Magnet Theater Blog

Wednesday February 7, 2018, 10:50am - by Magnet Theater

This Saturday, February 10th, is the 10-year anniversary of Peter McNerney and Nick Kanellis performing together as an improv duo! Originally called Brother Bear, the duo went on to form multiple standout ensembles before settling in as the seamless, high-energy, multi-character improv duo we now know and love. As New York City’s premier improv duo, they’ve received some pretty incredible reviews and press mentions. The New York Times calls Trike, “consistently complex, imaginative improv,” that is “reliably one of the best improv performances in the city.” says that Trike’s “fantastic late night show is upbeat and impressively layered improv that is always worth checking out,” and in the “Splitsider Guide to NYC Comedy Scene,” Trike was named one of eight “Best Weekly Shows.” TimeOut New York declares Trike a “Critic’s Pick” that “melds playful physical transformation and careful scene work in a weekly show that delivers an impressively quick and detailed overlap of events in its conclusion.”

That’s a lot of praise for two guys making up everything in the moment. But what improv magic make a Trike show so unique? Trike has no scene breaks. You won’t hear an audience clap during transitions at a Trike show, because the next scene has already begun. The incredible balance between relatable, heartfelt characters and kinetic, abstract absurdity is like none other. By the end of a Trike show, every scene has proven itself essential to the whole. There’s always a reason these seemingly random collection of scenes find themselves in the same performance. Instead of one trying to interpret the other’s intentions, like a puzzle with only one solution, Peter and Nick see each other as inkblots, eager to be interpreted by the other’s intuition. This creates the illusion of foresight and a feeling that one can read the other’s mind. Plus, they’re pretty good friends. That helps too.


– Peter & Nick attended Northwestern University together, where in 2003 Peter cast and coached Nick in his first long form improv group.
– Peter moved to NYC in 2005 just after the opening of Magnet Theater. Nick joined two years later.
– On February 10th, 2008 – their original duo (Brother Bear) premiered at the Magnet duo show, Ampers&nd.
– They soon launched Statues of Liberty with fellow NU alumni Russ Armstrong and Chris Hejl and performed 77 shows together at the Magnet.
– Trike, the trio, began October 2009 w/ Leslie Korein
– 80 shows later, Leslie moved to LA
– Trike, the duo, began May 2011 and has since done 301 shows on Saturday nights at Magnet.
– Together Nick and Peter have performed in 460 shows.

Come see this incredible duo celebrate their 10th anniversary this Saturday, February 10th, at 9 PM. It’s gonna be a wild one.

Tuesday February 6, 2018, 10:00am - by Promo Team

Do you love sitcoms? Or do you love improv? Are you tired of trying to choose between the two greatest loves of your life? Good news–the Moonlight Director’s Series is here to help! We asked director Johnathan Ross to enlighten us on the show.

This show combines improvisers with people on-book with sitcom scripts. Can you explain how the show works for those who have never seen this style of improv before?

The show is a variation on the Gravid Water form. Gravid Water takes teams and pairs fully improvising players with actors/players on a script. Sometimes the actors are off book (doing the scripts completely from memory) and other times they are on book (holding the script in hand). Script readers have some control over how they deliver a line or when they can pause or break up a line, but the improvisor never knows what’s going to be said next (unless they’ve memorized the script too, but where’s the fun in that?) Our scripts will all be from sitcoms from the 50s to the 90s.

Where did the name of the show come from?

The name comes from the music video for the Jay-Z song Moonlight, which was inspired by the closing events of the 2017 Academy Awards.

How did you come up with the idea to blend sitcoms and improv?

Like the music video of the same name I wanted to take the idea of taking well known sitcoms and showing people of color in similar roles. However because of the nature of the form we get to be even more creative within these sitcom worlds as only one person is bound to a script.

Who’s in the show and did you choose performers based on their level of sitcom fandom?

