Ian Abramson Pulls Off a Winning, Weird Debut with The Heist

Comedy Reviews Ian Abramson
Ian Abramson Pulls Off a Winning, Weird Debut with The Heist

Ian Abramson’s debut comedy special The Heist opens with him swallowing fire—not a whole torch, but a match’s worth. It’s an apt metaphor for his comedy, which plays with convention in a way that’s avant-garde and exciting, yet still digestible.

The Heist reels in jaded stand-up fans (me) with its hilarious framing device: Abramson (whose signature look involves a drawn-on mustache) must perform over an hour of comedy in order to distract the audience so some criminals can rob a bank—including one man, Azok (Ian Farley), who appears to be a cyborg. The fast cuts and overly convoluted plan, along with Abramson’s reason for doing the job, make for a silly, entertaining send-up of heist movies. Directors Jay Chapman and Nicholas Veneroso, Abramson, and the rest of the gang (Farley, Matthew Catanzano, and Fard Muhammad) nail it here.

The set proper kicks off with a time travel bit that becomes weirder and weirder (and funnier and funnier) as it wears on. Abramson possesses a baffling and brilliant comedic mind; he turns his jokes upside down then inside out, only to invert them once more. His intricate word play amidst increasing repetition and verbal reshuffling is astoundingly impressive. 

Much of Abramson’s humor lies in one-liners that range from cerebral to goofy. He’s always sure to add in an extra element to keep these short bits engaging for the audience, like when he dons a shock collar and invites a member of the crowd to zap him if they don’t think something’s funny. Abramson also makes time for some longer jokes that don’t always finish strongly, but are inventive and fun enough that those qualities cancel out so-so endings. At one point he gets the audience to read sci-fi movie scenes from cue cards, and later on he does an impression of an auctioneer on his deathbed. Abramson’s lingual gymnastics and penchant for the dramatic really sell the latter, and he gets to show off his thespian flair again when he delivers an impassioned monologue from the perspective of an ATM. He even veers slightly into magician territory as he integrates (supposed) mind reading and various other gags on stage. These moments are joyfully off-the-wall, reminding us that when it comes to Abramson, we should expect the unexpected. 

One of Abramson’s greatest strengths is his sheer commitment. It comes through in his physical comedy, as Abramson does a full-body an impression of a match being lit or an umbrella turning inside out. His devotion to getting a laugh, no matter what the cost, becomes wholly apparent in the show’s closing joke. Yes, he does things that are attention grabbing, but they’re more than cheap tricks; these bits are a testament to Abramson’s riotous sense of humor and willingness to give his all to the moment. 

Abramson packs as many jokes as possible into The Heist, including during the credits, which are worth sticking around for. He’s the type of idiosyncratic comedian who deserves his own Adult Swim show, but for now, Abramson’s delightfully absurd debut special serves up more than enough laughs. 

The Heist is available to purchase on Prime Video and Apple TV.

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.

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