by Joanna Orland

Abandoman is a very unique and talented breakthrough improvised hip hop comedy duo. Man, that was a mouthful. Fronted by quick-witted Irish charmer Rob Broderick on the freestylin’ vocals, and strongly supported by guitar virtuoso James Hancox, the duo are no strangers to the festival circuit and were more than happy to have a chat with me at Apple Cart Festival in Victoria Park, London.

I was going to completely overlook the fact that I actually know Rob outside of Abandoman and approach this interview as completely unbiased. As a disclaimer, I feel it’s more appropriate to lay it all out on the table. I know Rob through a longform improv course we’ve been doing recently with teacher David Shore of Monkey Toast. Rob is clearly a master of improv, as I’ve had the luxury to witness in class. I had no idea about his life outside of class and only happened to come across his act on the Apple Cart Festival bill as the Comedy Tent headliners. Wow, I feel naïve – thank goodness I made this discovery as it was so fantastic to see Abandoman in action!

During the Apple Cart set, Abandoman graced the stage with support from a full band to pad out their usual duo of Rob on vocals and James on guitar. If you’ve not seen Abandoman in action, check out this video of them rapping (about our old name “Loose Lips, Hot Gossip”) so you know how awesome they are:

They are super cool. I am a dork.

They begin their usual set with a show-stealing “warm-up” exercise entitled “What’s In Your Pocket?” where they get the audience members to hold up oddities which they gather from within their pockets and handbags while Rob spontaneously goes around improv rapping about some of the various items. According to Rob, since they’ve gathered a following over the past year or so, some people come to the show with prepared goods to hold up. The weirdest that Rob has ever encountered was from a man who worked in medicine and who’d brought a dead mouse in formaldehyde for Rob to rap about. The most inappropriate item came from a stag do when the groom-to-be’s mates gave Rob his prosthetic leg!

Rob with an audience member

Better oddities than hostility. Abandoman is an act that greatly depends on audience participation as the songs are about YOU, the audience member! Rob sees this participation not only as inspiration for his material, but a chance for the audience to help create and see their ideas come to life! This is merely a part of what keeps their audience coming back for more. Rob’s sharp witticisms through his fluid way with words is impressive to say the least. He must think at least 3 sentences ahead of himself at all times to get out these clever rhymes that are actually in context! I can barely rhyme a one-syllable word, let alone couplet after couplet.

Rob grew up in Dublin, where the hip hop scene was less than prominent. He found his niche in spite of the lack of mainstream availability and took inspiration from some of his rap heroes, but is adamant about the fact that his rap likes are different to his influences.

For an Irish improv hip hop comedy act, Abandoman is quite the startling name. Nothing shocking about it, it’s just a bit offbeat. In fact, so offbeat, people often mistake it for “Abandoned Men” or “Abandonment” as someone wrote on the Apple Cart comedy tent listing. Rob and James had entered the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year 2010 competition (which they went on to win) and needed a name. They came up with some even odder rejects which included “The Jazz Pandas” for one, before settling for “Abandoman” which comes from “A Band Of Man” – of one man band beginnings.

Well, as odd and complicated as the name may be, it’s still better than the former (JAZZ PANDAS??? Really???), and soon everyone across the nation will know it, and be able to spell it without that extra “N”.

One Word to sum up Abandoman? “Fluidity”. Considering that just rolled off Rob’s tongue, who am I to argue?

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