Oh we have a wonderful cast. Our full roster:

  • Laneé Shawntel Sanders
  • Essence Stewart
  • Alexis Lambright
  • Saidah Dunston
  • Erica Johnson
  • Dahlia Ramsay
  • Rama Orleans-Lindsay
  • Randy McKay
  • Michael Stevens
  • Nat Trammell

And everyone was selected solely on their sitcom fandom and nothing else haha. Here are a few of our favorites: Parks & Rec, Arrested Development, Party Down, Living Single, Family Matter, Fresh Prince, Fraiser, and Community.

What are some of the sitcom scripts you may be using?

You’ll be able to find everything from Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy to Friends and Seinfeld! Maybe some Growing Pains, Who’s the Boss, Three’s Company, even the Facts of Life! We’re spanning the decades from the 50s to the 90s. One thing I will add is that the audience will have a hand in picking the scripts for each show!

Will there be a laugh track?

Maybe some “woo” tracks, but this show will be filmed in front of a live studio audience ;).


Be on- or off-book for Moonlight, February 1, 8, 15, & 21 at 10:00 at Magnet!

Thursday February 1, 2018, 10:00am - by Promo Team

Welcome to Magnet’s “Getting To Know” series! We’re using our blog to highlight our fabulous performers and writers and we can’t wait for you to meet them. Want to see them all? Click here.

What’s your name?

Brian Rodriguez.

Which team or show are you on?

I’m on the musical improv team Honeymoon, part of Musical Megawatt.

Where are you from?

The Dirtiest Parts of Jersey, NJ.

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I started doing competitive solo improv on my high school forensics team when I was a freshman and loved having it as an outlet for creating characters and following patterns and calling back to earlier beats.

How long have you been performing/writing?

I played Touchstone in an 8th grade production of As You Like It, and have mostly felt trapped performing that role ever since.

I’m sorry, that answer is a little too pretentious! What about: I started playing the trombone and performing in the 4th grade, mostly because I could make it look like I was jerking the instrument off? Is that better?!

Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

I just want to be in a scene with Beth Slack again. That would be ideal.

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for?

Neither of those things interest me, but I would most like for more Magnet talent (not me) to write for more Magnet Podcasts ???? There is just such amazing talent here that I wish I could carry around on my phone and listen to.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

That thing when babies are scared by their own farts. It’s such a raw visceral reaction.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

Lots of Math Rock, Chillhop, and anything Sufjan Stevens does.

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

I’d ask them not to make eye contact.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

At home, watching everyone else’s night out on snapchat.

If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be? (You can wear different shades of the same color.)

 I’m so stressed out by this question, I may never leave the house again. Gray?

Wednesday January 31, 2018, 8:00am - by Magnet Theater

Applications are now open for Ringers’ March Show. Ringers is a sketch show for aspiring, eager, and ambitious writers, actors, and directors of the Magnet community – and we want you to be a part of it!

The show will be Monday, March 19th at 10:30 P.M.

Below please see the details to apply:


Ringers is seeking sketches for the stage to showcase in its March show. To have your sketch considered, prior or current participation in Magnet’s Sketch Writing program, Remix: The Diversity Sketch Lab, Moxie (fka Lady Sketch Lab), or Magnet Video Lab is required. You will be required to attend the Table Read on Friday, March 2nd from 6:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M. as well as the show. Attendance of rehearsals is encouraged but is not mandatory. We encourage directors and writers to meet up after the table read to go over notes and any revisions prior to the first rehearsal.

*Please note that rehearsals will be held before/after class hours during the week and weekend.*

To apply, please fill out the following form: as well as email a finished, polished sketch formatted correctly and no longer than 5 pages in length. This sketch should also contain little-to-no tech.



Ringers is seeking actors to star in its sketches. To be considered as an actor, you must have completed at least Level 4 of Magnet’s Improv Curriculum or Level 2 of the Musical Program. You will be required to attend the Table Read on Friday, March 2nd from 6:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M., the rehearsals for the sketch(es) you are cast in, and the show.

