On the road with comedian Ian Abramson

Photo: Matt Lief Anderson

Photo: Matt Lief Anderson

Hello, I’m Ian Abramson, and I’m a comedian who was just on the road for a month.

Being on the road means spending the majority of your day waiting around. Very little of it is actually spent performing. If you’re a headliner, doing an hour set, that’s 4% of your day. If you’re getting your standard eight hours of sleep, that’s about a third of your day. This means you spend significantly more time sleeping than you do performing, even though the whole reason you are wherever you may be, is to perform.

I slept on some type of artisanal foam bed. It was so new that I helped my hosts assemble it, and so comfortable I still haven’t gotten up from it.

I performed at comedy clubs, music festivals, dive bars, fancy hotels, music venues, and a slew of locally produced shows. Sometimes the audiences were packed. Once a show was cancelled, due to no one showing up. Sometimes I left the stage feeling I had done very well. One time a lady made sure to tell me that she had been the only person that was laughing.

Every day was either focused on travelling to a new place, or waiting till I got to perform. Because I slept for longer than I was ever on stage, I thought describing where I slept would give a better window into what it's like being on the road as a comedian. At least, what it’s like for me.

Bloomington, Indiana

The club I was performing at put me up in a very nice hotel. By the end of the weekend, I got a little stir crazy, and thought it would be fun to make a video where I put my phone into a plastic bag, and throw it into the pool. What I saw of the video looked very cool, but my phone stopped working mid-playback. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, and I blame cabin fever. I had to travel the next day with no phone, and no idea how to get anywhere.

Atlanta, Georgia

I rented a car so that I could visit a friend who was shooting a TV show an hour away. I paid extra for a GPS because my phone was dead. On the way back to town, a tow truck pulled out, very slowly, into my rental car. Luckily for me, I had gotten the insurance. “Always get the insurance.” Just a little tip from the guy who threw his uninsured phone into a pool. I was not at fault, but this meant I missed a show I was heading to, and checked into a beautiful little boutique hotel very late at night.

Baltimore, Maryland

“Why did you go from Atlanta to Baltimore?” Well, I was supposed to do a comedy festival in New England, but they had to cancel. It didn’t make sense to fly back to LA for such a short stint, so I visited Wham City, some friends who do really cool videos for Adult Swim. Here, I slept in a guest bedroom, on some type of artisanal foam bed. It was so new that I helped my hosts assemble it, and so comfortable I still haven't gotten up from it.

Washington DC

I took the train from Baltimore to our nation's Capitol, and if I was capable of satire, I'd insert it here. I stayed in a hotel, and spent my days exploring weird landmarks with a friend. My favorite was The Mansion on O Street, which is part hotel, and part museum. You explore the different themed rooms and attempt to find its many hidden doors, while also trying to avoid walking into a room occupied by a guest of the hotel. We ended up locking ourselves outside of the allowed area, and had to wait by the pool for someone to find us. I didn't say that I'd killed my phone in a similar pool during a moment of lapsed sanity, as this article is the first time I'm admitting that anywhere at all.

New York, New York

Ah, the city that's awake. I stayed on a friend’s couch, during one of the hottest weeks of the year -- Probably? I'm not gonna substantiate that. It was so hot that when I woke up sweating I wasn't sure if it was from the temperature or the night terrors. One night, on the way to a show, I'd realized I'd forgotten my shock collar. I’m working on a bit where I let an audience member shock me if they don't like a joke. I also forgot that I was wearing a shirt and cargo shorts. I couldn't get back into my friend’s apartment, so I had to skip the collar and buy a new outfit at the nearest thrift store. Lesson learned- start utilizing the cargo pockets of my shorts, and also bring a spare pair of pants so that no one knows I wear cargo shorts.

Kettle Falls, Washington

I knew I could visit my mom just south of the Canadian border before my next show so arranged a show in Spokane, an hour from home. Here I slept in my great grandmother’s bed. It was old, and so was she. I assume, anyway. I never met her.

Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada

Technically, I slept in a town called Whistler, which is known for it’s skiing and mountain biking. The town is so built around tourism that walking around felt like you were at Disneyland, except the mountains were real. I brought my best friend from high school with me so that I didn’t go stir crazy and throw another phone into a body of water. On our way back from the the festival, our rental car blew a tire. We were in the middle of the forest, so it took about 3 hours for a tow truck to help us out. Luckily, again, I had gotten the insurance. Being on the road makes you wise. You learn a lot. The effects water has on state of the art technology, for example.

Portland, Oregon

My final stop. I hung out with a childhood friend. I think it had been about fifteen years since I’d seen him. Our families used to do Christmas together, because both of our dads collected old movie memorabilia. I spent the last day of my tour going to all the spots our dads probably would have gone. We watched some movies, he played me the music he makes now, and then drove me to the airport. All in all, it felt like the end of some bizarre dream I had been having. I guess that sums up the road, though.


Ian Abramson (@ianabramson) is a Los Angeles-based comedian who was recently named "Best Experimental Comedian" by Chicago Magazine and "Best Up-and-Coming Comic" by LA Weekly. He hosts Seven Minutes in Purgatory on Comedy Central and has previously written for The Onion and The AV Club.