Some of our teachers are also available for private coaching.
Please email email@example.com for more info!
Sarah Morgan Ashey
Sarah Morgan Ashey is a Tennessee born, New York based actress, comedian, writer and baker whose work has been featured across film, digital and stage. She got her start in various independent films after completing the acting conservatory program at Michael Howard Studios in 2006. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts from The University of the South and is a graduate of the 2018-2019 Acting Apprentice Company at The Barrow Group.
A seasoned improviser, Sarah performs weekly on a House Team here at the Peoples Improv Theater, where she was awarded a full scholarship and is a current member of their faculty – offering both intro and advanced classes to aspiring comedians. Additionally, she is a proud member of Story Pirates – an organization known for adapting stories written by kids into sketch comedy!
Her original written works have been performed in the Tennessee Women’s Theater Festival, The Boston Comedy Arts Festival, the New York Sketch Festival and more. Sarah is the co-writer of the musical, A Hardboiled Christmas, which was professionally produced at the Boiler Room Theater in Nashville, TN. Her TV pilot script, Flying Blind, co-created with her writing partner, Frankie Johnson, was named a winner in the First Ten Pages Screenplay Competition. She also contributed to and hosted the popular digital series, The Name Dame, produced by Scary Mommy, garnering an average of over 700,000 views per video on Facebook.
She currently resides in Brooklyn with her husband Paul and is the proud co-owner, founder and pastry maker of Kings Kolache, a popular Brooklyn based bakery featured on the Today Show, NPR and Bon Appétit Magazine.
Improv, Public Speaking
Sunny Atwal has over a decade’s worth of public speaking experience and currently operates as a professional emcee for Showbiz Talent & Primetime Dance. He is a former State Champion in poetry and has written, acted, produced several shows for the Indy Fringe festival as well as his own 45 minute Solo Show, Taxi Cab Driver, at SOLOCOM 2019. Sunny has also hosted for the Indy Visitor’s Channel which played throughout Indianapolis hotels explaining tourist attractions. He’s been featured on Spotify’s The Get Up Morning show & the BrainsOn Podcast! Additionally, he produces an all South Asian casted Comedy show for The People’s Improv theater. Performing is his passion and he also loves Sour Skittles.
Langston Belton is a New York born and raised improviser & actor. Langston took his first short-form class in 2001 and over a decade later performed Short-form improv in the city for a number of years before arriving at “The People’s Improv Theatre” in 2012 where he was among the recipients of the “Improv Your Life” Scholarship. Since then Langston has performed on numerous PIT House teams and served on the house team committee. He has previously been seen in the Off-Broadway show “Puffs: or seven increasingly eventful years at a certain school of magic and magic”. He is currently acting, improvising, and working as an on camera host for Marvel Entertainment.
Ali Reza Farahnakian
Founder of The Peoples Improv Theater
Writing and Auditioning for SNL
Ali Reza Farahnakian was born in Esfahan, Iran in the fall of ‘68. He came to America in the summer of ‘69. He is an immigrant. He is not eligible to seek the office of the presidency in America and is therefore a second class citizen in this country. Maybe that’s why he got into “comedy”. His teachers include Michael McCarthy, Charna Halpern, Del Close, Maryanne Thebus and Wynn Handman. He is an alumnus of ImprovOlympic, The Second City Chicago and SNL. He was a founding member of UCB and The PIT. He has acted at The Steppenwolf, BAM, and Playwrights Horizon. He has been in numerous TV shows, commercials, films and voiceovers. He has been doing this work for over three decades because he loves it and because it doesn’t seem like work. We started The PIT in 2002 in New York City.
You can check out his website at www.AliRezaFarahnakian.com.
Spread the Word !
Instructor, Director of Corporate Partnerships
Mac Gostow has performed and taught musical improvisation for more than 10 years in cities across the country including Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Nashville, Philadelphia and Chicago. A comedy school graduate, instructor and Lead Producer at ImprovBoston, Mac was a member of resident casts including The Family Show, All Access Improv and the ImprovBoston Musical AllStars. As a member of Catalyst Comedy, Mac performed with Boston’s Unscripted Musical Project (B.U.M.P.) and was a founding cast member of Dirty Disney and a kid’s musical improv show, Kerplunk. As one half of M&N: Musical Improv Duo, Mac performed over 100 shows and appeared at the Chicago Musical Improv Festival, Boston Comedy Arts Festival, New York Musical Improv Festival and landed a residency at historic Faneuil Hall. He served as Associate Producer of the Brooklyn Comedy Collective and currently co-produces Blank! The Musical at The Green Room 42 and serves as the Director of Corporate Partnerships at the PIT.