*Please note that rehearsals will be held before/after class hours during the week and weekend.*

Actors will typically be given at least 2 roles and thus must be available for more than one rehearsal slot.

To apply to be an actor for an upcoming show, please fill out the following form:


Ringers is seeking directors for its March show. To be considered as a director, you must have Big Sib’ed a Sketch Level 2 class or have been on a Magnet Sketch Team. You will be required to attend the Table Read on Friday, March 2nd from 6:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M., the rehearsals for the sketch(es) you are directing, and the show. We encourage directors and writers to meet up after the table read to go over notes and any revisions prior to the first rehearsal.

*Please note that rehearsals will be held before/after class hours during the week and weekend.*

To apply to be a director for a sketch in an upcoming show, please fill out the following form:

**The deadline to be considered for Ringers’ March show is Wednesday, February 13th. Those selected will be notified on Friday, February 23rd**

For all questions please e-mail Armando Diaz and Amanda Xeller at We look forward to working with you!

Tuesday January 30, 2018, 10:00am - by Promo Team

Did you grow up feeling different? Woody Fu did too. His one-man show Asian Gracefully is about growing up Chinese-American and tackles such topics as internecine racism and how the straight Asian male is the most marginalized group on PornHub. “Asian Gracefully” began its January-February run last Thursday, and will play again February 2 and 9 at 7:00. You only have two more chances to catch the hilarity, so don’t miss out! (And, Woody wants you to know that the last show on Feb 9 has a promotion where anyone can see it for free if they say “I’m Chinese” at the door. It’s a true thing.)

How many times have you performed “Asian Gracefully” and how has it changed over its various runs?

I’ve done this show… almost 10x? It’s gone up at the Magnet, PIT, UCB and Annoyance, plus I’ve taken it on tour to comedy festivals. It’s gone through about 4 major iterations, and for each of those I gutted about 40% of the pieces and put in new guts. That’s so it doesn’t get stale and can grow. It’s changed so much in the last year and a half: it’s gone from a traditional personal one-man show, to full blast gamey-game sketch show, to a weird mishmash of unrelated bits. I think this most recent one is the most cohesive and satisfying one. It’s certainly the most… Asian?

In taking the show from a half-hour to a full hour, it looks like you added some other cast members. Does that mean you’ll only be playing yourself, or will you explore other characters as well?

I play myself and a variety of characters in the show. It’s true there are a bunch of special guests, but you gotta see the show to find out what they do! They’re mostly… Asian?

Did your experience with improv and musical improv affect your creative process for “Asian Gracefully”?

Yes and no. Improv is 100% surprise. But writing is such a solitary act and it’s basically impossible to surprise yourself. There’s a little room for improv when putting sketches on their feet with directors but for the most part I keep the two disciplines separate. I think in binary: everything’s yellow and white. Maybe because I’m… Asian?

You’re a DJ and a game designer–do we get to see you use those skills in the show?


Is there anything the audience should know ahead of time?

Go to the show with an Asian friend. But first make sure they’re… Asian?

Don’t miss out on Asian Gracefully, Friday February 2 and/or 9 at Magnet!

Monday January 29, 2018, 2:29pm - by Magnet Theater

Registration for Camp Magnet opens 2/6 — get all the info here!

What is Camp Magnet?

Camp Magnet is a four-day, three-night improv retreat in The Catskills. In other words, it’s THE improv event of the year and one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. We’ve been running Camp Magnet since 2010 and it’s become an annual tradition that’s as integral to our community as is fun to attend! Great meals are taken care of, the cabins are cozy, and when it’s time to relax, it’s ‘lake time’ instead of Netflix (yes, there is cell service, but c’mon). By disconnecting from the city, we can re-connect with the craft, what draws us to it, what makes it rewarding, and what makes us better improvisers.

When is it?

This year (2018), camp is Thursday, May 31st through Sunday, June 3rd.

Where is it?

