This year, comedian Rob Delaney has been called both Mitt Romney's nemesis and the funniest person on Twitter, but as someone who's been doing comedy for over a decade, Delaney's passion for the trade has little to do with politics or technology.
However, he's certainly progressive, having just released his new one-hour special as a $5 online download a la Louis C.K. before him. The online distribution model is growing in popularity among comedians wishing to bypass TV networks and give fans worldwide an affordable way to see their specials. Having just come off a successful tour, Delaney's counting on his fans and over half a million Twitter followers to purchase the special from his website, although he admits below that, "When you do stand-up, the reward can never be a paycheck."
In a recent phone interview, Delaney discussed his online endeavor as well the ongoing insanity of the 2012 presidential election. He had a few things to say about Clint Eastwood's unforgettable RNC speech, talked about Twitter's effect on comedy and left us with such beautiful nuggets of truth as, "Sometimes you gotta put that phone down and go live your life."
"Live At The Bowery Ballroom" can be downloaded for $5 on RobDelaney.com
HPC: You’ve become sort of known as Mitt Romney’s Twitter nemesis, which is hilarious. How are you liking this election so far, as a comedian?
RD: Well, Mitt Romney is a very attractive comedic target. He’s irresistible to me. I mean seriously, I want to pay less attention to him. I wish I wasn’t paying this much attention because the length of the election season has metastasized, and I use that word on purpose because it’s associated with Cancer. It’s disgusting and it’s destructive, and real issues are not being discussed, so I hate it.
HPC: Which issues do you wish were being discussed?
RD: The main things I care about are health care and education. I think those are the cornerstones. The economy’s gonna be kicking ass in a year or two. Our economy’s cyclical. Things are down right now and they’ll be up again, it just takes a little while. And I’m not a Democrat, but Obama’s policies on health care and education are superior. They are a higher priority for the Democratic party -- not forever, just right now -- so for that reason I satirize Mitt Romney. That, and I do feel that he’s the inferior candidate. I don’t hate people who will vote for him; I’m sure they’re terrific people, but the Republican machine right now is just more destructive in their policies than the Democrats’. I didn’t even vote for Obama in 2008, I voted for some third party person who said that it was OK to be gay, whereas Obama just apparently decided that a little while ago.
HPC: What did you think of Clint Eastwood’s RNC speech?
RD: I mean, just from a public speaking perspective it was very shoddy and very, very embarrassingly awful and bad and reflective of poor planning on behalf of the RNC. It was an amazingly, fascinatingly bad, substance-free speech. It was shockingly, staggeringly bad. He shouldn’t really talk in public about things that he cares about because once he talks about them, the viewer cares a lot less about them.
RD: Yeah, Wendy Liebman did it too. I mean, it’s easy to say I’m the fourth person to just throw it out there in the world, but it’s getting blurry now because other people are doing it, like Bill Burr and his Netflix stuff. But yeah, I guess I am the fourth person to sort of obnoxiously do it on their own website.
HPC: You’re all pretty different comedians. What type of comic do you think can do this specifically? Anyone with an online presence?
RD: Well I mean, anybody can do it, it’s just that you have to either get somebody to pay for it or pay for it yourself, which is what I did and I think Bill Burr and everybody else has done. In addition to getting our comedy out there, we also want to make money, you know, the goal would certainly be at least to make your money back. So, anybody can do it who has enough money or can get a hold of enough money to produce it, really.
HPC: Louis made a million dollars with his, having spent $250,000, setting the bar pretty high. Relative to what you spent, what goal do you have for the special?
RD: It’s a little crass to discuss money, but I spent a little under 50,000 bucks to do it. To be honest, and I know this sounds silly, but I don’t care how many people buy it. I want everybody to buy it, but if they don’t I’ll just go do more stand-up. When you do stand-up the reward can never be a paycheck. the reward is people clapping and laughing and saying, “please tell more jokes.” So this is a calculated risk, I mean I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I would make my money back, and the sort of test, the laboratory or whatever that I used, was how many tickets I can sell online. I’m very, very lucky to be able to sell tickets in many cities, and my tickets on the road are certainly more than five dollars, so I figure if I can put a well-produced hour-long special together then hopefully more than just the people who come see me live would buy it, in cities all over the English speaking world. That’s the goal. I’ve been performing more in Canada and the U.K. now, so hopefully it will work out.
HPC: There are obviously perks to doing it yourself, but are there any downsides?
RD: More work. I mean, I fully shepherded the production of the special, hired everybody, spent my own money, put together the website, you know. It’s more work but I’m happy to do it because, I don’t know, I like the work! But I suppose there would have potentially been fewer headaches for me to do it with a network.
HPC: How much do you attribute Twitter to your success?
RD: Funny is still funny no matter how you receive it. Twitter’s just sort of a different outfit that you can put the funny in. For people like me or Megan Amram or Kelly Oxford who have been writing and performing before Twitter, it definitely helped rocket us to getting more people’s attention. Twitter’s like the car that gets you to the office, but once you get to the office you still have to know how to work. So if you’re going to have success outside of Twitter, you’ve gotta be able to do more than write a joke and hit “tweet” from your mom’s basement. You’re not gonna have a sustainable career if you can’t do more than just tweet, but that said, it’s a very useful tool.
HPC: Do you think Twitter can be bad for comedy, as in the over-saturation of material?
RD: I’m not precious about material. I kind of like that Twitter might decrease the “lifespan” of a joke, because then you just gotta come up with more and I enjoy that challenge. The danger for a comedian on Twitter is the same danger that any civilian faces: sometimes you gotta put that phone down and go live your life. When you’re on Twitter, you’re not living, and if you’re not living, you’re not taking in stimuli with which you can create new material. So don’t mistake using Twitter for participating in life.
HPC: You tweet so much that when I think of you in my head, I always see you with a phone in your hand. Do you schedule your tweets ahead of time?
RD: I don’t… Some people do, but I’m literally not technically savvy enough to do that [laughs]. So no, my tweets are things I put out there myself, for better or for worse.
HPC: Do you plan on having any shows or projects coming up that will coincide with the election?
RD: No, I never get involved in anything political officially, it’s just a peripheral joke. I’m a comedian at the beginning and the end of the day. I’m not affiliated with any campaign nor do I generally find politics interesting enough to plan to be involved. I just make fun of people like an asshole and that’s about it. I’m much more interested in stand-up and making TV and writing. Politics is too disgusting for me to formally do anything.
HPC: What will you tweet on election night if Romney wins?
RD: If he won the election? I don’t know what I would tweet, but I wouldn’t be one of those ridiculous people that’s like, “I’m leaving the country!” If Mitt Romney won, because I love this country, I would stick around and try to encourage him to be a better president and person. And if that didn’t work, then I would antagonize him ceaselessly.