Rob Delaney (@robdelaney) has 663,766 Twitter followers the day I sit down to work up some notes for our conversation. When we speak via telephone the next afternoon, the L.A.-based comedian has gained 500 more and as I write this one week later, he’s amassed another 5,000. By the time you read this, he may be somewhere in the ballpark of a zillion.
His initial attitude toward Twitter wasn’t auspicious. “At first I thought it was stupid,” says Delaney, who signed up in 2009 at the same time other comedians were starting to take notice of the social-media platform. “But then we all simultaneously realized, Hey look at that, we can write jokes here and that’s exciting. I don’t have to be at a club; I can just be sitting around in my underwear and tweet jokes and people are going to see them. That’s amazing.”
Delaney, 35, is a Boston native. He attended New York University but moved to Los Angles in 2001 to pursue acting and later stand-up. He’s also been sober for ten years after blacking out and driving into a building in 2002. Currently married and with one son, Delaney spent years touring the country as a stand-up and not making a living while working various Mcjobs at warehouses, factories and call centers. “I had to supplement with day jobs that were varying degrees of awful,” he says.
But after 2009, a new social-media outlet with a little birdie icon and truncated messaging structure put Delaney on the map. He’s a prodigious writer who has authored more than 12,000 tweets including gems like, “I wish my wife didn’t wear so much makeup. And was my friend Ryan,” and, “I was considering voting for @MittRomney, but then I remembered I entered the world through a vagina.” While hundreds of comedians use Twitter to test out material and notify followers of upcoming gigs, few have harnessed it with the same degree of success. Delaney is the reigning king in a court of jesters (including Megan Amram, Jenny Johnson and Gary Janetti) who have used Twitter to win wider acclaim. “I feel like I don’t deserve to have the attention of all these people,” he says. “I’m grateful to have it.”
As it relates to his job as a touring stand-up, Delaney says the two competing modes of joke telling inform each other. “Stand-up is a marathon and tweeting is sprinting,” he says. “My longer stories that I tell in stand-up can now be more punctuated with superior punch lines and richer imagery because I’ve honed that skill tweeting. And then I know that if I’ve got ten tweets in a row, it is useful, after eight fart jokes, to have a political tweet or an earnest recommendation. Stand-up has taught me that people can handle tonal shifts and different perspectives.”
Twitter followers unfamiliar with the real Delaney (his profile image is a neck-down pic in a shiny green Speedo) might be surprised to find that he has chiseled features and neatly parted hair. His latest album, Live at the Bowery Ballroom (available on iTunes), is an hour of cerebral filth in which Delaney muses on hepatitis, circumcising his kid and a friendly version of the sex act the Dirty Sanchez. “I like that people look at me and think that I’m a weatherman or a cop, and then I talk and it’s just sickness and garbage,” he says.
Delaney has recently finished a cartoon pilot for Comedy Central and is hard at work on his memoirs for a 2013 release. In the meantime, he’ll continue musing, via Twitter and stand-up, on buttholes and vaginas. “God help the person who doesn’t think those things are funny,” he says. “Farts are funny and I would fight in a fistfight to defend them.”
Delaney performs Friday 30 at the Athenaeum Theatre.