Chet Watkins

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Chet Watkins is a longform improvisation group based out of New York City that performs weekly at the Magnet Theater.


Current: Willy Appelman, Russ Armstrong, Chris Camp, Karsten Cross, Kelly Kreye, Lauren Olson, Justin Peters, John Roukis, Andrew Vuilleumier

Variations of Chet Watkins

  • March 2009-October 2009. Chris Camp, Kelly Kreye, Christine Magee, Dave Maulbeck, Christian Paluck, Lizzie Redner, Jana Schmieding, Dave Thunder.
  • October 2009-July 2010. Chris Camp, Kelly Kreye, Dave Maulbeck, Christian Paluck, Lizzie Redner, Jana Schmieding
  • July 2010-September 2010. Chris Camp, Kelly Kreye, Christian Paluck, Lizzie Redner, Jana Schmieding
  • October 2010-September 2011. Chris Camp, Laura Grey, Kelly Kreye, Christian Paluck, Lizzie Redner, Jana Schmieding
  • October 2011-November 2011. Chris Camp, Kelly Kreye, Christian Paluck, John Roukis, Jana Schmieding
  • December 2011-January 2013. Chris Camp, Karsten Cross, Kelly Kreye, Lauren Olson, Christian Paluck, Justin Peters, John Roukis, Jana Schmieding.
  • February 2013-August 2013. Russ Armstrong, Chris Camp, Karsten Cross, Kelly Kreye, Lauren Olson, Justin Peters, John Roukis.
  • September 2013. Russ Armstrong, Chris Camp, Karsten Cross, Lauren Olson, Justin Peters, John Roukis, Andrew Vuilleumier
  • October 2013-present. Willey Appelman, Russ Armstrong, Chris Camp, Karsten Cross, Lauren Olson, Justin Peters, John Roukis, Andrew Vuilleumier

Directors Chet Watkins has had: Alan Fessenden, Karsten Cross, Armando Diaz, Russ Armstrong, Jodi Lennon, Sean Taylor, Matt Weir

Improv Festival Appearances

  • 2009, 2011 Boston Improv Festival BIF
  • 2010 Providence Improv Festival PIF
  • 2011, 2012 Chicago Improv Festival CIF
  • 2011, 2012 Queens Improv Jamboree QIJ
  • 2011, 2012, 2013 Del Close Marathon DCM
  • 2011 Vancouver Improv Festival VIF
  • 2012, 2013 NYC Improv Festival NYCIF
  • 2012, 2013 Baltimore Improv Festival BIG

Reviews / Recognition

  • "These long-form practitioners have a secret weapon: fearless women. The men aren’t half bad either (especially the woolly and magnificent Christian Paluck), but I marveled at how the ladies (including former Second City e.t.c. ensemble member Laura Grey) tackled each scene with bawdy abandon." TimeOut Chicago
  • "Overall, a very fun and affordable night with a great personal feel to it. This comic group has a lot of talent and chemistry, which allows them to so effectively play off of one another. A great show for a great price" ImprovisationNews Brendan McSherry
  • "If you admire great space work, character work and moment to moment reaction, not only is Chet a group you'll enjoy, but the Magnet Training Program is something you should definitely check out as well." ImprovisationNews Israel Savage
  • "Chet Watkins + The Magnet = Improv Gold!" Improvised New York
  • "Thank you for being hilariously funny all the time!" The Friars Club Improv & Sketch Comedy Competition

Group Bio

Assembled by the acclaimed director Armando Diaz, these eight New York City performers place a high value on character commitment and exploration of the absurd. Watching Chet Watkins is the improv equivalent of watching a Tsunami of hair and teeth attack a baby Blue Whale and destroy it with the will of a thousand hungry Bernese Mountain Dogs. Chet Watkins will leave you laughing so hard you'll rip the cup holder off your seat in order to defend yourself.

Chet Watkins has been an official selection of the 2009 & 2011 Boston Improv Festivals, the 2010 Providence Improv Festival, 2010 Toronto Improv Festival, 2011 & 2012 Chicago Improv Festivals, 2010, 2011,and 2012 Del Close Marathons, 2012 NYC Improv Festival, and Queens Fringe Festival (Featured Team).


