by Steven Ashford
Comedian Rob Delaney uses a 140-character allotment to produce comedic gold — 140 characters at a time at any given hour of the day. His Twitter prowess — 5,971 Tweets — has helped him gain more than 290,000 followers.
But having grown up in Boston and attended NYU, Delaney’s comedic history spans well beyond the July 15, 2006 introduction of Twitter.
“I first saw the Upright Citizens Brigade improvise in New York back in 1997," says Delaney during a phone interview from Los Angeles. "Seeing people closer to my age performing improv, I realized that I was able do to the same.”
Roughly around the time of the move, Delaney was involved in a serious drunk driving accident that he says played a major effect on his career and his perspective on life. To some surprise, he says, it give him courage to face the many challenges he's since faced professionally.
“I am no longer afraid of an audience or producer because I have been in jail — in a wheelchair," he says. "I now know what I can and cannot handle. I can feel comfortable performing on stage or talking about darker subject matter.”
Delaney considers the accident to be a dramatic improvement on his life. He says it afforded him certain aspects of his personality in a very explicit manner. After being sober for nearly 10 years, his largest obstacles as a comedian seem quite frivolous.
“What's the worst that's going to happen? Is someone not going to laugh?" he says. "I think I can overcome that.”
Delaney is one of today's most-celebrated underground comedians, due in large part to his activity on Twitter. However, it's possible the strong ties that link his Tweets to his comedy may constrain him from being recognized beyond that specific channel of media.
“Although I've never had a Comedy Central half-hour special or starred in my own sitcom, people still come out to see me," Delaney says. "Now, [Twitter] may get them to the theater, but they would never come again if I didn't deliver with my stand-up, so I make sure I craft that as best as I can.”
Delaney says Twitter shouldn't be confused with a prop used directly in stand-up, but as tool to harness his obscure, one-of-a-kind wittiness and deliver it directly to fans, as a sample of his humor. He also sees himself as a natural storyteller, which simply cannot be conveyed through Twitter.
“In the Venn Diagram of my stand-up and Twitter, there are certainly subject-matter overlaps, but I am not a 'one-liner' comic," Delaney says, contemplating both his Twitter and stand-up. "Before Twitter, I barely had short jokes at all. Now my stand-up may be peppered with short jokes to tell a story, but it is narrative-based.”
With such a unique approach to success in the comedy world, it's a no-brainer that Delaney would become recognized from outlets beyond direct comedy ties. About 18 months ago, Delaney was approached by Vice to write a comedy segment that quickly turned into a regular, weekly column.
“My first column was about my motivation to do comedy, and I wanted it to be bare, open and messy — I didn't care if it was funny. I wanted it to be honest," he says. "When a magazine has a comedy segment, it usually sucks. It's written by comic-actors, rather than comedians.”
Being honest and going against the grain of mainstream society is a strong quality in Delaney's demeanor. In a recent Vice column, Delaney lashes out at Kim Kardashian and E! Entertainment, and vows to sue Kardashian over her pathetically short marriage and having her pay for the bloodsucking whirlwind that fueled the fire for the general public's infantilizations.
Although Delaney is critical of pop-culture, he's honest about being a product of it. Social media itself is the largest pop-culture icon currently. Delaney understands this comparison, but stresses the large differences of integrity between himself and, well, a Kardashian.
“People accuse me of using the Kim Kardashian thing for publicity, and they were correct in that assessment. If there was a difference between me and Kim Kardashian, [in regards to social media usage], it would be, at worst, I am being silly or meaningless, whereas the Kardashian family — there is an underlying greed and danger to what they do," he says. "I think the motives of a Kardashian are to increase the bottom line … and spread the disease.”
Sometimes the brutal honesty of one's opinion speaks loudly and, in Delaney's case, represents the dawning of a new approach to criticism. It is obvious that Delaney's voice is being heard loud and clear. Recently, Delaney shot a pilot for Comedy Central entitled @RobDelaney, which derives directly from his Twitter account. He is quick to point out that the underlying theme is not all Twitter.
“Twitter is sort of the entry point of the show, but we made goddamn sure that you can watch it with a grandparent, and they'll understand it," he says. "Good humor for all.”
Delaney will know whether or not his pilot gets picked up for a series within the next month.
This Friday, Delaney greets Omaha with his presence with a stand-up performance at Slowdown. More information here. This will be Delaney's second time in Nebraska.
“Oddly, the second-drunkest I ever got was in Lincoln in 1999 when I was in the National Tour of Camelot and I played Sir Lancelot," Delaney says as he reflects his previous Nebraska experience. "I remember that I got so drunk and went back to my hotel room where I called this girl that I had met in Poland and spoke with her vomitously-inebriated. Yeah, that was in Lincoln.”
It's safe to say that Delaney will have a much more sober conscious when making his return to our state, but given that this show takes place in merely the trial stages of 2012, we wanted to know his biggest anticipations of the new year.
“I am writing my book, which will be released this year," he says. "I am looking forward to raising my newborn child, and maybe I can somehow find a way to get in a sauna or hot tub scenario with Jennifer Hudson and Rosario Dawson.”