Rob Delaney at Soho Theatre

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

He’s officially the ‘funniest person on Twitter’, a jobbing American comic made good after attracting an impressive 600,000 followers in three years. It’s a fan base that has allowed Rob Delaney to record his first stand-up special – now available as a self-distributed download, naturally – and sell out his Soho Theatre run in minutes, despite having little publicity in the UK beyond his own feed.

Away from the keyboard, his style is more fluid than the 140-character zingers a tweet allows. He’s not a purveyor of well-crafted one-liners, which you might be led to expect, but there’s still something slightly robotic about the way he delivers; an abruptness both to the language and the rhythm.

Comments – not quite non-sequiturs, but sharp left-turns of narrative – seem to get laughs for disorientation, and because of the immense goodwill of online fans, who absolutely trust him to be funny in the flesh, too.. Lines like his opening gambit – ‘I don’t like British people or British culture… but I like Indian women and you have a lot of them’ – are delivered with confidence and cadence that you almost don’t notice there’s not really a gag there.

Almost every sentence is told like it ends in a !, while the punchlines tend to involve wild exaggerations. All is short, yet big.

He is brutally blunt about his predilections. Not much after the Indian women comment, we learnt that he likes sturdy, sweaty girls with gigantic weird nipples. And if you think that’s the extent of the vulgar confessions, you’ve got another think coming.

Knob gags – or asshole gags, to be more precise – are a favourite. And vaginas, too – including his wife’s after giving birth to their baby son. But, like Jim Jefferies but not quite as polished, there’s a great well of vulnerability behind his coarseness, while the stories don’t always pan out in quite the laddish way you might expect.

The more we get to know him, through unfailingly honest stories that rarely show him a flattering light, the funnier the material gets and the more relaxed the delivery. By the end of the hour, we’ve learned a lot about him… namely that he is one funny fella, even if he’s still rough around the edges.

He’s certainly come a long way. From his own revelations, he used to be in a very bad way: an alcoholic – a real one, not an American lightweight – who’d frequently wet the bed.

In another startling confession that illustrates the depth of the problem, he once drove home so drunk he crashed his car into the Los Angeles Department Of Water and Power, for which he was jailed – even though he had broken both of his arms in the self-inflicted accident. This pain – both physical and emotional – becomes the hilarious, extended cornerstone routine of the whole brisk hour. It was so intimate and humiliating for him, yet is delivered with such a matter-of-fact attitude.

His reaction to his new baby, so adorable he could eat him all up, is another stand-out segment. In some of his fantasy sequences here, Delaney manages to be endearing and horrific both at the same time, as his love for his family shines through even as he describes their most exposed moments. An admirable feat for a comic, that suggests he’ll have a strong future in the offline world, after conquering the online one.

Review date: 6 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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