Posts Tagged ‘UCBT’

Wednesday August 2, 2017, 7:00am - by evan barden
Play

 

Actor and comedian, KEISHA ZOLLAR, joins host Louis Kornfeld to discuss the role of comedians in society, why she hates revenge stories, and the issue with overly dramatic art. Not only that, but they get to talking about how we give too much energy to our lizard brains and urge everyone out there to show your weird! This is our final episode of the season, but we’ll see you again in September. From all of us to all of you, thanks so much for listening and huzzah!

Our fabulous guest and intrepid host begin this episode laying out the three or four types of bad, real-world comedy and note that the bully flavor of “funny” still persists, despite how god-awful it is. Keisha posits that perhaps we, as comedians, need to rally a bit more against bullies and the behavior they propagate. She also says that Louis has “an intense face” and Louis seems to agree. They talk about being “on” all the time and how common folks expect comedians to behave day-to-day. They get into the role of comedians in society and the responsibilities that comedians and other creators take on by assuming the mantel. Such a conversation would be incomplete without mentioning identity politics and how the comedian’s ultimate job is to disrupt norms.

Pivoting like a member of Trump’s cabinet, Louis attempts to take a positive lesson away from the current hot mess that is the world around us. Keisha wisely points out that, growing up, no one ever told us why democracy could be bad, reminding us that every tool is also a weapon. She relates that she often feels we give too much energy to our lizard brain and not enough to our frontal lobe, which allows us to reason.

Speaking of lizard brains, Keisha tells us why revenge stories don’t entertain her and why one of her favorites movies is Requiem For A Dream. She and Louis show appreciation for feeling your feelings in-the-moment, including the negative feelings like anger and sadness. Speaking further on this, Keisha shares a bit about her lifelong experience of recurring illness and living with an invisible disability, something she brings up to highlight the fact that it’s not all negative – there are positives of that life experience and the perspective it gives her is invaluable. This sparks their both Louis and Keisha’s qualms with art that is overly dramatic, art that lacks the light we know to be present. As our episode comes to an end, we are reminded that the beauty of improv is that we are encouraged to show our weird, to show our uniqueness. Everyone has something. Accept your weird.

And finally, our host and guest share this special message with us, as we say goodbye to Season 3 of the Magnet Theater Podcast:

Go stare at a tree!

Don’t forget to check out Keisha’s own podcasts: Applying It Liberally and The Soul Glo Project.

Wednesday July 12, 2017, 6:50am - by Magnet Theater
Play

 

Opera singer turned full-time musical improviser, KIKI MIKKELSEN, joins us to talk about all of her shows, Edinburgh Fringe, and the challenges of writing. You can see Kiki doing musical improv nearly every day of the week with her teams and shows Vern, Public Pool, Happy Karaoke Fun Time, Premiere: The Improvised Musical, Blank! The Musical, and Baby Wants Candy. Kiki is a bonafide musical improv all-star and we’re so happy that she’s on the show!

Kiki and Louis settle in for the first real conversation they’ve ever had and they don’t know it at first, but they’ll cover a lot of ground. “Tell me about yourself,” Louis begins. We hear about how Kiki came to be a full-time musical improviser and a bit about her upcoming trip Edinburgh for its Fringe Festival, which will be her first time participating. With so much improv in her life, Kiki and Louis both wonder if she can possibly keep friends outside of improv. Don’t worry, it’s a question we all must face when confronted with the obsession that is improv!

We backtrack a bit to discover where Kiki hails from (PA) and where she went to school (OKC). One of very few improvisers with an opera degree, Kiki gives Louis a crash course in opera voice types and tells us a bit about how long they take to develop. She talks about getting into improv and comedy while still working on her opera dream and she throws down this hot take: improv people are more fun than opera people! Her story starts with discovering short form and comedy in general with her best bud Lindsay Calleran. It wasn’t long before Kiki was jumping into classes at UCB, The PIT, and Magnet. Within her expansive improv education, she speaks fondly of her very special Level One Musical Improv class at Magnet with instructor Michael Martin, leading Kiki and Louis to discuss the various overlapping micro-communities within the greater improv community.

Louis asks Kiki to talk about the litany of different shows she’s a part of and they begin with Baby Wants Candy, which is about as big as it gets in musical improv! She’ll be heading to Edinburgh Fringe with BWC and talks about what she’s expecting. She also talks about her house teams Vern and Public Pool, as well as the shows Premiere: The Improvised Musical, Happy Karaoke Fun Time, and Blank! The Musical. Find out what excites her about each show and how are they all different.

Exploring beyond her current penchant for musical improv, Kiki and Louis discuss the roots of her humor and desire to perform comedy. Kiki recalls that she didn’t grow up watching a ton of comedy but then found Christopher Guest movies. Plus, Louis shares his secret dream with us. After revealing to Louis that she finds writing to be difficult to break into, he gives Kiki some inspiration for writing and they talk about how to stay motivated. Finally, Kiki expresses her belief that building something together is always funnier than working alone.

