Talking to Rob Delaney About His New Special, Twitter, Fatherhood, Standup and More
If you’re like me, you experience the daily state of joy that comes with reading Rob Delaney’s ludicrous Tweets. With recent gems likes “@WebMd girls have 2 butts?” Rob provides his Twitter following of over six-hundred thousand with relief from a world filled with the unfortunate popularity of people like Kim Kardashian. He was the first person to ever receive the title “Funniest Person on Twitter” and recently released his stand-up special online, Rob Delaney Live at the Bowery Ballroom. I had the pleasure of talking with him about being a dad, the impact that internet popularity has made on his stand-up routine, and what he would actually say to Mitt Romney face-to-face.
Congrats on the success of your standup special. One of my favorite things that I walked away with was the word “aqua-plop.”
Thank you very much.
Unlike a lot of comedians who have released a special online in the past, you haven’t had as much T.V. presence. Was that a concern that you had?
Oh, sure! I was very aware of the fact that I had nowhere near the stature of anybody else who has done this. The only thing that made me think that it could work is that tickets for my live shows – despite my close to no television experience – suggested that this move would justify itself, you know? Because being able to sell out shows in New York, Philadelphia, London, Austin… I thought, “Well, if I charge way less than the price of a live ticket… maybe it will work out.”
Absolutely. I like that you created such a large fan base so organically from twitter. Your tweets are hilarious but they’re not joke-jokes, more like asides all in your voice. How did you develop your twitter voice?
I did try to always have it be funny. I know that might sound obvious, but a lot of people will do stuff like communicate with their friends and be like, “Hey, do you want to get a burrito later?” Or say like, “Oh traffic on the 405 is the worst.” And that’s a terrible thing to do if people have voluntarily signed up to read stuff from you. I feel like it’s your responsibility as a comedian to be funny. Or at least entertaining, or a distant third – informative. Talk about things that people might care about. So, out of the gate I did try to give people a good bang for their buck, except there was no buck.
The buck turned out to be your huge following.
Yeah, the buck arrived a lot later, but I did try to be respectful of the fact that people could un-follow me at any moment. So I tried to give them stuff they would be glad they read. I did try to be cognizant of that fact from the beginning. Maybe a little more so than other people who might have used it to “socially network” – I tried to use it to just entertain.
Do you find now that you are thinking in tweets when you observe things?
Yeah, sometimes. You know, I’ll identify something that could be a good tweet.
Do you keep an ongoing notebook or are you compulsively on your phone or by a computer?
No, I generally just think it and tweet it. Anything that I can’t figure out and then hit “save as a draft,” very, very rarely do I ever figure out how to use it. Whereas some people’s draft folders might have funny stuff in it, my draft folder is utter garbage that I don’t know how to make work.
What is the story behind your profile picture?
That’s a bathing suit that I do genuinely own but I only wear under my wetsuit when I swim in the ocean in the winter. And I live near the beach, so I actually do that with some regularity. I know that it’s disgusting and I don’t just parade around in it like a monster. I hide it. The way that it should be hidden. But in that intimate moment when I was about to get into my wetsuit, my friend said, “Hey, can I take a picture?” And I said, “Of course!” And then when I joined twitter, you know, I thought… At the beginning I thought twitter was just silly; I should use the worst photograph that I have of myself. So I did.
I really like when you contrive celebrities’ or politicians’ re-tweets. Have you ever received any backlash from that?
Not really. No. [Laughs] Short answer…
How far are you willing to go for the sake of the joke? I was reading an article about how you were planning to sue Kim Kardashian. If all of your fans were behind that and really were expecting you to do it, would you ever take it that far?
You know, no I wouldn’t. Here’s why. She and her ilk are not worth my time. I care more about my life and my family, so I wouldn’t. I mean the worst thing in the world for anybody to be on either side of – whether plaintiff or defendant or whatever – is a lawsuit. Lawsuits are for terrible people. So I would never get involved in something like that for the sake of a joke. But I would do something incendiary and bizarre and weird. As long as it only took a second to do. I would tell a joke that might upset people on stage – sure. Or send a tweet that would upset people. But to actually involve a lawsuit in my life voluntarily? No. Never.
How has being a father changed you?
A lot. It’s made my life much better and richer and happier. And I care more about the things that I care about. I care less about the things that I don’t care about. So, I think it has sort of sharpened me. And also raising a family takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. And I think that’s good for comedy, because then what energy you have left, you have to focus like a laser beam. So, parenthood I have found to be really wonderful – A, just as a person – and then B, as a comedian. Very happy that I’m a dad.