The group was formed by Armando Diaz in February of 2009 for the purpose of performing in Megawatt, the Magnet's house team showcase. The members were picked from a graduating class of the Magnet conservatory's Team Performance Workshop. Chet Watkins first performed on Wednesday March 4th, 2009 at 10:00 PM with veteran Magnet Theater house team Hello Laser.

Magnet Theater house teams traditionally have been formed after auditioning improvisers in an invite only process that typically includes former Megawatt performers, students who have recently completed Level 6 Team Performance and performers from teams that have recently been disbanded. Chet Watkins was unique in that they were formed without auditioning and 7 of the 8 original members were chosen from a single round of the most recent Level 6 class that ended in February 2009.

In November 2010 the group was moved out of the theaters Wednesday night Megawatt slot to Friday nights where they performed a weekly one hour show. Their Friday night run ended at the end of July 2011. The group continues to perform weekly on Wednesday/Thursday nights.

To date Chet Watkins has had 15 distinct members of the group.

Origin of Name

While sitting at the Tick Tock diner right on 8th Ave and 34th Street we wrote a million different suggestions of team names on random scraps of paper. We were not getting anywhere. We were experiencing classic name suggestion overload... when that happens of course, as you all know, every name sounds completely ridiculous and dumb.

Then buried under "Camp Thunder" and something else, Chet Watkins emerged. We started describing Chet's personality traits. Of course it always seemed like Chet means well but he kind of sucks at everything. He's been crashing on your apartments couch for the past two months and can't remember to pick up milk from the store. He's divorced because he spends more time bowling than loving and caring for his ex-wife. He lives his life like its kind of a sad joke. But he's content and he's happy. He is ultimately a good guy.

Audience Appreciation Month

Chet Watkins has deemed every June as Audience Appreciation month. During this month they will buy every member of the audience beer for the entire month. Other surprises usually are included as well. Like cake and chocolate mustaches.

Dunk Watkins??

In December 2011, at the suggestion of co-Artistic Director, Louis Kornfeld, Chet Watkins melded with recently disbanded team Dunk to form a team of Megawatt veterans. Karsten Cross, Justin Peters, Lauren Olson and Garrett Palm joined the team for a trial run to see if the two energies melded well together. Garrett left at the end of December to literally travel around the entire world. The remaining "Dunkies" stuck permanently with Chet Watkins. This represents the biggest change in group history as just a couple months earlier Watkins had added John Roukis formerly with the improv group The Imposters, taking in 4 new members in a matter of months.


  • When a specific street name is needed in a Chet Watkins show, the group will frequently default to "Rosemere Road". A reference to the street name where 'Chris Camp' grew up.
  • There are a large amount of scenes and shows that involve Native American characters this is in reference to Jana Schmiedings Native American heritage.
  • It is agreed upon within the group that if someone makes even the slightest motion to trip a character in a scene, John Roukis will fall no matter where he is.
  • Chet Watkins began exploring more fantastical scenes when John Roukis and Karsten Cross started reading the Song of Ice and Fire book series (Game of Thrones).

Honorary Members

Honorary Members are performers that have been invited to perform with Chet Watkins for a limited time (1 show or more) but are not actual members of the group.

Former Members

In October of 2009 Dave Thunder decided to take a hiatus to work on some of his other comedy projects and pursue acting and directing.

Christine Magee also left in Oct. 2009 to devote more time to teaching New York City children in schools as a part of the NYC Teaching Fellows program.

In July 2010, Dave Maulbeck left the group for personal reasons.

In September 2011, Laura Grey and Lizzie Redner left the group to pursue other comedic and non-comedic projects. Laura now performs regularly at UCB and Lizzie now lives and performs in L.A.

In January 2013, Christian Paluck and Jana Schmieding left the group to pursue sketch comedy more heavily. Although the two still perform duo improv together in the form of Big Fat Liars.

In July 2013, Kelly Kreye left the group to return to his homeland (Canada) for an extended time. This departure leaves Chris Camp as the only remaining founding member of Chet Watkins.