Life of rhyme as hip hop comedy stars Abandoman bring beats to Norwich’s Laugh in the Park
PUBLISHED: 09:22 26 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:22 26 July 2017
Ireland’s top comedy hip-hop improv team — OK, maybe Ireland’s only comedy hip-hop improv team — Abandoman will be mixing beats, rhymes and laughs at Norwich’s comedy festival.
Rapper/comedian Rob Broderick and musician/vocalist Sam Wilson, have won a string of awards for their hilarious shows that sees them take audience suggestions to turn them into hip-hop tracks, often parodying stars like Jay Z and Kayne West, will be at Laugh in the Park.
They will be performing at the Norwich festival in Chapelfield Gardens tonight with headliner Hal Cruttenden, Tiff Stevenson and David Morgan.
It’s the first of four nights of comedy that continues on Friday with headliner Mark Watson, together with Ian Stone, Jonny & The Baptists and Damian Clark; while Terry Alderton tops the bill on July 29, with Sean Collins, Ninia Benjamin and John Mann. Sunday night’s finale features Russell Kane, The Noise Next Door, Jeff Innocent and Tim Fitzhigham.
With Abandoman also set to bring their solo show Life + Rhymes to Norwich Arts Centre in September, Rob tells us more…
You merge comedy and hip-hop using audience suggestions. What can we expect at Laugh in the Park?
Lots of fun. We build an entire narrative so the show becomes its own space and time. People in the crowd we fictionalise to become characters. By the end of that you are not only seeing a lot of freestyle rap you come on a crazy journey and the crowd starts to realise that they control that and it tends to get a little crazier.
So it’s not just jokes but real songs and stories?
Yes. It’s not just ‘give us a word’ or ‘give us a subject’, it is more us chatting to people and asking them interesting things about their lives. What I like is that every suggestion we receive has an element of investment behind it. It is the things that have annoyed people or the adversities they’ve faced or what was the last rule they broke?
Improv comedy sounds hard enough but you have to make it rhyme too. What’s the hardest thing to turn into funny wordplay?
The hardest thing is to get a narrative to the rhymes. With freestyle rapping you can go off in any direction but for us it’s about getting a suggestion from someone in the audience, developing it into a story within the song and resolving it within the song, plus making it funny. And sometimes we’re trying to do that with three different people within the one track. That needs to be in the middle of the show though, when I’m warmed up enough but before I slump. Names can be tricky. If I ask ‘what’s your name’ and I get 12 consonants it is not going to be easy and I may get laughs of derision as I attempt it. We went to Norway a while ago and the audience’s favourite thing was just hearing me trying to put their names in rhyme format. But really whatever suggestions come is good. It is like surfing, just riding it and seeing where it takes you.
Is there any subject where you just think this going nowhere to be funny?
Not really because it’s my job to tease something out. None of the questions I ask are like Who Wants To Be Millionaire, it’s not right or wrong, there is always something there to work with. It’s about relaxing people into being playful and silly.
You have great fun playing with hip-hop styles too?
We have a go at anything. I broke my knee attempting a Skrillex cèilidh track in front of a huge crowd in Melbourne. We had a frenetic beat going, I was a bit giddy, jumped in the air and came down and smashed my knee. So now I’m wary of sonic styles that are too aggressive. The thing I adore about hip hop is that it is so based on samples and being magpies stealing from lots of musical genres. We are trying to embrace that.
What’s the most unlikely you’ve attempted?
We looked at the most punk track by Kanye, big aggressive, tribal drum sounds and tried rapping over that recently, but it was actually too easy. When the beat is that heavy you don’t have to do every much for it to sound good, but it’s about finding something you can have fun with. Like that Skrillex cèilidh track, which is all wild fiddles and big bass lines, like a modern Irish rebel drinking song. It’s really silly.
How did you come to merge hip-hop and comedy?
I was a rapper as a kid, obviously at a very low level because I cannot claim that Ireland had a huge hip hop scene; there were about 12 of us. When I moved over here I continued but was also doing stand-up comedy at night. Then I got an audition for a hip hop musical that was going to star Soweto Kinch and Bashy. My audition content was very playful so after the tour of that show when I went back to stand-up I merged the two. Even when I was doing stand-up I’d always just improvised, but I’d never had anywhere to go with it. Now I thought hang on I can build it towards songs.
Are you a scholar of the history of hip-hop?
I turned my university degree into a hip-hop degree basically so maybe. I was doing semiotics and I wrote about Snoop Dogg’s album covers. The one thing I’d have loved, but we didn’t have in Ireland, was MCs freestyling on the street. When I went to America I found myself looking around corners hoping to see it. I was like the hip-hop Attenborough, trying to finding rappers in their native habit.
You’ve supported Ed Sheeran. How did that come about?
We met shortly before he became huge. He came to a comedy show I was doing. His cousin Murray is a comedian. Then a hip hop producer introduced us and we did a show in Brighton together. I’ve never seen a man more relaxed walking out in front of those huge crowds. For us it was slightly different playing to 5,000 instead of 500 in a comedy club.
• Laugh in the Park, Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich, July 27-30, £22 adv/£25 door, 01603 508050, www.redcardcomedyclub.com
• Abandoman: Life + Rhymes will be at Norwich Arts Centre on September 28, 8pm, £13 (£11 cons), 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk