This week on the pod we’ve got legendary improv instructor and founder of the Magnet Theater Armando Diaz!
Armando talks to us about his improv journey from Chicago to New York, where he became the Johnny Appleseed of New York improv theaters—from UCB in its earliest days, to the PIT, and finally to founding the Magnet (where your intrepid hosts Ellen and Dennis trained and flourished)!
Sure, this is a must-listen for improv philosophy and improv history nerds, but we’ve also got a lot to chew on for everyone else—including ruminations on what it means to come into your own and become an adult. Folks, this is a good one. But don’t take our word for it—listen now!
Armando is widely regarded as one of the best improv teachers in New York City and beyond. His list of teaching credits is a long one: the ImprovOlympic Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, NYU and Michael Howard Studios. He has trained dozens of actors who have performed or written for Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Mad TV, and The Daily Show.
A Chicago native, Armando studied improv under Del Close at the ImprovOlympic, Mick Napier at the Annoyance, and graduated from the Second City Conservatory. He performed in and helped create one of the most popular improvised longforms in Chicago, "The Armando Diaz Experience...." For the last decade, "the Armando" has been performed weekly in Chicago, and is now taught and performed in many other cities including Los Angeles and New York.
In addition to writing and producing short films, Armando wrote sketches for the show Upright Citizens Brigade on Comedy Central, and has performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
This week we have science writer Luis Enrique Sandoval Del Prado. Luis recounts the story of how a college drama department production of Beauty and the Beast helped him defeat the demon of negative self talk, and we talk more generally about creative expression and how it can help us manage stress.
All that, PLUS Ellen and Dennis do a science quiz Luis wrote about plants! How did we do? How many will you get right? Stick around and find out! (Watch out for the tomato question—everybody’s getting it wrong!)
Luis is a writer for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. He writes stories about the research and the scientists at the research institute. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Genomics from Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied the genetics of virus infection. He loves theater, improv, Hans Zimmer, being a nerd, making people laugh, frapps, and helping others.
Folks, this week we present our lovely chat with the wonderful Adam Wade. Adam is a 20-time Moth Story Slam winner (18 StorySLAM victories and 2 GrandSLAM Championships). He has toured across North America with The Moth Main Stage, and his stories have appeared on The Moth Radio Hour and The Moth Podcast. He’s also a Storytelling Instructor at the Magnet Theater.
We talk with Adam about the importance of making a connection with your audience–whether that’s 100,000 people in an opera house or five friends at a party. We also discuss the efficacy of consistent meditation, learning to appreciate the people who love you, and the value of being yourself.
We’re back, and boy have we got a corker for you this week! The Perfectionists sit down with Dennis’s old mentor — New York Times bestselling cartoonist and teacher at the School of Visual Arts, Nick Bertozzi! They talk about learning to stay true to yourself as a professional artist, unlearning the habit of people pleasing, projecting your dang voice in the classroom and on the stage, and most importantly assertiveness (when do you have it, when do you not, and how can you learn it?).
Nick’s upcoming graphic novel is called BOMB! (based on a YA novel by Steve Sheinkin) and it’s about how the Soviets stole the secrets of the Manhattan Project to create their own atomic bomb. It’ll be out in Winter of 2023 from Roaring Brook Press.
This week improviser, storyteller, and writer Rob Penty talks perfectionism and how it’s really about minimizing risk. Then, Rob and the Perfectionists somehow do a “sober drunk history” on psychological experiments. If you’re looking for a fun convo about hypochondria, OCD, Catholicism, and mindfulness meditation, you’ve come to the right place. Folks, if this one don’t have it, you don’t want it!
You can find Rob performing monthly on The Little Big Show at the Magnet Theater. Read his writing at www.actuallyitsrobpentydotorg.com. Rob’s ebook was designed by Carly Monardo and laid out by Nick Jaramillo.
What was it all about? Dennis and Ellen take a fond look back at Season 1 episode by episode and prepare to come roaring back in just three little weeks for an even bigger Season 2. Join us, won’t you?
This week the wonderful Amanda Rothman joins Ellen and Dennis to talk drama therapy, our need to take care of others (including, sometimes, our therapists), and how shame is a driving force behind perfectionism. They also go off on a tangent about The Matrix for … way? … too long? Is this officially a kung fu movie review podcast now? Maybe!
Actor, improviser, and founder of Rubbish Comedy Collective Xave Padin joins the Perfectionists (Ellen and Dennis) to talk about the gift (and curse) of word-perfect script memorization and what it took to create a new comedy collective founded on equity, representation, and integrity. All that, plus Xave gives Ellen and Dennis the gift of a brand new podcast intro.
You can find out more about Xave and Rubbish Comedy Collective at rubbishcomedy.com.
Xavier (he/him) is an actor, improviser, teacher, character performer, and overall comedy loving producer born in the boogie-down Bronx. He has trained as an actor at USC and Mesiner studios in New York, as a comedian at The DC Improv, WITDC, Magnet, and UCB, and as a human being in Puerto Rico, Washington, DC, and South Carolina.
In NYC, Xavier has performed improv, characters, and sketch comedy regularly since 2016 for the UCB Theatre and the Magnet Theater. During the day he dons a tie (top button unbuttoned, of course) in Corporate Communications for the fed. But at night, the magic happens when he gets to work with brilliant teams of creatives — bringing cultural exploration and comedic ideas to life in a classroom and in front of an audience.
Xavier began his pursuit of passion in comedy while in SC in 2009 and, later in DC, he became a house performer and popular teacher with the Washington Improv Theater. He’s since gone on to teach and coach thousands of amateur and professional performers in classes or corporate settings up and down the east coast. Xavier has produced shows and festivals in DC, Jersey and New York since 2010 and loves the absurd and authentic life moments that comedy creates for audiences, students and performers alike.
Xave genuinely loves the people he gets to perform with like family. They include his Latinx improv team CHUCHO, his sketch comedy mates in The Executives (at Magnet) and The Bonus Features (at UCB) and his silly pals in the Chicago-created, NYC-refined storytelling/improv show “The Armando Diaz Experience,” on Saturday’s at the Magnet Theater. It goes without saying, but he’ll say it anyway, Xave loves Rubbish Comedy.
Xavier is also really into pro and amateur wrestling, BJJ, and movies — watching them, analyzing them in an academic sense, and even performing in them! He is currently represented by CESD.
The Perfectionists (Ellen and Dennis) get their very first live-in-the-studio guest, and what a get she is! Robyn Chapman is the editor of American Cult, a comics anthology about religious cults in America. She talks with Dennis and Ellen about the importance of self-compassion and how Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion helped her get through a particularly hard time. Then they discuss cults throughout American history and determine once and for all whether or not improv counts as a cult. (The answer may surprise you!)
Robyn Chapman is an editor, a publisher, and (sometimes) a cartoonist. She is the proprietor of Paper Rocket Minicomics and has had many different jobs in comics. She spent five years at The Center for Cartoon Studies, initially as their first fellow and later as a faculty member. For a time, she worked at Brooklyn’s best comic shop, Desert Island. She is the editor of the nonfiction comics anthology American Cult, which she co-published with Silver Sprocket in 2021. Currently, she is an editor at First Second.
Abby Russell is a content producer in the video game industry. The perfectionists (Ellen and Dennis, natch) have a delightful chat with Abby about Twitch streaming, comedy writing, and the high stakes (low stakes) world of improv.
You can find Find Abby on Twitch, Twitter, and Instagram. Her handle is @ybbaaabby on all the things.