things to every single moment of the scene. Mike likens new improvisers to goldfish in a loving analogy.

Flattering him once again, Louis says that Mike is an incredibly good game-based improviser — so, what’s his approach to finding games in scenes? Perhaps surprisingly, Mike thinks that game is merely a result of good improv, so he’s usually not thinking hard about it. He trusts that his training has worked and instinct will lead him down the right path, so that he can find himself in a place of flow. Louis offers two rival takes on how we learn game as improvisers: You have conscious thought and effort, but you can also absorb a lot of that skill by being around it all the time.

What pisses off Louis in class? When people don’t want to do the hard work it takes to gain skills. Both improvisers agree that coasting through your improv education isn’t going to end very well for you and it isn’t very fulfilling. They examine the difference between skill and talent, noting that no matter how much talent someone has, they’ve got to keep developing their skill in order to feel satisfied. Mike finds the skills that he’s acquired to be more interesting than any talents he may have held innately.

What’s the highest compliment Mike could get about a show? That it was funny, duh. Louis talks about the roots of “funny” being a dirty word in improv. Maybe believing in “don’t be funny” is only really important early on in an education and scene? Mike concurs, saying there needs to be a set up in order to have a punchline. Improv scenes are like inside jokes and Harold is a sophisticated form of hanging out with your friends at the bar. Often, when people start getting decent at improv, they focus too much on the unusual thing and forget about the boring stuff. Mike describes a phenomenon regarding going back and forth between the unusual thing and the base reality. The mundane things in our scenes make the ridiculous shit digestible. Louis prods everyone to look up Norm McDonald’s “The Moth” joke from CONAN. Spoiler alert: It’s great.

Although Mike spends nearly all of his time doing or teaching comedy these days, he started out as a film student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Louis had the exact same path, he says. He talks to Louis about his writing partner and best buddy from high school and how they took themselves very seriously. Comedies, interestingly enough, were never a focal point until later on when they finally attempted to write one. In fact, he first took an improv class simply because he wanted some basic comedy training. In film school, Mike thought of himself as very serious and very lazy. He’d always loved comedy, but had no pretense about being a part of it. Because of his perceived laziness, Mike thinks that perhaps he missed the point of film school at the time. Louis and Mike have strikingly similar backstories, including the fact that they were both great illustrators at the age of 12. For both of them, realizing that comedy was going to be the central thing in their life was a very slow process.

Since it wasn’t immediate, Louis asks Mike when it was that he began taking improv seriously. When he felt competitive about it, Mike says. He shares an an eye opening experience from a Rebecca Drysdale class that came directly from listening. Louis says that he also had a breakthrough moment in a Drysdale class and they discuss for a bit what it was like to study with her.

Mike teaches Level 3 now, so Louis wants to know – what’s he focusing on? Coming back to some earlier points, Mike says that he focuses on keeping scenes simple, committing to the mundane, respecting each others’ ideas, and getting enthusiastic about what your scene partner is doing. These two teachers discuss how to encourage people to be enthusiastic without planting a fake enthusiasm in them. He also shares a note that stuck with him: Always have a sense of mischief. The rules of polite society are exactly the things we look to avoid in improv. This is something The Wrath is very good at, Louis claims. But they’ve been together for years, so what can less experienced groups do to instill that sense of troublemaking? Mike shares a fun exercise in that pursuit and clarifies what we mean when we say, “Everything you need in a scene is already there.”

Louis claims that improvisers look younger than everybody else and quotes Magnet founder Armando Diaz, saying, “The trick to improvising is to do just enough to not get fired.” If that doesn’t get you excited for this episode, I don’t know what will.

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Wednesday June 17, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Andrew Yurman-Glaser Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Native son of New York State, Andrew Yurman-Glaser (Broad City; Magnet’s The Wrath, Friday Night Sh*w; UCB’s Mermaids; Upstate) joins us in the studio to talk about improvising, coaching, and the dynamics of a good team. Host Louis Kornfeld dives in by asking, “Do you remember when you got good at improv?” Humility abounds as Andrew tells of getting his improv start in college and how he’s grown over the last nine years in NYC.  He goes on to compare his Megawatt team, The Wrath, to an orchestra and tries to shed some light on how a team maintains their integrity over the course of years. Louis asks if Andrew plays differently on Lloyd Night, Harold Night, Megawatt, or Friday Night Sh*w and Andrew talks about when shows feel the most successful. Hear Louis’ favorite things about how Andrew improvises, Andrew’s thoughts on the importance of listening, and of course, how improv makes you a better person. Plus! Did Andrew’s parents watch him play a masturbator on Broad City? Does Louis like giving notes?? Has this episode been recorded in front of a group of prisoners???  Find out the answers to all of these questions and more on Episode #48.

**PS** Andrew plays with his very good friend Dustin Drury as UPSTATE on Monday, June 29th at 8:30PM. These two former INSPIRADO Oh Shit! champions only get a chance to play on occasion these days, so make sure to check out this show!

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Friday January 17, 2014, 11:35am - by Amanda Ariel Peggy Xeller

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The Magnet Theater not only boasts its current roster of powerful improvisers, writers, and performers, but also celebrates those who have taken on new adventures in their lives and with their comedy.

Charlotte Rabbe, a phenomenal Magnet improviser, previously on The Wrath, is now out in L.A. We wanted to catch up with Charlotte and shine the Magnet Theater Blog Spotlight on her and her journey in comedy. We conducted an email interview with Charlotte. Below are her responses:

 

What’s your home town?

CR: Where I grew up? Most of my family is living in NYC now so I consider that my hometown.

 

What is your comedy history (highlighting improv and sketch especially)? What got you interested and when were you first exposed to improv?

CR: I would watch a lot of stand up/sketch shows growing up (The State, The Upright Citizens Brigade TV show, SNL) and I was obsessed… When I started coming into the city after high school I went to a lot of stand up shows but was too afraid to ever do it. I ended up taking an improv class after college even though I had seen very little and got hooked.

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