Camp Magnet takes place at Iroquois Springs, a fantastic overnight camp in Rock Hill, NY. It’s only about 90 miles from New York City, but it’s a world apart once you’re there. While Iroquois Springs operates as a sleep-away camp for kids most of the summer, they let Magnet take over for one weekend a year and we’re so happy that they do. Take a virtual tour of the campgrounds by clicking here.

What happens at Camp Magnet?

During the day, it’s all about diverse workshops focusing on all different aspects of creating great work together. At night, it’s improv jams, dance parties, s’mores by the fire, sing-alongs, and some legit friend-making. Imagine doing warm ups where it’s actually warm. Imagine doing breathing exercises where the air is provided by actual trees.

Who will be teaching?

Each year, our retreat boasts an incredible lineup of Magnet and guest instructors and while the full list for 2018 isn’t up just yet, the class registration page will have all the info as teachers confirm. As of this writing, we’ve got Armando Diaz, Megan Gray, Rick Andrews, and Louis Kornfeld. In past years, we’ve had Magnet instructors such as Ed Herbstman, Hannah Chase, Michael Lutton, Elana Fishbein, and more, PLUS visiting luminaries like Rachel Hamilton, David Razowsky, Jean Villepique, and Gary Rudoren. The instructors are always top notch and the workshops are a blast.

What is there to do besides improv?

The Iroquois Springs campgrounds have so much to do, it’ll make your head spin. Whether you want to swim or canoe on the lake, roast a marshmallow and share stories over the fire pit, or play some hoops on the basketball court, you’ve got a lot of options. If sing-alongs are your thing, campers usually bring guitars, ukeleles, saxophones, and whatever else they can play or strum. We’ve found that the most fun usually comes from sharing meals, staying up late, and getting to know new friends.

Who would enjoy Camp Magnet?

Camp Magnet is great for anyone who wants to deepen their connection with the Magnet community or meet some great folks before diving in. We know campers who started their Magnet journey at Camp and went on to be performers at the theater! We also know many campers who formed deep friendships and bonds with people at Camp who they’d otherwise only met in passing. Beyond the Magnet community, it’s also ideal for people from outside the NYC area as a place to come for one weekend and get some of the very best improv training in the world. Each year, we have a few campers from “not NYC” and they’re always a joy. Just another little thing that makes Camp so great.

What does it cost?

Camp is $569 this year. However, we’re having a **FLASH SALE** Tuesday, February 6th through Friday, February 9th, during which time, camp will only cost $499. This will be the absolute lowest price anyone will pay for camp this year, so you better jump on it while you can!! Bookmark the class registration page or send yourself the link as a reminder to register during this window!

How do we get there and back?

We have you covered. We typically charter a bus and all head up together. Yes, there is an additional fee to cover the cost of the bus – around $55. Once we engage the charter company, we will be contacting campers with a link to sign up.

By the way – there are other ways to get to camp if you choose. You can drive (carpooling happens every year, usually facilitated by a Camp Magnet Facebook group), or you can take a train. If that’s your preference, we’ll send you some details on that once you sign up, or feel free to call the Training Center and we’ll give you the info. Note, if you take the train, you’ll need to organize a ride from the train to the camp, and while cabs are available, they do cost money.

But that’s why we get the charter bus – makes getting there and back a super easy.

Some people have even biked to camp in previous years! (WOW.)

Want to know more?

Once you sign up, there will be a lot of communication from Magnet about what to bring, transportation, how we might meet any special accommodations you might have, and how to get a private cabin if you want (hint: limited availability, extra fee). For any questions, call 212-244-2400.

Photos courtesy of Aaron Zemach, Ryan Smith, and Melissa Ulloa.
Thursday January 25, 2018, 10:00am - by Promo Team

Welcome to Magnet’s “Getting To Know” series! We’re using our blog to highlight our fabulous performers and writers and we can’t wait for you to meet them. Want to see them all? Click here.

What’s your name?

Ellen Matthews.

Which team or show are you on?

