This September, Abandoman come to the Cookie with a show that is part comedy, part hip hop, and all improvised based on crowd suggestions. That would be a fairly daunting challenge for most comedians or musicians, so we spoke to Rob Broderick about how it all comes together.
Life + Rhymes is a “fully-improvised hip-hop comedy show” performed by Rob Broderick and Sam Wilson as Abandoman, based around a fictional history of the Irish hip-hop scene in the ‘90s. The audience take on the role of everyone the duo has ever met on their path to hip-hop stardom – “best friends, rivals, family members,” Rob tells me, and suggestions are taken from the crowd about how certain events in their history supposedly went. “Everything is pretty much invented… Nothing is pre-written, but there are a few narrative points I’ve to hit during the show (such as a rivalry with two French exchange students who turn out to be Daft Punk). But that structure is pretty flexible if something comes up that takes us in a different direction.”
Abandoman’s career has followed a pretty unique trajectory, seeing them play small clubs, huge festivals (they’ve headlined comedy stages at every major UK music festival including Glastonbury, Latitude, Bestival, Leeds & Reading) and even a tour supporting Ed Sheeran. “The room size can have a massive impact on the type of gig,” Rob says of playing to such a wide array of crowds. “With the very large numbers, it can feel like there’s a vibe and energy that can be amazing. The drawback is it’s harder to create a feel where everyone in the audience can be a part of the show, or interacted with as individually as we usually do. With the clubs, they’re pretty much the loveliest rooms you can play. My favourites are anything from 100 to 300. It’s easy to get a room to come together and be playful.”
“Those gigs [supporting Ed Sheeran] were great craic. The daunting part came before the first show… at the time, Ed’s audience was probably a bit younger than it is now. That said, once we got out there, it was an absolute joy… There’s a lot more screaming at a concert than a comedy club.” With this in mind, I wondered, how much of the show is based on his real touring experience? “In fairness, not a lot,” he replies. “It’s more based on my love of music biography movies. Straight Outta Compton was set against such an amazing backdrop. The show basically asks, what if it was set in Ireland?”
Abandoman’s shows have garnered them a huge following – their 2014 show, Hot Desk, sold out two years running at one of Edinburgh’s largest Fringe venues, and Life + Rhymes sold an incredible 10,000 tickets last year while receiving a slew of 5-star reviews. They’ve also had sold-out runs at the Adelaide Fringe and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, meaning that Australia gets Abandoman and we get Fosters’ Comedy.
Hardly seems fair.