- 28 Aug 18
Improvisational hip-hop comic Abandoman, aka Rob Broderick, has earned a loyal cult following for his ingenious live performances.
When Hot Press catches up with Ireland’s greatest hip-hop comic Abandoman, aka Rob Broderick, he’s in the midst of Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Playing 25 days of shows, the stress is getting to him.
“It’s great but intense,” he says. “Usually if you do a tough show, you won’t see the venue again for a year. In Edinburgh, you have a bumpy show and you’re back in 23 hours to do the exact same thing again.”
Since winning Hackney Empire New Act of Year in 2010, Broderick has supported Ed Sheeran, played gigs worldwide and appeared on high-profile shows such as 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown. How did the Dublin born comic become interested in rap?
“I was 13 in the Gaeltacht,” he explains. “An older kid was listening to Ice-T at a time when hip-hop wasn’t played on radio. Hearing the Tarantino-esque narratives and charisma of ‘6 ‘N The Mornin’’ or Snoop Dogg’s ‘Doggystyle’ made me lose my mind. I thought they were the best thing I ever heard.”
The comic never lost that interest in rap, with Broderick recalling seeking out NWA bootlegs. However, hip-hop wasn’t always the plan when he first tried cracking the entertainment industry. After internships at FM104 and Newstalk, at 25, Broderick moved to London to make a living as a more traditional stand-up.
He improvised his way into the final of the So You Think You’re Funny competition at Edinburgh Fringe 2005. However, even then, breaking into comedy was difficult.
“There were a lot of wilderness years,” he reflects. “For five years I was an open miker. It was hard. However, that period let me try different things, experiment, hone my skills and find out what I enjoyed doing.” Broderick’s passion for hip-hop was reignited after nabbing a part in a show written entirely through freestyle. For a year-and-a-half, the comic travelled and performed with London grimester Bashy and Hollywood actor Delroy Lindo.
“Our warm-up process was standing in a circle for 30 minutes to an hour freestyling before we even went on stage.”
At the same time, the comic was performing more conventional improv.
“I had rapping in one world and stand-up in another,” says Broderick. “Then I realised, ‘I riff anyway. It needs somewhere to go, pop a song in there.’ Suddenly the improv had a destination and it took in the two things I loved.”
Broderick was also inspired by fellow musical stand-ups Reggie Watts and Tim Minchin, whose sets he saw during his first Edinburgh Fringe. “Any comic I’d seen beforehand was a comedian first and a musician second,” he notes. “With them, you forget you’re at a comedy show. Then when the punchline drops, you’re snapped back.”
For Broderick, hip-hop intersects with comedy.
“Both are verbal and about speaking directly. In freestyle fights, jokes are at a premium. If you drop one in a song – like Biggie, Ice Cube and Kanye do – that wittiness gets a response live. Also, hip-hop is commentary and storytelling. That’s what the best stand-up is. The two are in sync.”
Eighteen months after touring as Abandoman and convincing sceptics to book him, Broderick won the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year: “The diary suddenly filled up. I’ve been touring since.”
As Abandoman, Broderick on stage relies heavily on audiences for inspiration.
“The niche is that everything created is based on people in the room. For example, at the Fringe, I’ve asked audience members things like, ‘What’s something you lost recently?’. Last night they’d bought a salmon in Sainsbury’s but their bag broke. That became a sort of Drake style autotune song, with me playing the fish saying ‘goodbye’ to them. (Laughs) It was super-emotional.”
Having performed with Ed Sheeran before he blew up, the comedian was asked to support the singer on an early major tour.
“The thing that we didn’t expect was that for Ed’s first album, his audience was teenagers,” he recalls. “The classic question every comic asks is, ‘What do you do for a living?’ But when they’re all 16 you can’t do that.
“We replaced a section of the show with a giant Connect Four. We called Hasboro and got a massive version of the game. We’d roll it out and I would battle someone in the crowd as I also played against them. The premise was taking the hyper-aggressive atmosphere of freestyle fighting and placing it into the Connect Four world.”
The stress of the Fringe festival has Broderick eager to return to Portlaoise this September.
“Every comic thinks this: when you play Electric Picnic after Edinburgh Fringe, it’s the most relaxing thing. The interactions between comic and crowd in Ireland are chattier and more fun.”
What should audiences attending Electric Picnic expect from Broderick’s set?
“I think as a hip-hop comedy show, it travels between the big genres of rap now,” he says. “There’s EDM and trap; there’s that slow-jam, autotune vocal Drake is perfecting; there’s reggae tunes. It’s a snapshot of what I love, all based on narratives provided by the crowd.”
For those not attending EP, Abandoman is embarking on a tour that sees him perform at Dublin’s Sugar Club on November 29, which is guaranteed to be another night of improvisational brilliance.