Wednesday June 28, 2017, 6:34am - by Magnet Theater
Play

Human laugh factory, MICHAEL DELISLE, joins host Louis Kornfeld to discuss being funny on purpose, bombing on stage, and making a meal out of nothing. He and Louis debate whether or not Phil Hartman had a sense of humor, explore why Michael is so funny in a wig, and they also perform no fewer than three improv scenes together! It’s a real good time and you don’t want to miss it. Huzzah!

Beginning with the introduction of our guest, this episode gets off to what is undeniably the most awkward start in the history of the podcast. Michael asks Louis if he is truly great and the tension builds from there. These two good souls make the most out of the situation and manage to laugh their way through it.

Getting into the real conversation, Louis notes that Michael does a heck of a lot of sketch comedy, but he says he still loves improv. They debate over what percentage of sketch and improv is actually good and try to approximate what the batting averages are for each in the comedy scene. Louis breaks down Michael’s “Will Ferrell effect” for us and our heroes do some improv together. All of this in the first 12 minutes of the episode!

They dig into the idea of being intentionally funny while improvising and debate whether or not improvisers should rely on their life experience to be funny. Louis asks if Micahel is a nervous performer and Mike tells a story about bombing on stage doing stand-up at the tender age of 16. They talk about what you can learn from bombing, both in improv and sketch, and then they do another improv scene. This time, they’re both wearing shorts!

Circling back around, Michael and Louis once again discuss intentional comedic choices in improv and why it’s tricky to teach that skill. While some may consider intentionally comedic choices as going for cheap jokes, Michael thinks about it as playing the most fun thing right away. Our two heroes try to figure out why Michael is so dang funny in a wig and we find out that his favorite kind of sketch comedy is when he’s able to make a meal out nothing. Plus, they ask, “Did Phil Hartman have a sense of humor?”

Finally, Louis ends this episode by asking Michael to perform A Very Serious Scene Opposite A Jar Of Pickles.

Wednesday June 14, 2017, 6:30am - by Magnet Theater
Play

 

Musical improv maestro, ALI REED, joins host Louis Kornfeld on another episode of the Magnet Theater Podcast. The conversation hits a variety of topics including living in Kentucky, comparing sports to performing improv, and the pleasures of working with musical director Frank Spitznagel. We find out how Ali is able to balance her schedule as one of the busiest people in musical improv and learn about her ambitious plans for the future of the artform! Huzzah!

Catching us up on her life, Ali tells us that she has had a packed schedule for the past nine months and Louis refers to her as the busiest person in musical improv. They discuss momentum and how it can be helpful to have a full schedule.

In the beginning of the episode, Louis asks Ali about growing up in Kentucky. Doing her civic duty, Ali defines what bourbon is – explaining that if it’s not from Kentucky, it’s not bourbon – and we learn about the importance of Louisville basketball and how it was difficult for Ali to be a fan of their rival, University of Kentucky, while she was surrounded by Cardinal fans throughout college.

On the topic of sports, Ali compares being an athlete to being a performer and Louis imagines that playing sports would be similar to performing improv. Ali agrees but thinks that the subjectivity of performing makes it such that she’s harder on herself – adding that it’s easier when there is a win or a loss.

Ali and Louis take a trip down memory lane to talk about how Ali came to be the hardest working woman in musical improv. On the suggestion from an ex-boyfriend, who had had been taking UCB classes in LA, Ali went online to see if any classes were available. She saw that an improv 101 class has just started registering that night and signed up immediately. She and Louis discuss the solidarity of improv classes and Ali says that she is still friends with everyone from her improv 101 class!

Eventually, Ali found her way to musical improv. A friend of hers said that he was going to do a musical improv class at Magnet to which she replied, “Oh, hell yeah.” Since then, she has been bitten by the “Magnet bug.” Sharing her love with us, Ali teaches Louis about different strategies in musical improv. Louis compares it to regular improv and Ali discusses how performing musical improv is similar to putting on that album that you like while you’re in a certain mood – but it’s much more intense.

They talk about Magnet musical director Frank Spitznagel and his incredible knowledge of music, always able to seamlessly integrate various types of musical elements brought up by suggestions of a genre, television shows, specific musicals, etc. Ali talks about how lucky she feels to have had Frank as a teacher and to share the stage with him.

They explore the bravery that goes into musical improv and how Ali often forgets that it IS brave. She is reminded by it when people come up and tell her “Oh, I could never do that.”  They also talk about the benefits of being located in New York, in comparison to LA or Chicago, because of all of the Broadway folks who are willing to coming sing and perform in musical improv.

Diving further into the artform, Ali wants there to be a more authentic, truthful place for musical improv – instead of just songs about butts (which she also loves). When she teaches, she finds that taking the mundane scenes and heightening them can become the funniest and most touching songs. Louis concurs and mentions a musical improv show he saw that capitalized on those tiny “slice of life” scenes and ended up enhancing the characters’ emotions.

