Rob Delaney on Twitter fame, his new book, comedy and boobs
Rob Delaney is pretty famous. But he didn’t get there by following the career trajectory that most successful working comedians had to take. Delaney became famous through his Twitter account, where you can find the 36-year-old doling out sharply witty jokes and morsels of irreverent, ironic social commentary in 140 characters or less. Delaney is capable of being funny in long-form as well, however, as is evidenced by his just released book “Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.” The book is part memoir, part rambling musings, and all funny. We got Delaney on the line to talk about the weird world of Twitter, the pains of standup…and boobs.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to be funny every time you tweet?
I mean, I like to be funny, but I wouldn’t probably call it pressure because — wait, let me rephrase that. Yes, I do feel pressure to be funny, which I enjoy, because I like pressure. You know, I’m one of those people that enjoy deadlines. I enjoy 140-character constraints, I enjoy going onto stage in front of hostile people. I am damaged or tanked in whatever way makes me want to do those things. For better or for worse.
Well, as far as audiences go, the Twitter audience — or the Internet audience in general — is just about as hostile as it gets. How have you inured yourself to any haters on Twitter?
I’ve developed thick skin. I like to think about it as a positive. Nobody wants to have people say bad things about them, but it’s a good idea to get desensitized to it if you want to have a career in the public. Because there is a measure of truth to the fact,well, that it’s indicative of you having some success, you know? Obviously there are people who receive criticism where it’s warranted — I can say with confidence that sometimes I deserve criticism that I get. I just try to not stress about it. It’s just good that you’re able to roll with it. And it helps you onstage too.
When you first started building your Twitter following, can you remember one particularly vicious tweet that did unsettle you, before you developed a thick skin?
No, because I had done enough stand-up, you know, where people have not laughed at jokes. There is nothing — nobody can say something to me online —that is as bad as people not laughing when I’m right there in front of them. Because laughter is involuntary, as is not laughing. You know, that they’re just on a molecular level thinking, ‘I did not enjoy that last thing you just said.’ Stand-up and Twitter do sort of dovetail nicely into a thing that helps you thicken your skin. It’s not good for normal people, being on Twitter and having people scream at you, if that’s not your profession. So I feel bad for civilians, that this isn’t their job and theyr’e getting vicious comments sent to them. When people send mean things to me, I could not care less.
So you’d say that getting a positive response from a live audience is a lot more gratifying than people responding well to the things you tweet?
Oh absolutely, without a question. Not even apples and oranges. Its like rotten apples and an amazing day at Caesar’s Palace, from a Michelin blimp or something.
How do writing for the Internet, writing for stand-up and writing a book differ from each other— how do you wear all those hats?
Well, Twitter is very offhand. Whatever turd is rolling through your mind. I put no thought or prep into Twitter. For stand-up I work painstakingly over months and years to create stories and anecdotes and moods and presentation, Writing for the Internet, if it’s Twitter, it’s just bon mots of political and pop culture observations. And onstage, I mean I’m really working to create a visceral experience for the audience that demands that they stare at it and listen intently, forces them to laugh. It’s physical, and a much stronger connection.
I feel like there’s this thing happening right now where there are all these people who are Twitter-famous — they’re not famous people, they’re just random people — that have this very particular voice and are hilarious. Do you think that this is the new wave of comedy?
Yeah, because those people may not have had the outlet before, or wanted to move to New York City or L.A. or London, but they’re still definitely hilarious. So it’s a nice democratic aspect of Twitter that allows us to discover those people. I love how weird they all are. It makes me laugh a lot.
Looking back through your career thus far, what’s the worst thing that you have ever happened to you onstage?
I don’t know. Well, a woman flashed me, at a show at a bar.
A woman flashing you is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
That’s not the worst. But its stands out in my memory because she was drunk, she walked off the street and up to the stage, and just flashed her boobs at me and the audience, and it was like, ‘I like boobs and I want to see boobs,’ but that was so distracting. The audience was like, ‘hey, boobs!’ and it just took the show totally off the rails.
I kind of imagine drunk, off-the-street boobs as not being so nice. Was she young?
You know, I don’t even remember. She was definitely drunk. Also when you see boobs, for me at least, I want it to be in a psychologically healthy situation where everybody is happy and healthy. So, I think her boobs might have been nice, but you could tell psychologically there were issues that made it hard to look past that and enjoy them.
Speaking of boobs, what do you think was a more nerve-racking experience — doing stand-up for the first time or having sex for the first time?
Doing stand-up because, losing my virginity, it was with my girlfriend. It was kind of pleasant and a safe space, amiable and friendly. And doing stand-up was like, ‘what if they don’t like me?’ Like, probably my girlfriend liked me, but these people are like, ‘make me laugh, jerk!’ Whereas, my girlfriend would try and stifle her laughter every time we had sex.
Rob Delaney makes stops in New York and Boston in support of his new book this week.
If you go:
Wednesday, 6 p.m.
37 Main St., Brooklyn
Thursday, 6 p.m.
Middle East Downstairs
480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
$30 for one ticket/copy of the book
$50 for two tickets/copy of the book