After a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Irish hip-hop comedy freestyle duo Abandoman take their hit fictional autobiography Life + Rhymes on tour this autumn, looking in at the Comedy Box, Bristol on Friday, October 27.
The year is 1993. After destroying rural Ireland’s talent show circuit, hip-hop improvisers Abandoman are teetering on the edge of international fame. This is their access-all-areas story: the highs, lows and a cast of characters…that changes every night.
“Raucous, expansive and relentlessly hilarious” – The Times
Here’s Abandoman’s Rob Broderick to tell us more.
How did Abandoman come together?
Well, for anyone that hasn’t been to one of our shows before, we’re a comedy act that improvises a lot of songs each night, with a narrative that’s created from audience suggestions. It’s a hip hop and comedy fusion, with every word created for that audience that night.
Strangely, the show’s improvised nature came about entirely due to my inability to remember lyrics. Around 2008, I decided to take a hip hop comedy show to the Brighton Fringe Festival. Initially, I wrote about ten songs. I worked on them for ages but really struggled to remember them.
On the opening night of the show, I was panicking. I had the stage littered with pages of lyrics and a vague idea of how they went. I then got chatting to someone in the audience about their day. Through mild panic, I improvised a song about it. I then repeated this process until the hour was up. At the end of the show, it was a messy but interesting mash-up of chat and freestyle. That’s pretty much how the show started.
Who are your own comedy heroes?
Jason Byrne was a huge comedic inspiration for me. I saw him when I was 17 and was in awe at the way he improvised. I seem to remember him doing about three hours in a university theatre, and pretty much riffing for the entire gig. His ability to be spontaneous and create a kind of chaos in the room was one of the most exciting things I’d seen, and his shows remain some of my favourites these days.
Hip hop and comedy – how did you end up fusing the two?
I’ve always been excited by both. In the 1990s I listened to a lot of Bill Hicks, Chris Rock and political hip hop. There was crossover in content – ultimately it was a lot of people being funny and topical, with hip hop having the added extra of beats behind the words.
I’ve always loved both sides, so it seemed like a natural thing to try to combine them.
What inspired Life + Rhymes?
The show is based on our love of musical biographies – things like Walk The Line and Straight Outta Compton. For this show, we’ve created a fictional world for us and the audience. It’s essentially a fictional biopic, set in Ireland in the 1990s. People in the crowd are referred to as though they were there on this journey with us. It’s a silly construct but it allows the audience to be a bit sillier, as they can place themselves in our backstory if they wish to.
And what can we expect from the show?
A lot of freestyling, some fiery music, including a ceilidh/Skrillex fusion, and an audience that leave the venue as heroes of a story they didn’t know they’d be a part of. Everything is pretty much invented: we have a rivalry with two French exchange students who turn out to be Daft Punk; Terry Wogan’s hip hop show promotes us…
Any remaining ambitions for Abandoman?
Loads. This year I’ve picked up the pen again and written some songs. I took a mostly written show to the Edinburgh Fringe this year: it featured tracks I’d been working on for the past six months, as well as a lot of animation. I’ll be opening up the Abandoman tour with these songs, solo, and then doing our main show. I’m very interested in where the world of writing can take things. I love what Tim Minchin, The Lonely Island and Lin-Manuel Miranda do, I guess I’m hoping to nudge in that direction eventually.
You like to get the audience involved in your improvised shows. Why?
I think that the best improv I’ve seen (again, some of Jason Byrne’s shows from the early 2000s stand out here) create a vibe and environment where anything goes and the audience knows that they’re a part of this. I love being in rooms where the crowd is aware that they’re slightly in control of what’s happening. I think that’s what I’m aiming for: a sort of controlled chaos where the audience can take the gig in any direction they choose.
Abandoman play the Comedy Box at the Hen & Chicken on Friday, October 27. For more info and to book tickets, visit www.thecomedybox.co.uk
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