As the episode comes to an end, we learn about Ali’s dream for the future of musical improv. She lets us in on her ambitious plans – stating that she will build her own musical improv empire in New York City.

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

 

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 July 1, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater
Play

Will Hines Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this week’s episode, we’ve got actor, writer, and 14x UCB All-Star, Will Hines. We caught up with Will while he was in town for the 17th Annual Del Close Marathon and what ensued was a beautifully nerdy conversation about improv theory, improv practice, teaching methods, and some of Will’s early days at UCB.

The interview begins with Will and host Louis Kornfeld talking about how to navigate fighting in improv scenes. They insist that the characters must be able to have philosophical debates, not mere wizard battles. They sympathize with students learning improv though, since a bad fight and good fight feel very similar in the moment. Plus, arguments have a lot of good elements that improvisers should practice — commitment, point-of-view, feeling — but if they only serve to defend the character, they won’t be very helpful. Will goes into detail about his philosophy that scene partners must “shake hands” at the top of a scene.

If you’re wondering whether these two veteran company men discuss the philosophies of UCB and the Magnet, wonder no longer! Will and Louis get to the meaty stuff and talk about the differences between Harolds at Magnet and UCB. From there, they discuss a variety of improv “rules” and postulate that most rules are in need of a specific scope to make them useful. Will talks about the rigidity of his 10th grade english teacher and they debate the benefits and limitations of strict versus nurturing improv teachers. Though Will always loved Matt Besser’s no-bullshit approach to teaching, he says that Armando Diaz was his breakthrough teacher. He describes the two of them as the ying and yang of UCB teachers during his time coming up through classes.

We get to hear a bit of Will’s improv origin story, he and Louis discuss improv’s “huggy” vibe, plus, these two “kings of calm-edy” explore their thoughts on being funny while acting as the straight man and/or lower energy player. Louis shares with us that he’d just had his most embarrassing audition ever and Will admits that he has a lack of confidence when it comes to being funny. The two of them snap out of their temporary self-loathing to talk about Will’s days playing with Monkeydick, which was Louis’ favorite Harold Night team when he was a student there.

There’s so much great stuff in this episode for Magnet and UCB fans alike, not to mention every improv nerd out there, we’re not even sure where to start. Just trust us and give it a listen.

Packed with these extras:

The Brothers Hines have only one rule for their shows — what is it?

Louis admits his biggest weakness as a teacher and performer.

What do these guys think of the Star Wars Prequel trilogy???

IMG_7165

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

Laura Grey Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

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

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.

Or simply enjoy Episode #43 below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday February 25, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Sean Taylor Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

Long-time Magnet performer and all-around swell guy, Sean Taylor, joins host Louis Kornfeld in the studio for an interview. A military brat growing up, Sean has called New York City home longer than anywhere else and, since moving to NYC right out of college in 1999, Sean has watched the improv boom happen first-hand. He’s gone from diehard ASSSSCAT fan to a Harold Night player to an instructor at Magnet. He and Louis discuss the underground nature of those earlier days and how the UCB seemed to bring a sense of positivity, respect, and empathy to the NYC comedy scene. Sean tells us how community plays such an important part in his life, whether it’s comedy, eating pizza, playing softball, or meeting his wife. Louis asks Sean about teaching the weekly Drop-In Class and his upcoming elective course Here, Now, discussing the difference between working with a steady group of students versus one that changes week to week and his love of discovery in two person scenes. As a teacher, he applies the debugging skills from his work as a computer programmer to classes in an effort to guide people away from fear-based choices to joy-based ones. These two vets also discuss the early days of Magnet, the difference between agreement and acceptance, and the privilege of being continually inspired by other improvisers.

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #33 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.

Wednesday February 18, 2015, 7:00am - by Magnet Theater

Brandon Gardner Podcast Subscribe with iTunes

On this episode of the podcast, we welcome UCBT performer, instructor, and improv nerd Brandon Gardner into the studio to talk about college improv, his class focused on creating improvised plays, and various elements of compelling improv. Our host, Louis Kornfeld, begins the hour getting into Brandon’s vast experiences working with college improv teams and bookends the 60ish minutes by taking it all back to those formative years. In the meantime, Brandon describes why he became interested in bringing elements of theater to the improv stage and how he challenges actors to improvise and improvisers to act. For all our fellow improv nerds out there, you’ll love as Louis and Brandon parse through topics such as displaying emotion versus emoting authentically; playing to the top of your intelligence versus playing to the top of your integrity; story versus plot; and dramatic comedy versus comedic drama. These two veteran teachers trade exercises and generally advise on what is essential to playing satisfying improv scenes. Check it out!

Subscribe to the Magnet Theater Podcast via iTunes here.

Enjoy Episode #32 on iTunes or below via SoundCloud.