INTERVIEW: Ian Abramson at the High Plains Comedy Festival
Need a good laugh? Perhaps a good first date? Comedian Ian Abramson will join many others as part of this weekend’s third annual High Plains Comedy Festival presented by Illegal Petes, happening August 20-22. Last night we spoke with Ian about his latest project, 7 Minutes in Purgatory, his past and his upcoming weekend here in Denver.
Tell us about your early stand-up career, how you got into it and what made it appeal to you?
When I was in college I was writing a lot and writing comedy specifically. I read “Born Standing Up” by Steve Martin, his autobiography, and it just floored me. It was just amazing…I really connected with it and I loved the idea of writing your own stuff and then performing it and trying to discover something on stage. It really appealed to me so I started trying it. I moved to Chicago pretty soon after that to try to get better at comedy. I was there for about three years and then I moved to L.A. the first of the year.
Who are some of the comedians that you grew up listening to? How have they impacted your career?
I would say my big influences are Steve Martin, Groucho Marx and Zach Galifianakis. Those are the holy trinity for me. When I was a kid I loved Weird Al. I would also throw Andy Kaufman on that list. They’ve influenced my style in a big way, even Weird Al.
You’ve had great success selling out all over LA since you did “7 Minutes in Purgatory” at South By SouthWest (SXSW), tell us more about the “7 minute” concept.
Sure, for a quick overview of the show – comedians perform to a camera in one room and the audience watches from a separate room. So the comedians have no idea how they’re doing or how the audience is responding. The reason we do that is because I thought that it would be interesting to see how a comedian responded with no feedback. So much in stand-up is responding to the audience in the same way that the audience is responding to you – they’re either laughing or not laughing and you’re taking that in and responding in some way. I wanted to see what we would do when we weren’t able to respond to anything. Does it feel like you’re just bombing? The result is that it feels like some kind of existential crisis. It feels bizarre…a little bit of a nightmare but in a way that I still really enjoy and people have fun with and the audience has fun watching.
Did you create “7 Minutes in Purgatory?” How have other comedians reacted to this style of performing?
I did. One of my favorite times we did was last time I was in Denver. We had a bunch of local Denver comedians on it and it was a blast. It was a great crowd. I started doing it in Chicago and I toured it around a little bit before moving to L.A. and I’ve toured it since then but Denver was the last place I did it before I moved to L.A. actually. Getting to do that and see other comedians that I didn’t know very well to jump in to try this was wonderful. I thought of the idea and then I produced it with a collaborator of mine in Chicago, Matt Byrne. We’ve been doing it for over a year now.
Tell us about your upcoming weekend here in Denver.
What I’m doing on Friday is part of a festival called High Plains (High Plains Comedy Festival). There will be a bunch of different shows. I’m going to be on two or three shows…sometimes people get added to events or moved around. It’s going to be a great weekend. I would encourage everyone to come out to Purgatory or really any of the shows!
What do you enjoy doing when you come to Denver?
The people…getting to hang out with you Denverians….the people of Denver are all absolutely wonderful. A lot of great restaurants….is it called Illegal Petes? I love that place…it’s so good! I’m looking forward to going back.
About Ian Abramson
7 Minutes in Purgatory is one of the most unique shows in the country right now. Madman/genius Ian Abramson makes a stack of GREAT comics perform with soundproof headphones in a room to a camera, while the audience watches the comics squirm and manufacture comedy magic in incredibly strange conditions. Ian did this show last year at Mutiny and it was packed. The audience howled throughout and we had to have Ian back.
Ian just did 7 Minutes at SXSW on the Jumbotron in the Funny or Die venue, and has been selling out all over LA since his “marriage to his career” (he had a real ceremony) that led from his home of Chicago. Simply put, Ian Abramson is the next big thing. Look for him on the new Comedy Dynamics TV show and on the big screen wherevs.