Abandoman Interview

If you had to describe Abandoman in two words, it would be ‘infectious enthusiasm’. If you had to describe them in six, it would be ‘Irish Hip Hop improvised comedy legends’.

Six years after they last played the Nottingham Glee Club, one of comedy’s most unique acts is back with a new show, LIFE + RHYMES. Fresh from a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival and supporting none other than Ed Sheeran on tour, Abandoman come to the Glee Club on the 3rd October. Frontman Rob Broderick told Impact Magazine what the show is about.

“The show Abandoman is a free-style Hip Hop comedy show. All the songs are built on audience suggestions. This show, ‘LIFE + RHYMES’ is kind of a fictional biopic, set in the 90s, and the idea that everyone in the crowd is somebody that we bumped into in a fictional timeline when Abandoman was huge in the 90s. Essentially, try to mirror the Tupac and Notorious BIG story, but set in rural Ireland. It’s very, very silly, quite rave-y and not a typical comedy show. However many people are in the room, the whole room is part of this show and heroes rise from the crowd in a nice way. You see people getting more confident throughout the course of the show. So it’s a very organic and silly Hip Hop comedy show. I can comfortably say that LIFE+RHYMES is the best show we’ve done, I really like it.”

Promotional photo for Abandoman.

Impact: One of your biggest things is ‘what’s in your pocket?’ where you ask audience members to show you the contents of their pockets for you to freestyle about. What are the strangest things people have had in their pockets?

“The weirdest things often aren’t in pockets. My favourite show we ever did was Hogmanay in Scotland. Four soldiers came through. It sounds dark but what they were doing was celebrating. One of them had lost his leg in Afghanistan five years before. He loved fish so that day they got an entire leg literally done as an aquarium. Literally on every song that night that man detached his leg and threw it to me to rap about.

I think most of the show was based on that man’s prosthetic limb and it was one of the loveliest shows we’ve ever had. Without a doubt that’s the weirdest.  The one I was the most worried about was that we were at Bestival a few years ago and someone came with their tiny, six week-old baby. I really wanted to go, ‘I’m a man skipping around hundreds of people, you don’t want to trust me with a tiny child.’ It stressed me out so much. Those are the top two so far.”

Impact: Do you pre-prepare for wherever you’re going, to see what rhymes with the place name, or is it all completely off the cuff?

“No, and maybe I should. I do a remarkable lack of research. I did a gig in Preston once and thought it was on the Metropolitan Line in London. I got a call on the day from the booker saying ‘have you set off?’ and I told them that I lived twenty minutes from the venue. Then they told me that Preston is just above Manchester.

To be honest, the joy of the show is that it’s related to the people in the room. I like being surprised. It’s so specific to the room, it’s not so much the area. In fairness, we warm up a lot backstage for half an hour, just to get our heads warmed up. But to date we have never prepared, maybe we should. To date we have not been on Wikipedia on our way to the show.”

Promotional photo for Abandoman.

Impact: Do you have any memories of playing Nottingham before?

“We’ve had a few lovely gigs in Nottingham. One of my favourites is that we played the Glee club in its first couple of weeks being open. It was just one of those weekends when you’re on a bill where every comedian is a good person. They were all people I would want to hang out with afterwards, crowds were insanely good. We had a lovely time there, I really like Nottingham. When everybody has a good energy it can be a lovely weekend. I like that space, it’s a beautiful space.”

Impact: What is the strangest gig you’ve done?

“I was asked to do a wedding. On the day I’d been told that straight after the speeches, it is time for Abandoman. I’m peaking in the room, lovely couple etc. It gets to the best man who was the groom’s brother. And he goes ‘as you all know, no one expected me to be here today, we all thought I’d be dead. Until three weeks ago, I was in a coma. While I was there, my brother sat beside me for about four months, left his job and came and talked to me. That’s the reason I pulled through this coma.’ He started crying, we all started crying. I had to leave the room I had tears welling up. And then he goes ‘anyway, that’s my story. Ladies and Gentlemen, the comedy!’ Out I come, and I had to acknowledge that the room is 100% crying at the moment and there’d never been a more inappropriate time for comedy. Maybe 300 people literally sobbing into their napkins.”

“There’s nothing I don’t enjoy [to rhyme]”

Impact: I know that you’ve supported music acts like Ed Sheeran, is playing to a music crowds a different experience?

“Yeah I really enjoy the music clubs. The deal is in comedy clubs you’re there to listen, whereas at music you’re there to be a bit more vocally excited. When you go from one to the other you do get a huge change of energy. The reaction isn’t always only laughter, it’s often guttural noises which in a comedy club you’d be thrown out for making. The other thing is, sometimes music gigs skew a lot younger. Sometimes at a music show people will come up to us and say it’s the first time they’ve seen comedy live. So this is something truly unique for this crowd. They tend to be lovely gigs.”

Impact: What are your least favourite words to have to rhyme?

“There’s nothing I don’t enjoy. The only thing that is hard is terms that are easy to forget. If I ask someone where they work and they say ‘MECQ’ and you ask what it stands for and it’s…whatever it is. Long acronyms your brain attempts to grab onto but it’s almost too many random words tumbling together. They’re the hardest. It’s not to rhyme them, it’s to retain them.

We had a funny gig where we played Norway a few years ago and the only bit that was hard, was that all their lives – grand. All their stories – grand. And then I’d ask ‘what’s your name?’ and it would be a collection of syllables that I had never heard strung together before. The hard part of the show was retaining these sounds that were their names. Whenever I tried to do their names, they were the biggest laughs of the show.”

“My secret passions were Hip Hop and Stand up so it brought the two together nicely.”

Impact: You’re a very unique act, what was the inspiration behind Abandoman originally?

“I was always free styling as a kid. I liked rap from a very young age. Being Irish in the early 90s there wasn’t a lot of Hip Hop on the radio, so a lot of it was quite isolated. First Wu Tan album, Snoop’s first album, all that around ’93. Over the years I free styled, I was also doing comedy I was a stand up comedian, and I went for an audition in 2008 for a Hip Hop theatre show with a lot of people who were MOBO award winners, we wrote the show through free styling. We spent a lot of time rapping with people I respected. When I left that tour I knew this was me.

I knew I loved Hip Hop, I’d written a Hip Hop album in 2001ish but after that tour I knew that was me. I thought I’d try to bring Hip Hop to the comedy world. I then wrote a show, couldn’t remember the lyrics on the first night so I just free styled. It sounds more casual than it was, it was terrifying. It took about a year and a half for it all to make sense. At the beginning all my songs were about twenty minutes long, they were like Homer’s poems, ridiculous Odysseys.

It then got refined over the years. It was an amalgamation of everything I loved, I just really loved Hip Hop. When I told people I was doing a rap show you could hear the confusion in their voices. I’d tell people I had this improvised rap show and they’d say ‘that sounds terrible’. But they’d book it and it did well. My secret passions were Hip Hop and Stand up so it brought the two together nicely.”

LIFE + RHYMES with be at the Nottingham Glee Club on the 3rd October. You can get tickets at www.glee.co.uk

Ben Baruch

Featured image and article image courtesy of Tom Barnes.

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