Comedian Rob Delaney is Boston born and L.A. based but seems most at home on Twitter, where his raunchy, confessional, silly and visceral tweets have attracted nearly a million followers. Stuff like: "Is 'Wind Beneath My Wings' about Bette Midler farting through a maxi-pad?" and "I need to get my shit together. It's in little piles in my kitchen & then there's some more in my wife's closet" and "Listen up: I wear the pants in this family. They're a lovely taffeta with a subtle flare to draw attention to my lace-up sandals." Given his mastery of the 140-character form, we weren't sure if we'd enjoy his new memoir, Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage (the title, a riff on self-important Twitter bios), on the same level. But we were pleasantly surprised. Funny, sincere and arguably even more raunchy and confessional, the quick, autobiographical essays—broken up with lists of some choice Delaney tweets—detail his struggles with alcoholism, his thoughts on anal sex, experiences with parenthood, and a painful anecdote about how his mom baked him a Danzig cake for his 13th birthday and his reaction was that the bad dudes of Danzig would never be on a cake. I spoke with Delaney in advance of his appearance next week at the Music Box promoting Mother. Wife. Sister. Warrior….
You told us that tweeting has helped you sharpen your stand-up with "superior punch lines and richer imagery." Did it help you write this memoir as well?
For me, being able to write short stuff makes you a better long-form writer and vice versa. One might be like piloting a speed boat and one might be like piloting an aircraft carrier. They're both moving through water and getting you from A to Z, but they're very, very different experiences.
I think your longer-form writing embodies the same energy, the same excitement as your tweets, which was a nice surprise. I imagine some of this autobiographical material was difficult to write.
Yeah, fortunately for me, I waited some years between the more difficult events and writing about them. I think that's a good idea because you don't want your audience to feel like they're in danger. You want them to feel like they're in sure hands!
Were there any events you didn't feel distant enough from to write about?
With any of the larger traumas in my life, there just is chronological, measurable distance between me and them. There have been massive events in my life of late—like becoming a father, and then a father of two—but they generally make me happy, so perhaps they're easier to write about. Having children and raising children and doing so within the context of a marriage is fascinating and an endless, neverending supply of stimuli. But with all the destructive stuff i did—including abject alcoholism—it wouldn't be responsible [to not have that distance]. That necessitated therapy, that necessitated time. I wouldn't want to read anything by someone as they were going through that.
Your comedy makes sense for today. Most of us curate how we want to be seen and perceived online, and here you are, laying it all out there. You address thoughts and actions people don't want to admit they think and do. Have you been so brutally honest?
Yeah, that's what it has skewed toward, because that's the kind of stuff I like to consume, what I read and watch. I like stories that tell universal truths and share how people wrestle in search of peace, happiness, meaning.
Do you think if Twitter had existed when you were younger, it would've had the same impact for you and your career?
I'm really glad I didn't have access to social media back when I drank, 'cause then who knows what I would've done. Even now, some people think some of the stuff I do is outrageous or whatever. But the difference is, I'm doing it with a clear mind now. I know what I'm doing when I put forth this string of filthy jokes and this intense, soul-bearing memoir!
For all the intense material in your book, I think one of the hardest to read was that chapter about your mom baking you the Danzig cake. Now that you're a parent, do you especially wish you'd reacted differently?
Oh yeah. I heard someone say when you have children your heart goes on the outside of your body. And that's true. Your children being dissatisfied with you or pushing you or away in any capacity is quite a bit more painful than taking a hammer to the forehead. So certainly now that I'm a parent, I'm even more ashamed of my behavior. It was a beautiful cake!
Are there other people using Twitter who you think are really doing it right?
Oh, definitely. So many of them. Eddie Pepitone made me laugh hysterically today. @IamEnidColeslaw, who lives in Chicago. She might be a genius. Really powerful, beautiful stuff.
What are you up to next, besides, you know, tweeting, touring, being a family guy?
I'm trying to develop TV shows. I'll be writing a movie soon and I'll record a new standup special next year—that kind of thing.
Rob Delaney discusses his memoir—and probably his penis—at the Music Box on Nov 14.