Named Chicago Magazine‘s 2014 Best Experimental Comedian and L.A. Weekly‘s Best Up-and-Coming Comedian of 2015, conceptual absurdist Ian Abramson has worked with The Onion, Funny or Die, Seeso, Hulu, The History Channel and ABC.
His Comedy Central web series 7 Minutes in Purgatory asks comics to perform alone in one room as audiences react to video feed in another location. Before 7 Minutes returns to Moontower this April, Abramson offers comedians — and audience members — advice on getting the most out of the experience.
Go in with a plan. “You can be high-concept, character-based or do whatever elaborate thing you’d like. The plan can also be to go in and riff. The plan I would not suggest is only sticking with your material. Do jokes, but don’t just do your jokes. You’ll probably start to feel like you’re bombing. As a comedian, if you’re bombing sometimes the instinct is to power through, keep doing the jokes, and don’t let them break you. You want to resist that, because your face is blown up and they’re literally seeing you sweat. I would suggest going the other way.”
Explore your surroundings. “Definitely use the space in any way you can. Look what’s around the room and pull that into your set.”
Utilize the camera as a tool. “You’ve got a great, unique opportunity to do something weird there, so be aware how close or far away you are from it. You’re able to see yourself in the viewfinder, so you can make your face really big, or you know if your head’s being cut off. It just lets you know what the audience is seeing, so feel free to play with it accordingly. ”
Acknowledge the audience. “Whatever it is you’re feeling, just state it. That helps you reset, and probably get a laugh. The audience knows what the show is and what’s happening, so they understand and appreciate you reacting to the moment.”
Check out the seating beforehand. “See the crowd, feel it out, and if you have the chance to watch somebody else do it in the room — even if it’s just me hosting — that’s a big help. You can remember the audience is good, supportive and laughing at things.”
Watch 7 Minutes in Purgatory online. “Maria Bamford went in with a great plan and also stayed in the moment. You see her trying out her plan while also riffing. Wham City does a whole elaborate, crazy, weird thing. Theirs has a sketch feel to it, which I love. Those two offer a good range of approaches.
Give credit where credit is due. “As an audience member, make sure to go up and tell the people you liked that you liked them, because they really have no idea.”