She Wolf (Megawatt).

Where are you from?

Western Massachusetts.

How did you get into improv/sketch comedy?

I always took advantage of school projects where I had the option to perform a “skit” or “video” as my presentation. When I went to college, I wanted to continue to be creative, but I really did not want to do improv. I didn’t think I could think that quickly on my feet. I eventually discovered a sketch comedy troupe (Sketch 22 at UMass Amherst) which was perfect for me. After college, I moved to New York and took a sketch writing class at UCB, but I found that I couldn’t keep up with the time-consuming writing while maintaining my full time job. Knowing that I needed to continue to create and collaborate in some way, my friend convinced me to take an improv class at UCB which was being taught by Shannon O’Neill. From then on, I started to fall in love with improv. I had always been a writer and performer, and I loved how improv let me do both at the same time, in a collaborative way. When I discovered Magnet Theater in 2016, I felt for the first time the most comfortable I had ever felt doing improv. The teachers, the community, and the open-minded curriculum and style made me feel very much at home.

How long have you been performing/writing?


Who in all the world would be your ideal scene or writing partner?

Writing partner: My friend Danielle Soto. We were writing partners in college. She is now a standup comedian in LA – check her out! A great writing partner sparks ideas from you that you would never have on your own, and makes you laugh A LOT. Scene partner: Anyone who is committed. The worst feeling in improv isn’t not getting laughs, it having your partner bail on you. I still to this day remember people who have bailed on me simply in class scenes, not even at a show, and I still can’t let it go…That’s why we always must remind each other: “Got your back!”

Who would you most like to impersonate or write for?

I would love to impersonate Kate McKinnon, she’s very expressive when she acts or even talks in an interview, which I can relate to. I remember an audience member coming up to me after a show and saying “you have awesome facial expressions!”, which I took as a huge compliment.

What makes you laugh the hardest?

Being silly and physical comedy. Don’t get me wrong – I respect clever, satirical, pointed comedy, but I could watch something like The Daily Show without ever laughing out loud. It doesn’t mean I don’t find the material funny, I do! It’s just that I can control my laughter. However, if someone farts in a meeting, I will not be able to control my laughter… If someone slips and makes a funny cry noise, I will not be able to control my laughter… One time at She Wolf practice, our coach Rick Andrews dropped his glasses off his face. He tried to catch them several times in the air, before they took the longest fall to the ground. I had to curl up in my chair because my stomach hurt so bad from laughing at this truly beautiful and genuine moment. I think I laugh hardest when the person is being real, and is actually not trying to be funny.

Describe the soundtrack to your life!

Lilith Fair.

What’s something you’d ask when meeting someone for the first time?

I’m always curious to know what TV shows people like to watch. I find that it can tell me a lot about their personality.

Where can we find you on a Saturday night?

Out to dinner, but back in time to watch Saturday Night Live.

What’s your spirit toothbrush and/or paste?

My spirit toothbrush is a Sonicare because it’s gentle and soothing on my gums. My dentists yells at me for brushing too hard and hurting my gums. Thank you Sonicare!

Wednesday January 24, 2018, 2:38pm - by Magnet Theater

Say hello to all of our new Winter 2018 Circuit teams! Come see their shows Fridays at 9 pm, starting February 2nd, and at 10 pm starting March 2nd at the Magnet Training Center, 22 W 32nd St, 10th Floor. Shows run through March 30th.

The Circuit features improv ensembles made-up of both Magnet students and veteran Magnet performers. Every week, three teams take the stage and perform the classic long form improv structure, The Harold.

