Rob Delaney is a Twitter success story. A largely unknown comedian and writer during the mid-2000s, Delaney took to Twitter with aplomb. His prolific output of profane and hilarious tweets quickly garnered him a huge following, even leading him to win Comedy Central’s inaugural “Funniest Person on Twitter” award earlier this year.
Delaney has transitioned his unlikely Internet fame to stand-up comedy with the release of his inaugural album, Live at the Bowery Ballroom. Bowery Ballroom finds Delaney pontificating on fatherhood (his baby is so delicious he wants to eat it), anal sex, circumcision and egg-salad sandwiches. Strangely, Delaney’s persona on-stage is simultaneously more personable and yet somehow cruder than his online alter ego: his jokes on Twitter are notoriously scatological, but jokes on Twitter benefit from a necessary brevity that he is unable to transition to the stage. In the expanded medium of an hour-long comedy album Delaney works far too hard to weave intricate webs of dick jokes. Thankfully Delaney’s impish voice and healthy injection of genuine and welcome sweetness—such as when he describes his relationship with his family or his charming fear of lakes (stepping on slimy rocks is pretty disgusting)—add a pleasant and softening flavor to his relentless vulgarity.
Unfortunately, while Delaney’s enjoyable contrast of filthy material with congenial personality help mix up the tone of Live at the Bowery Ballroom, the album still fails at being consistently funny. While there are gems tucked away in the hour-long set—Delaney’s story about getting hepatitis as a result of eating tainted cake is hilariously morbid, as is his telling of how he once spotted Lance Armstrong on a plane—there are also many failed jokes that simply stretch rickety gags beyond their breaking point. A riff about having recently read Beloved, for example, segues into a wordy punch line about rape that’s more cringe worthy than funny. Jokes about taboo subject matter like rape and cannibalism can be funny if well written and executed, but too often Delaney stretches edgy premises out until the shock value has long worn out its welcome. A bit about how attractive Delaney still finds his wife after years of marriage spends four minutes trying to draw laughs out of the premise that an adult talking about sex with a childish understanding of anatomy is funny. The joke starts out funny, but dragging it on for four minutes is illustrative of the shaggy pacing that plagues Live at the Bowery Ballroom.
The most glaring problem with Delaney’s stand-up debut is the loping pace of his joke-telling; without the 140-character constraints he so deftly utilizes on Twitter he seems almost unsure how to craft a succinct punch line. Still, despite the unevenness of this album, Live at the Bowery Ballroom shows a lot of promise for Delaney’s future. His stage presence is witty and charming, and even the jokes that don’t land are approached from an imaginative and twisted direction. With more time and effort spent perfecting his writing and tightening his delivery, Rob Delaney could evolve into an excellent stand-up comedian.