Improv, Stand Up
Chris was a regular host for TV Land’s “Prime Movies” and has made appearances on NBC’s “Blacklist”, Bravo, IFC, E Television, Hulu, Netflix, Starz and The Discovery Channel. He also was selected to represent New York on the TV show “World Cup Comedy” produced by Kelsey Grammar.
Chris has been featured in the feature films “The Co-Exist Comedy tour,” “Twenty Million People” “The Best Man” and “Generation Iron 2”.
He’s a regular standup around New York and you can catch him on Saturday nights at 8pm with the Pit’s longest running house team The Baldwins.
Listen below to hear more about Chris’ teaching style and improv philosophy, and learn more about The PIT in his discussion with PIT Founder Ali Farahnakian.
Matt Higgins is an original member of Centralia, The Idiot Kings, and Burn Manhattan. His improvisation bears the indelible influence of director Shira Piven, and teachers Ralph Buckley, Paul Lazar, Josh Broder, and Paul Sills. Matt is an Andy Kaufman Award Finalist and his stand-up comedy has appeared on Comedy Central. T.V. Credits include: The Jim Gaffigan Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Law and Order. Films include: Shadowboxer a Lee Daniels film. Under the tutelage of Seth Barrish, Matt developed his solo comedy JAM MAN STABLES. Recently, Matt and director Ed Malone are developed his newest solo venture, MATT HIGGINS IS GARY FLATLEY, which will played at The PIT April 28th and 29th. Matt’s taught improvisation for Second City (NYC), and led improv workshops at Yale School of Drama, Hampshire College, CUNY, and Temple University. He’s a founding member of UP Theater Company, and his credits with UP include: BROAD CHANNEL by James Bosley, K COMMA JOSEPH, by Kirby Fields, and ALL THE BEST INGREDIENTS, by James Bosley.
Listen below to hear more about Matt’s teaching style and improv philosophy, and to learn more about The PIT in his discussion with PIT Founder Ali Farahnakian.
Stephanie Holmes has been pushing the boundaries of the New York comedy scene for more than a decade, and has twice been named one of the 10 funniest comics at the New York Comedy Festival. She has also participated in the Laughing Skull Festival, the She Devil Festival, the Maine Comedy Festival, Solocom, and Queercom. As a headliner, she’s been featured at Caroline’s for the “Breakout Artist Series” and at the People’s Improv Theatre for “The PIT Presents.” Opening for some amazing comics- Including Jim Norton, Alonzo Bodden, Drew Lynch, and Jackie Kashian- she’s performed all over the U.S. At the People’s Improv Theatre (The PIT) she has performed in the shows “Welcome to Hell”, played Biff in the 90’s time-travel musical with the “Unauthorized Musical Series”, and directed the annual production of Rocky Horror. Stephanie has also hosted trivia throughout NYC independently and with the company “Trivial Dispute”. Out of quarantine, you can catch Stephanie performing weekly at comedy clubs throughout NYC. She hosts regularly on Saturday nights at Gotham Comedy Club. During quarantine, you can see Stephanie every Saturday hosting “Late Night Laughs” on Instagram @sociallydistantimprov.
Comedian and Staff Writer for Comedy Central’s The Graham Norton Effect
Nicole Korkolis is a stand-up comedian and television writer living in New York City. A comedian for
more than 20 years, she has performed several hit shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The
Scotsman’s Kate Copstick called her show, “hard-hitting, fun, well-observed, edgy, clever material
from a smart, sassy, memorable comic. She has some outstanding lines and she delivers like the
Pony Express…I hope she comes back next year.” Copstick continued to say she wished there were
more British comedians with that kind of firepower!
Nicole was handpicked by Graham Norton to be a staff writer for his U.S. show, The Graham Norton
Effect on Comedy Central. Norton says of Nicole, “she has the face of an angel, and the mind of a
very wrong person. She’s so funny, I forgot about my erectile dysfunction.”
She has also appeared on the television show, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch on CNBC, National
Lampoon Television and has hosted The Club on Sirius Satellite Radio. Nicole is a regular at New York
City clubs such as West Side Comedy Club, Dangerfield’s, Broadway Comedy Club, New York Comedy Club and others across the United States, and has performed throughout the world, including Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. She’s also appeared on countless talk radio shows and was featured in the comedy documentary Edinburgh or Bust. She has studied and performed improvisation with the prestigious Upright Citizens Brigade in New York.
