A stand-up guy

Photo by Michael Cargill
Photo by Michael Cargill

The last time Rob Delaney played Asheville, in 1999, he was starring as Sir Lancelot in a traveling production of the musical Camelot. In the years since, he’s survived alcoholism, depression and an epic car wreck, ultimately settling into a fertile mix of sobriety, married life, childrearing and a multipronged comedy attack that brings his standup act to the Grey Eagle this Friday.

Delaney, a Boston native who lives in Los Angeles, famously catapulted his career via Twitter, where he’s amassed a 901,154-strong following and was recently pronounced the social network’s “funniest comedian” by Comedy Central.

His brand of sideways and surreally vulgar missives has drawn fans to a new board game based on his tweets, Rob Delaney’s War of Words, and will surely shape his forthcoming memoir, Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.

For all his offbeat and often sexually drenched humor, Delaney’s also an ardent feminist and champion of basic human rights. His most popular tweet of all time remains this gem, from February 2012: “I love gay people. Or as I sometimes call them, ‘people.’”

So expect some serious fare at Delaney’s upcoming dates in North Carolina, where he has family ties and says he’ll weigh in about recent moves by the state Legislature. Xpress spoke to Delaney at 8 a.m. on a recent weekday.

We’re grateful for the interview, but why are we doing this at such an ungodly hour?
I’m ready to boogie. I have two kids, that are 2 years old and 6 months old, so early hours mean nothing to me. I’m a Herculean warrior of time and space because of the children.

What are you wearing?
A terrible pair of boxers from the Gap that do not accommodate my big size [later explained as his thighs]. I should throw them away.

My girlfriend is not on Twitter, but I show her some of your tweets about, say, your lust for your “neighbor Karen.” For a long time, her response was, “How does this guy have a wife?”
My wife is extremely funny, one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. So she understands that what I’m doing is often not rooted in reality. If a joke is dirty or bizarre, she doesn’t mind, as long as it’s funny. She knows that if dirty jokes are from a painter, and filth is the color cerulean blue, that I just like to use that color a lot.

Do you actually have a neighbor named Karen?
I don’t, but don’t tell anybody that.

When you comment on political matters, sometimes there’s a backlash from some of your followers, who say, “Stick to the nonpolitical jokes, please.” What’s your response?
You know how when the Grinch who stole Christmas can feel his heart growing? I physically feel myself getting stronger when people do stuff like that. It’s beautiful and I love it. I almost get sexually excited when people tell me what I should and shouldn’t talk about.

Do you ever get a puritanical backlash from folks who agree with you politically but just can’t go there with your sexual and comedic stylings?
Yes, but it’s a pretty small percentage of people. I try to do things that are funny to everybody. I don’t road test each joke, and I fail with some frequency. But I just enjoy stuff that makes everybody laugh.

Women are people, and they have desires and hungers and fears, and they want to hear jokes about them. The greater portion of women who write to me enjoy the comedy of mine that they’re consuming, and think that it’s respectful, and I try to create in that space.

I feel like it’s a discredit to women to suggest we should sanitize things and treat them like delicate flowers. I try to treat women like human beings, and sometimes that’s messy.

In the age of endless Anthony Weiner jokes and the like, how do you possibly find new ways to riff on topics that get beaten to death by comedians and headline writers?
I almost meditate — Matrix–like, you know — with like the raining data in green. I think about the possibilities for a joke, and obviously the first ones you think about have to go right out the window.

who: Rob Delaney, with Fay Canale
where: The Grey Eagle
when: Friday, Aug. 9 (7:30 p.m. $16 /$18. thegreyeagle.com)

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About Jon Elliston
An Asheville-based mountain journalist: Former Mountain Xpress managing editor. Investigations and open government editor at Carolina Public Press. Senior contributing editor at WNC magazine.

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