Do you feel any pressure of raising a human being?
Yeah, it’s the greatest responsibility there is, so certainly I just try to let my heart be my guide. And presence is a huge ingredient. I mean, being there with your child. Being in your kid’s face. Logging time seems to be the most important thing, especially of a very young child. So I just want to be there as much as I can. Because I know I’ll make mistakes. I already have and I’ll continue to. All parents do. I try not to torture myself too much, but I do sometimes. He fell down the other day and there was nothing I could do about it. You know? He’s very fit and adroit and smart and spatially aware. But he’s one and a half, so he doesn’t know everything. So anyway, he fell down the other day and I was trying to achieve flight across the room to make him not fall down and he did anyway. He cried for a second and I cried for five minutes. He’s like, “whatever, I don’t care,” and I was like [crying moan].
That’s great, I’m so glad it’s going well. So, back to your presence on the internet. Do you feel that your audience has a preconceived notion of you based on your internet presence and did that make it easier or harder to perform your standup?
Well I’ve been doing standup for a lot longer than twitter. I’ve been doing standup since before Friendster. So I knew what I wanted to do and knew what I was doing on stage before twitter ever rolled around. I just do what I do. People are smart. People are savvy. People do a little homework before they spend money on buying a ticket on me. They seem to be aware that they aren’t going to be seeing me reading tweets on stage. There’s enough material out there online and now, thank goodness, there’s a whole hour special for people, too. But I spent this last weekend in Dallas, Austin, and San Francisco. I did five shows and a lot of people came to them. A lot of people met me after the show and said that they enjoyed my standup more than my twitter, which is certainly gratifying to hear. Oh, and another “thank goodness factoid,” is that there are people who’ve seen me more than once. And that makes me very happy.
Do you think that becoming so popular on twitter and constantly tweeting has made any type of indent on your standup voice compared to before you became big on twitter?
I think even though I tell longer stories on stage – you know, I tell stories, anecdotes, longer unfurled editorial-type things on stage – that I now have a better grip on how to punch longer pieces with shorter punch-lines, or imagery, or stuff like that. If I’m playing half notes and whole notes, I know how to rat-a-tat-tat with sixteenth notes better.
Have you ever had a really bad run-in with a heckler?
The worst ever was in Colorado, like a year ago. There were five people who had tickets for the show the next night, which was the rapper DMX. I learned this after the fact, from the promoter. They came to my show and they were like, “You’re here a night early.” And the people were like, “Well, fuck it. We’ll just go to this show.” And so they came in and they didn’t like me, because I didn’t do DMX raps. And they were very loud and awful and in the front row of the balcony, so after a while I just had them kicked out. That was the worst ever.
Did you say anything to them from on stage?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I berated them and told them they were terrible, and that they were ruining the night for people that paid for tickets. Said “shut up” and variations of that. I tried to be nice at first – nice-ish. Then afterwards I just told them that they were shit people and they weren’t welcome there anymore.
The election season is upon us and I always look to comedians for their political commentary. You’ve had some gem Tweets about Mitt Romney and I wanted to know, if you had the opportunity to actually meet him and shake his hand, what would you say to him?
I would say, “Thank you for getting everybody in Massachusetts health insurance. That was awesome of you. And my family, who lives there, is grateful.” And I would say, “Thank you for permanently banning assault weapons in 2004, in Massachusetts. That’s a wonderful thing that you did as well. I don’t know why, in 2007, you decided to join the NRA. And I don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing – you know, why you’re pledging to repeal the Affordable Care Act now. But thank you for the good things you did in the past. And please know that I will continue to work diligently to see that you are never the president of this wonderful nation.”
That’s perfect. What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a bachelor of fine arts from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU in musical theater.
Lastly, on a more personal note, I read your blog entry you wrote a while back that documented your depression and I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you doing that and making it less of a buzzword for people, as I have a close family member who suffers from it.
Well, you’re very kind to say that and so… You know how hard that is for the people who go through it, and their loved ones. I don’t really believe in an entity that hears words in English, up in the sky, that’s like, “Oh okay, I’ll do that.” But I did in fact pray when I was in the darkest hours that I would one day have the opportunity to maybe help one person not go through the same thing. And that’s the only prayer that I’ve ever said. And it came true. And, so I’m very grateful for that.
Follow Rob on Twitter @RobDelaney and visit his website to download his stand-up special and view his upcoming tour dates!
Krystyna Hutchinson is a writer and stand-up comedian in NYC. Her new favorite word is aqua-plop.