Scott is a comedy writer, and also a practicing trial attorney. He is the head writer and director of the sketch comedy group, Klondike 237, which performed regularly at ImprovBoston in Cambridge, MA. He was a sketch writer for Old School Game Show, and was an Associate Producer of SketchHaus, a weekly, live sketch show. He also taught sketch comedy at ImprovBoston.
Improv, Acting, Solo Performance, Private Coaching
Patrick McCartney is an actor and Improviser. He got his start in Chicago in the late 1990’s where he studied with Del Close and Mick Napier. He spent two years in Chicago’s Second City Touring Company Blue Co where he toured the country with Ali Farahnakian, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. His love of the theater kept him working steadily in plays outside of the world of improv. He was a member of Chicago’s Center Theater Ensemble and did plays at Stage Left, Steppenwolf and The Bailiwick. He moved to LA briefly where he studied with Ivana Chubbuck. In NYC he became a regular at ASSSSCAT and a teacher at the first UCB space. He was a member of Shira Piven’s Water Ensemble where he starred in Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Pilgrims” at the Tribeca Playhouse. He was an original member of the improv groups “Centralia” and “Beer. Shark. Mice.” He’s done television and film including Elf, “Conan O’Brien”, “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy” and “Law and Order”. Patrick is a member of Centralia who perform and one half of the improv duo Bareilles and McCartney who perform regularly at The PIT Loft. He teaches all levels of improv and an acting class for The PIT.
Stay updated on all things Patrick at www.patmccartney.com
Patrick is also available for private 1:1 coaching! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more info!
Sarah Nowak is very grateful to be a member of the PIT House team, The Baldwins, performing every Saturday night on the mainstage. She studied improv at The Second City of Toronto Conservatory before moving to New York to join The PIT where she is proud to be a frequent performer and Level One Improv teacher. As a character actress, her favorite roles include A Witch in Macbeth for Shakespeare in Delaware Park, and recently Belise in Les Femmes Savants and Dawn in All in the Timing for The Williamsburg Theatre Company. She has worked on several improv and sketch projects around the city and has traveled around the country with her independent ensemble SidViscous.
Christine Piñeiro (MTV, VH1, Univison’s The Flama) is an actress, improviser, sketch writer, and character performer from The Bronx. She is a winner of the 2016 & 2015 UCB Diversity Scholarship and has performed for NBC’s Diversity Showcase at The Peoples Improv Theater. Christine can be seen improvising at the PIT every Wednesday night at 9:30 pm with her house team, Sick Passenger and performing characters and sketch comedy in variety shows around the city. Christine has trained at The Peoples Improv Theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Stella Adler Acting Studio, and Michael Howard Studio. In 2015, she debuted her one-woman character show, Everyone You Work With, at SOLOCOM. Christine loves Henry Cavill, reading war books, watching classic films on TCM, and dancing. For more on Christine, check out her YouTube channel, Another Brunette on YouTube, her Instagram stories @christinepineiro, follow her on Twitter @ChristineP_ or swing by her website, www.christinepineiro.com.
Kihresha is an improviser and actor who hails from Cleveland. She has performed and studied at Florida Studio Theatre with FST Improv. She is currently performing with the indie team Last Team on the Left.
On stage Kihresha has recently performed new works with Tantrum Theater and Shakespeare in bars with Backroom Shakes here in NYC. Last but not least she is an occasional poet, amateur ukulele player, and an Adam Sandler enthusiast. To learn more and see what she up to next you can check out her Instagram @redefinedby_k.
Andrea Romano is a comedy writer in New York City. She has written and produced content at a number of media outlets like Travel + Leisure, Bustle, Mashable, Cracked, USA Today, Little Old Lady Comedy, Oregano.com, and more.
A former student of both UCB and the People’s Improv Theater, Andrea has written and performed on shows such as Sketch Cram!, Old School Sketch Show, This Live Show, and Group Kid, as well as being a former house team player on Steve’s Hard Milk and team director for Scoot Scoot on Super Sketch Tuesday.
