Seven Minutes in Purgatory to highlight the awkwardness of stand-up comedy

Ian Abramson
Ian Abramson will host Seven Minutes in Purgatory where comedians perform removed from their audience.

If a comedian makes a joke, but never hears the audience laugh, were they really funny? Seven Minutes in Purgatory (7MiP) is offering Iowa City comedy fans the opportunity to find out. 7MiP is a part of this weekend’s Green Gravel Comedy Festival (Feb. 27-28), and this event will take place on Friday, Feb. 27 at 8:30 p.m. at High Ground Cafe (301 E. Market St.).

7MiP is a show where comedians are asked to perform to a camera in one room, and the audience views the performance from a completely separate room. Comedians have no idea how to gauge the audience’s response to their material, creating a new, fun and sometimes totally weird experience for both parties.

Ian Abramson, the host and creator of the show, loves the way the disconnection affects the comedians and audience.

“The comedians tend to feel real weird, because they don’t know when laughs are happening, and when they are not,” said Abramson. “They’re not sure if an audience is giving them a huge response, or a tiny one. Lots of riffing, which is a lot of fun to watch, because it’s just a comedian alone with their jokes, but still using their active instincts to perform.”

“The audience knows what they’re watching, and they realize they’re part of it,” Abramson continued. “By removing that direct communication, I think audiences feel more connected to the show, because they realize that they are part of the experience. If a comedian stumbles a little bit, they’re still supportive, and enjoy it, because that’s what they sat down to see. Whatever happens, is the fun of it.”

Abramson has performed his experimental stand-up show all over the country, including Atlanta’s Laughing Skull and sold-out shows at UCB Sunset in Los Angeles. Friday’s lineup will include both local and national stand-up comics, and don’t be surprised if the offbeat setting causes the comedians to throw away their more conventional jokes.

“Some comedians like to get more weird, others will spend most of their time describing how weird it feels,” Abramson said. “[Comedian] Kyle Kinane said he felt like he was in a hostage video, and even though he couldn’t hear it, the crowd loved it. It leaves comedians guessing with their pauses, and some of them not leaving as many pauses, and letting the jokes roll over as they’re filling the space”

Tickets for the show cost $7 and can be purchased online. Expect a fun and loose atmosphere as comics and attendees experience a unique and different style of stand-up comedy.

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