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Corporeal Comedy: Rob Delaney “Live at the Bowery Ballroom”

Patrick McManus | Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Comedian Rob Delaney released his special, “Live at the Bowery Ballroom” on Sept. 4 on his website, available to download for $5. Delaney is best known for his prolific, inappropriate and often-hilarious tweets. In May, Delaney received the first Comedy Central Award for “Funniest Person on Twitter.”

Fans of Delaney’s online profile will appreciate his first hour-long special. The event is a constant stream of jokes featuring increasingly intricate and shocking punch lines. In the same fashion as Steve Martin’s standup, Delaney’s is characterized by a certain lack of self-awareness, pompous stage persona and a feigned ignorance of social norms. This allows him to make jokes about eating his baby that are played initially for shock value, but give way to a humorous analysis with a serious, if twisted perspective.

In his special, Delaney tackles the most controversial topics in comedy, sometimes in the same sentence. Though Delaney manages to break some new comic ground in well-trod subjects, one cannot help but sense that his take is not as deftly delivered as that of Louis C.K. Both comedians, with apparent indifference, discuss topics that make polite society shudder. C.K.’s indifference seems to come from weariness after living for some time in the modern world, whereas Delaney’s is instead a post-ironic attempt to break down social taboos. Though both perspectives can be used to great comic effect, there is the feeling that Delaney’s comedy is not exactly motivated by a desire to make the world a better place.

This can be seen in the segments of the comedians’ most recent specials, where they both portray conversations with God. Delaney uses the device to question the specificity of clothing worn by Hasidic Jews, joking that out of all possible wardrobes, God really likes suits from 1930s Budapest. When Louis C.K. features a dialogue with God, the Almighty is inquiring as to how exactly humans messed up the environment and such. When C.K. delivers the joke, it is hilarious. Delaney’s joke is also funny, but it does not have the same social concern. C.K.’s is at the expense of himself, and all of us, but Delaney is not indicting society so much as poking fun at a group of people. 

This comparison is not meant to demean Delaney’s style of comedy or suggest that everyone ought to use humor to save the world. Comedy definitely benefits from a diversity of techniques, and if all entertainment had a moralizing element or deeper meaning, it would be far from entertaining. It is hard not to compare the two comedians though, as Delaney released his special in the model C.K. pioneered, and they touch on many of the same subjects. 

Rob Delaney is a very funny comedian, and those people who enjoy reading his tweets should definitely look into his special, “Live at the Bowery Ballroom”. But watch the teasers first. It may not be the case that everyone who likes his tweets will like his standup. Twitter is the medium that seems to suit Delaney’s humor best and it would be a shame if he were pigeonholed as “The Twitter Guy”, but that is definitely where he will be most popular for the foreseeable future.