Improv, Life Skills
Mandy Schmieder has been teaching improv comedy for over a decade, and currently teaches at The Peoples Improv Theater in NYC. In addition, she uses the principles of improv to teach communication and leadership skills to organizations all over the country. Corporate clients include NYU School of Business, Columbia School of Business, Friedman Accounting, and Bloomberg, Amgen, and others. She received her M.F.A. in Acting from UC-Irvine, where she was an Artsbridge teaching scholar. She produces & writes original content including solo shows and web series, and has performed from coast to coast. You can see her on your TV in commercials for Geico, GE, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. She was a recurring guest on all four seasons of Inside Amy Schumer and is currently touring the festival circuit with her short film, Unnatural. She lives with her husband in NYC, where they’re raising two tiny humans named Teddy & Veda. www.mandyschmieder.com
Kevin Scott began performing and creating comedy while at the legendary Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown PA (profiled in Drama High and the inspiration for NBC’s Rise). He received his comedy training in Chicago in the 1990s from the Second City. He then performed with Bang Bang (which also featured Tracy Letts, Kate Walsh and Michael Shannon). In New York he has performed with Burn Manhattan and Centralia two ensembles he co-founded to explore the boundary’s of theatrical improv and comedy. Centralia has recently marked its 17th year of performing. He’s also been a regular performer and teacher for The Peoples Improv Theater since it was founded. He’s taught continuously since the ’90’s for the Second City, Gotham City Improv, The People’s Improv Theater and for various other groups and organizations. His students have gone on to work in TV and movies (Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, The Office and more) Kevin is also a filmmaker and director. His credits include Video Director and consultant for Marc Maron’s Jerusalem Syndrome. He has developed and directed comedy TV pilots for Viacom and Fremantle Media. He co-created and/or directed several Web series including: Succesorize w/Matt Oberg, TMI featuring Ellie Kemper, Law & Order: Interns featuring Grace Helbig and has had his work shown on the Sundance Channel and Comedy Central.
‘Kevin Scott is funny, attentive and smart. Having him teaching and performing at our festival was a great enrichment. He is an open, warm and inspiring person. A true delight to work with.”
–Luisa Winkler, Würzburger Improtheaterfestival
“We took the Comic Devices-workshop and couldn’t be happier. Kevin gave us some great practical tools which directly improved our scenes.”
–Andries Tunru, Artistic director Flunknarf The Netherlands
“Kevin Scott is a very attentive and methodical teacher. He knows what he wants to give to you and does his best to deliver. If you really want to dive into a certain topic – I’d recommend taking his workshop. I’m glad I did!”
–Rahel Otsa, Director TiLT Improv Festival Tallin Estonia
“My team came to Kevin Scott when we were a few years into my improv career and needed to be recharged, reinvigorated and re-inspired. Kevin’s instruction did just that. He grounded my team and I with exercises we knew but then added a library of tools that guided our playing style for years and continues to inspire me today. Kevin reminded us to not just play but taught us that we can also be actors and artists while doing it.”
–Will Luera, Director of Improvisation at Florida Studio Theatre, Big Bang Improv, Artistic Director Emeritus of ImprovBoston
“Kevin Scott has a brilliant comedic mind, honed from years of practice, performance, and pedagogy. Whether performing with Centralia or teaching Comic Devices, Kevin’s improvisation has amazed me for nearly a decade.”
–Noah Levin, Founder Barcelona Improv Group
”Kevin Scott is a brilliant encouraging teacher with great knowledge about improv comedy. He makes the students feel safe and comfortable to explore and learn. I highly recommend Kevin to anyone who hasn’t had the privilege to work with him yet.”
–Victoria Bang, boss GBimpro Sweden
“Kevin is a perceptive and caring teacher with a rare depth of knowledge. There is no bullshit, no ego, just practical, useful material, smartly presented”
–Jules Munns, The Nursery London UK
Improv, Improv for Educators, Private Coaching
Dana Shulman is an actor, improviser, teacher, coach, and silly long distance runner originally from Framingham, Massachusetts and currently in a long term relationship with New York City. She is a faculty member, producer, and performer at The Peoples Improv Theater and is a founding member of independent improv team Student Driver (est. 2010) who has headlined and produced The PIT’s weekly show Indie Road and annual festival Indie-Pendence Day for the last decade. She loves playing with her cats Murphy and Monster, her partner Giancarlo, and all of her various teams including ComedySportz NYC. Dana is the co-founder of Socially Distant Improv, an online comedy network that originated as a response to quarantine and is continuing to provide a platform for all voices. She can’t guarantee it’s updated, but you can always find Dana at www.danashulman.com or @onedanaatatime, @
Taren Sterry, PCC, is an Executive Coach and Founder of Big Time Coaching.