Team Milano:
Michael Grosso
Jonathan Morales
Joanna McNurlen
Andy Lachman
Joy Weeeng
Chris Yu
Ann Herberger
Tia Scott

Coach: Alex Braslavsky

Team Sausalito:
Erica Soto
Maxim Ross
Arthur Velwest
Karan Sagar
Jeff Mitchell
Erin Resnick
Henry Seifter
Katie Rogers

Coach: Abby Russell

Team Montauk:
Shannon Krowicki
Mark Canlas
Conor Mullen
Yan Timanovsky
Hilary Mitchell
Eugene Chow
Simon Johnston
Sarita Ekya

Coach: Xavier Padin

Team Chesapeake:
Justina Sparling
Jason Farr
Andrea Fischman
Sam Qian
Nathan Tillis
Evelyn Peppas
Parmita Samanta
David Lisuk

Coach: Michael Kroll

Come check them out!

Friday January 19, 2018, 10:00am - by Promo Team

TBS’ “Search Party” is making waves as a darkly funny sitcom that melds “whodunit?” with an overpowering sense of millennial ennui. The hit show features some excellent Magnet talent: co-creator Charles Rogers, a Magnet alum, and actor Phoebe Tyers, a performer on house team The Music Industry, plus cameos from seven other Magnet performers, past and present: Chet Siegel, Branson Reese, Shacottha Fields, Peter McNerney, Rebecca Robles, Jon Bander, and Brendan Jordan.

Rogers was honored last year in Forbes’ “30 under 30 Spotlight”, and the show made Paste Magazine’s “16 Best New Shows of 2016”, as well as having a character, Elliott Goss, make their “20 Best TV Characters of 2016.” The second season wrapped on Dec. 17, although season three has yet to be announced.

So what is “Search Party” all about? The Village Voice says it best: “A comedy of escalation, the series stands out in a crowded field for its bluntly sinister tone. The show stars Alia Shawkat as Dory, an aimless twentysomething who’s shaken out of her quarter-life stupor after she discovers a college acquaintance has gone missing and takes it upon herself to investigate.” Or take it from Film School Rejects: “[It] has been described as Gone Girls, a show with the stakes of Gone Girl in the world of Girls. The show expertly rides the line between millennial satire and truly surprising suspense—with a dash of broad yet grounded performances that are reminiscent of Mel Brooks’s High Anxiety and Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery.”

The co-creators, Charles Rogers and Sarah-Violet Bliss, specialize in this specific brand of comedy, where the confluence of insecurity, insanity and mystery leave the audience alternately laughing and cringing as the characters’ superficially good intentions pave the road to an increasingly bizarre hell. We had a chance to sit down with Rogers and Bliss just before season one aired–and you can listen to the podcast here.

Actor Phoebe Tyers, a Magnet performer, plays April, Dory’s angsty, angry neighbor, who ultimately becomes an antagonist for the group in season two. Tyers is pictured right with her sister Claire, who also has a role in season two. We also have an interview with Tyers just before season one launched.

We are so thrilled to see performers of Magnet past and present receiving such a following, and are anxiously awaiting season three to see how the characters dig themselves in deeper!



Photo credits: IMDB, Phoebe Tyers Twitter.
Thursday January 18, 2018, 12:42pm - by Megan Gray

We are now accepting applications for the 2018 Winter edition of The Circuit! The Circuit is a long-form improv program with teams made up of Magnet Theater students, graduates of our training program, and veteran performers. We believe that in order to get better at improv, you need to do it! The Circuit gives more people in our community a chance to work on teams with great coaches, all while performing regularly.

The deadline to apply is January 22, 2018 at noon. Teams will be announced January 23rd. First rehearsals will be the weekend of the 27th.

Circuit shows will begin Friday, February 2nd and run for 9 weeks, through March 30th. Shows in February will be at 9 pm while shows in March will be at 10 pm, all in the Studio Theater at Magnet Training Center.

To sign up, fill out the form:

Questions? Just email!

***Please read the following:***
– To apply, you must have completed up to Level 3 at the Magnet.
– Do not call or email registrar beforehand regarding application status.
– Circuit performers may miss no more than 3 shows or practices.
– Performers are expected to rehearse with their assigned team and coach on a weekly basis at assigned times.
– Performers are responsible for the cost of coach and space rentals.