“Egalitarian hornyman” Rob Delaney
With a rep as the “funniest man on Twitter” (and almost half a million followers), Rob Delaney’s the master of exploiting the short form, wrenching the maximum possible humour out of a mere 140 characters. He’s also a uniquely sensitive and enlightened comic who self-identifies as a feminist and refuses to bow down to the lowest common denominator, striving for jokes that are inclusive rather than alienating.
Leading up to his first visit to Montreal, where he will stand and deliver at Just for Laughs, this delicious piece of man meat talks to me about writing comedy for Twitter, Vice magazine and stand-up and the tremendous value of laughter as medicine.
Emily Raine: A lot of people mostly know your comedy through Twitter. Is your stand-up different than the jokes you post there?
Rob Delaney: Pretty different. On Twitter, I just say whatever — I speak in sort of different characters and voices and such — and in stand-up, I’m me. Although the content is my own original thoughts and all that stuff, it sort of adheres to the template of one human person talking into a microphone and telling you what they really think and feel. It’s maybe a little bit less esoteric or wacky than my Twitter.
ER: You sometimes write for Vice magazine, which struck me as kind of a bizarre match-up. The Good Men Project describes you as an “egalitarian hornyman,” and you managed to maintain that voice in a way that was very dissimilar to the tone of a lot of the stuff that ends up on Vice.
RD: Well, thanks for saying that, y’know? There’s this silly debate between alternative comedy and club comedy, but then the amazing comedians, like Patton Oswalt or Maria Bamford will say if it’s funny in L.A. and it’s not funny in Kansas City, then it’s not funny. It has to be funny both places. So something that’s funny to a group of men but is not funny to a group of women, then it’s not funny. I want everybody — gay, straight, male, female, whatever colour, class, shape, sexual preference—I want everybody to laugh together, and I think that those jokes that make everybody laugh to me are much, much funnier. I want everybody to be able to laugh and get grossed out and to have fun together.
ER: Does doing comedy that way have a political dimension, or is it a personal choice?
RD: No, it’s literally a utilitarian thing. I just want to be as funny as possible. I was at a dinner with some non-comedian friends last night, and they were asking me about my favourite comedian. I change my mind a lot, but for the moment I’d say it’s Richard Pryor. This guy, his ability to play multiple characters, go through autobiographical stuff, talk about biting social stuff, introspection, it was amazing, but he was also a joyful, happy performer. He was like a symphony contained in one body. I want to be the best that I can possibly be — and I know that you can’t please everybody, that’s not possible — but I do try to do stuff that cuts across the most stuff that the largest group of people can be like, “I identify with that,” just because I think it’s funniest. I want people to laugh as loud and as long and as hard and as crazily as possible. That’s my goal.
ER: You’ve been very open in the past about different struggles you’ve faced, including substance abuse and depression, and how comedy helped you to move on. Do you think that informs your approach?
RD: Yeah, I’m sure it does, because I’m not afraid of audiences’ silence. Having been through the stuff that I’ve been through, for example in a wheelchair and in jail, if an audience doesn’t laugh, I don’t care, you know? I mean, I care, but I’m not going to quake in terror, I’m going to make them laugh. I just feel like I’ve got this higher state thing. And, having been through some difficult times, like everybody has, and survived them, I realize the medical importance of racking, full-body laughter. That you’ve got to do it to stay alive.
ER: How do you find the “funniest man on Twitter” handle?
RD: It’s great! I was very honoured. I know it’s inherently a silly thing. I mean, you’re on your computer or your phone seeing these jokes scroll by, so it’s a newfangled, silly thing, but if people want to read my jokes on that newfangled silly thing, then I’m flattered. And I’m very grateful for what Twitter has afforded me, because it’s been a lot. I’m a fan.
ER: It’s impressive how fresh you’ve kept it, and for how long.
RD: Oh thanks. I find new stuff just organically. Lately I’ve been bugging Walmart on Twitter. I just try to find some things to do to keep it fresh.
@robdelaney says things like:
- “The story of the Titanic speaks to me because I once tripped over a bag of ice at a party & then killed over 1,500 people.”
- “Twitter > Google due to the human element. If I ask a question on Twitter, I get the answer PLUS thirty people calling me a faggot.”
- “Cats probably wouldn’t need 9 lives if they wore tiny little helmets and didn’t smoke cigarettes.”
- “Don’t shit where you eat. Unless you’re a starfish, whose mouth is also its anus. In that case, freak out, little monster.” ■
See Rob Delaney at Café Cléopatre (1230 St-Laurent) as part of Just for Laughs, from July 25 – 28, 10:30 p.m., $19