Taren is also available for Private 1:1 sessions for Public Speaking and Life & Career coaching. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Pat Swearingen is from Danville, Illinois. Gene Hackman and Dick Van Dyke are also from that city. Just sayin’. A featured performer at The PIT you can also catch himtouring the country in “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical”
Comedy acting reel at https://youtube.com/watch?v=
“Pat Swearingen is a powerhouse! By the end of the first act I was in love, by the end of the second I had discovered a new emotion stronger than that just to feel for him!”-OnStage
“Highlights include Pat Swearingen who almost single-handedly steals the show as hilariously over-the-top TV host Caesar.”-Bestnewyorkcomedy.com
Sean Christian Taylor
Sean Christian Taylor @schristiantaylor (Artistic Team The Pit) started producing original work with the renowned narrative theater group Voices of the South in Memphis, TN.
For 9 years the Peoples Improv Theater (New York, NY) has been home.
Sean received his BFA from the University of Memphis, where as a guest artist has taught a 10 day crash course in writing and producing Sketch Comedy.
Currently, Seans directorial work includes the solo show Kid In Church which has received critical acclaim at NYCSketchFest, Chicago Sketchfest and has garnered interest from The LookOut Series at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Executive Producer for Love is Live! Ny’s newest hit dating show w/ Producers and Hosts Caroline Becker, Erin Gonyeau and Olivia Benedict.
He is a director and producer for Old School Sketch Show! the longest running sketch show at The Peoples Improv Theater – with a rotating cast of New York’s best comedians.
also as an artistic team member of The Pit, Sean’s focus is original Pit Programming like 2 Min Drill! Tv Sketch Show Audition Show, Unfinished Business, Free POC Series, Wolfs Lair, Characters, Characters, Characters! and Duel with founder of The Pit and Ali Farahnakian.
Director credits include, resident Sketch House Team – RunDMV. Guest Director of Road Pizza, Old School Sketch Show, TreeHaus: A Latent Coming of Age Story, Virginian Brides, and Back Door BBQ.
Sean also has developed and promoted new material for, Timmy Barron (Chicago, IL @timmyhartbarron), PitTv, Jen Clark’s Mein Kunt Kult and BoomShot Productions (New York, Ny, Nashville, Tn).
He is a founding member of improv and sketch groups Vivian Delano, OSSS B-Sides, Food Fight, Caldwell & Taylor, Blonde Roast, and RunDMV.
Seeking to amplify voices, and be an asset to developing new work!
Film/TV/Streaming, Acting, Screenwriting, Directing
Joe Whelski is an award winning NYC Director, Writer, Producer, Instructor & SAG-AFTRA and Equity Actor. His feature indie comedy “Yellow Scare” (director and co-producer), won best “Best Comedy” at the Golden Door International Film Festival (NJ), and his darkly comedic web series “Mystery Mansion” (director and co-producer), won “Best TV Pilot” at the Hoboken International Film Festival. His original work has been featured on Funny or Die and the UK’s number one Star Wars fan site, JediNews. Joe directed the national commercial campaign for Unpakt.com, and created international commercials for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Born Free USA, and DAVSS (featuring ‘Doctor Who’ number 4, Tom Baker). His latest national commercial for the Duke Lemur Center features the VO of John Cleese. Joe is a founding member and creative director for the Magnet Theater Video Lab. As an actor, Joe has played various characters on ABC’s “One Life to Live”, appeared on “SNL”, and has starred in over 30 stage productions in NYC, NJ & PA. He’s had the privilege of working for legendary directors Ridley Scott, Sydney Pollack, Anne Bogart, and David Hugh Jones. He is an alumni of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, The New School, The School for Film and Television, and earned his BFA in Communication Design from Kutztown University in PA (while also studying design at Buckinghamshire College, England).
Lisa has been helping people find and share their story for more than twenty years. She is an improviser and storyteller originally from North Carolina. She studied performance at Appalachian State University and has twice been awarded National Board Certification.
Currently, Lisa is making final edits to her gothic memoir Burning Barbies. You can see her storytelling show Becoming a Noble Gas on Socially Distant Improv’s Instagram or several of her short films on the The Sequestered Film Festival’s website.
Patrick is an actor/ improviser/ comedian who grew up in South Carolina, but now calls Brooklyn his home. He received his BA from the University of South Carolina and his MFA (acting) from The New School for Drama. On Wednesday nights Patrick can be seen performing on The PIT’s house team, The Community Players, as they improvise a community theatre production for a play that has never been written. It’s fun and funny. With his co-writer, developer, and dear friend (Dan Titmuss), Patrick wrote a 2 person 1 hour sci-fi adventure, Life’s Yearning, where all the parts are played by the two performers. When he isn’t performing or auditioning, Patrick hustles as an auctioneer who sells storage lockers for Auctioncheer. Just like Storage Wars! For more info about current projects and content, please check out: patrickdarwinwilliams.com