Abandoman Interview

Abandoman © Tom Barnes

The Irish improv duo, Abandoman, are taking their hilarious show Life and Rhyme’ which sold out at last year’s Fringe Festival, on a tour of the UK. Kicking off on the 14th of September, the act will combine comedy and freestyle rap to bring you a fictional biopic of the two ‘making it’ as a band in the early 90’s. Georgia Davies got the chance to speak to the man behind the laughs, Rob Broderick, to find out a little bit about what he has in store for the tour.

Hi Rob, how are you?

Hello Georgia, good thanks, how are you doing? I’ve got a slightly crackly voice, I had a show last night and I’m starting to hear the wear and tear of my voice this morning.

Well that’s always a good sign! For those out there who aren’t familiar with Abandoman, how would you describe yourselves as an act?

We are a freestyle, hip-hop comedy act. The whole concept is that we improvise songs based on the audience’s suggestions. The ideas for the show are sourced entirely from the crowd. I think we’re pretty good at asking the audience questions and helping them feel relaxed when responding. The more relaxed they are, the more fun, interesting, weird and original the answers are going to be. Life and Rhymes in particular is a very interactive show and if you like hip-hop and comedy, this is literally the perfect show for you!

Are you excited for tomorrow? The very first date of your tour?

Yes! Hugely. This is a show that we have performed in Edinburgh and also for 45 days in Australia. I love this show. We have been performing free style rap and comedy all over the place for years but this show is kind of a step up. It’s a fictional biopic of us in the 90’s. It has a lot of freestyle rap, lots of improv in there. It’s an epic story set in Ireland which is slightly reflective of the notorious B.I.G. in the 90’s. It also features a lot of Daft Punk. It is such a fun show to do.

I’ve heard somewhere that no two shows will ever be the same. To what extent would you say this is true?

100%. I think the audience sometimes think that by giving us a suggestion we have had before will make it easier for us. It actually makes it so much harder because we literally make up the response in that very moment and we don’t want to repeat ourselves. We don’t want to put our brains into that place where it isn’t creating but it is trying to recall. We push the crowd to be as weird and obscure as possible. It’s little stories and the specific details that always result in great raps.

Abandoman © Tom Barnes

What has been the inspiration for your Life and Rhymes show? Are there any particular comedians or musicians you would give credit to?

Definitely. The biggest influence for me as a comedian was seeing Jason Byrne when I was 17. He was improvising for about 2-3 hours and I was just in awe, I loved it. I loved the freedom he had on stage and the fact he could take the show wherever he wanted blew my mind a little bit. It was also inspiring seeing the way the crowd reacted. I realised that this was an eco-system where they were in charge of what happened on stage. Jason is definitely the biggest influence on my love for improvisation. Watching him opened up my mind to the idea of taking the room in and letting the crowd take charge.

I also remember the first time I listened to hip-hop. When I listened to the likes of Snoop Dog’s first album, I remember being completely blown away by the story telling. It’s funny when I think back to those major influences from my early days and the moments where I would listen to something I think ‘F**k, this is it!’. Around the late 80s and 90s, the majority of hip hop was story-narrative based and that’s the stuff that to this day, I tend to gravitate towards. Our whole show is inspired by that concept.

How did you initially merge the two professions of music and comedy? What came first for you?

Well I was doing some stand-up comedy when I was around 20-24 and had recently moved over from Ireland. It was all improvised and I had absolutely no written material. It was good but it wasn’t great. For years I had been writing hip-hop songs and I wrote a very sad album when I was in my early 20’s which was off the back of a death of a friend and a break-up. I was essentially pursuing both music and comedy from an early age, but I wasn’t linking the two. It wasn’t until about 2007 when I had an audition for a hip-hop musical where I found myself in a room, rehearsing with a number of rappers whom I respected greatly. I remember feeling alive, happy and excited to be freestyling with them. From that point onwards it was a very sudden decision where I was like ‘we done with straight stand-up’.

I saw you have been a big part of Underbelly’s Big Brain Benefit for The Brain Tumour Charity. Well done for helping to raise so much money! How was it working with the likes of Jason Byrne, John Bishop and Ian Stirling?

Yeah, I mean they are all great acts and Jason Byrne, he’s my hero! It was one of those nights where you’re so excited to be on stage but also it is such a lovely thing when you are watching some of your favourite acts beforehand. Funnily enough, I had a moment where I was watching Jason closing the show and I was just amazed. The 17-year-old inside of me was ecstatic. It was so great to see how his standard of work remains some of the best I have ever seen. John was lovely and Ian was hilarious, he was beat-boxing back stage and I’m pretty sure the footage went online afterwards. It was such a pleasure to work with them all but also very scary as there is no room to be bad. The standard is so high.

How did you decide on the venues for this tour? Are there lots of new cities that you haven’t before been to?

Well, we haven’t played at a lot of these venues. Most of the places were chosen because they are just lovely rooms to play in. We met a man called Paul who works for Show and Tell (a company who produce comedy and theatre). We booked a gig with him about a year ago and he ended up introducing us to loads of great venues that we had never been to before. All of these venues are perfect for what we do because there is easy access into the crowd. They are all quite small and intimate but there’s enough room for us to get a good party going.

One of the last cities you’re playing at is Cardiff in Clwb Ifor Bach! It is such a great venue, are you excited to come here?

Yes! This is one of the places that we haven’t done before. We’re really excited. It’s funny because it’s also the one that when we were promoting the tour, I had to admit on camera that I wasn’t quite sure of the exact pronunciation.

And finally, obviously apart from this huge tour you are embarking on, do you have any other projects on the go? Anything we should be looking out for in the future?

Well this year in Edinburgh was the first year that I actually wrote music for a show. ‘The Musical in my Mind’ was half improvised and half written. I just sort of sat down this summer and thought ‘right I’m going to write 8 or 10 songs’ and the show was a joy to do. The writing of music is a very solitary process because you’re working with your own ideas and trusting your instincts. I actually find it harder than freestyling but nonetheless I’m very excited to see what a few years down the line of writing could bring.

So maybe an album could be on the cards?

Yeah, I think so. I do think so.

Abandoman will be performing at Clwb Ifor Bach on the 26th of October.

By Georgia Davies