#FF: Rob Delaney

An interview with the be-Speedoed standup comedian and Twitter legend

Comedian Rob Delaney, from his iconic Twitter photo.

by Jason Gilbert | @YahooTech

If you check Twitter even semi-frequently, you've probably come across Rob Delaney's bulge. The L.A.-based standup comedian's Twitter avatar -- a photo of the comic on a beach, in a speedo, from his nose down to his bare thighs -- is somewhat omnipresent on the social media site, thanks to the high amount of shares his bawdy, profane and occasionally incisive tweets attract. His knack for tweeting has boosted his follower count up toward a million, and has landed him gigs on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Conan and several other national TV shows.

Not bad for a guy who was struggling to make a living doing standup five years ago.

We talked to Mr. Delaney about his rise to fame on both Twitter and in the real world; his recent, inspired takeover of the @MLB Twitter account; and why he hates Walmart so much. You can read it all below, and follow Rob on Twitter right here.

When did you first hear about Twitter and what did you think about it?

I think I first heard about it in 2008, and at that point nobody had any idea of the potential. What I was hearing about it was that it was the worst of mass texts. It was introduced so that every tweet made your phone buzz, and told you that your friend Susie was having Pad Thai with her cousin Eric; and I thought if my phone ever did that, I would throw it in the garbage disposal.

So my earliest impressions of Twitter were similar to what a lot of people thought, which was that it was a mass text message board that anytime someone you were friends with farted, you would find out about it.

And as much as I enjoy my friends’ farts, I want to savor them, I want them to be special, you know?

A lot of people know you solely from your Twitter account. How would you introduce yourself to a reader who isn’t familiar with you?

The most important three things about me are, I’m a dad, a husband and a comedian. I think that’s about it. I’m mostly boring compared to all the garbage that you read about online. I’ve always been a weirdo.

Why do you say that you’ve always been a weirdo?

I’ve always enjoyed silly, funny, outrageous, insane things for their entertainment value. I’m addicted to laughing and making other people laugh so I spend most of my waking moments either trying to make funny things or consume them -- for better or for worse. My life has a singular focus, certainly.

What were you doing before Twitter?

Standup and trying to get hired for late-night shows. I had been doing standup for some years before Twitter and -- you know, I was getting paid to do it, but not enough to live. I don’t know if you’ve seen Mike Birbiglia’s film Sleepwalk with Me, but it’s superb, and there are literally scenes where his traveling standup gigs result in a net negative, where you’re paid less than it cost to get there. And I definitely had plenty of those.

I’m guessing Twitter has changed that.

Yeah, very, very dramatically. I am able to now sell places out on the road, which is the greatest thing that ever happened, as far I’m concerned. It’s afforded me insane opportunities. As I said, I was pursuing all the classic avenues that a comedian does to make a living beforehand, but Twitter pretty much pole-vaulted me into another universe. So I’m very cognizant of that.

You’re sort of a poster boy for the success a comedian can have by making himself known through Twitter. Has anyone from Twitter reached out to you?

I was summoned to headquarters maybe a year-and-a-half ago and we just shot the breeze. They kinda wanted to know what I liked about it, what I didn’t like. And we just sort of had a little brain-smush together, and that was fun. Any time I’ve interacted with anyone who works at Twitter-- you know, they’re pretty youth-savvy and interesting and interested in what I’m doing and what people are doing with Twitter.

I’m curious to hear what you told them you didn’t like.

I told them that for my purposes, I need no bells and whistles. I am after the pure experience of what can I get in 140 characters. Twitter for me could be a white box that I put jokes in. I’m very interested, of course, in how many people share my jokes or are retweeting, but that’s literally the only bell I need. I need no others.

But I don’t have any real standing complaints about Twitter. If I graded it as a service I might give it an A, instead of an A+; but, you know, what is perfect in this world, other than Adele’s porcelain complexion and melodious voice? Not much.

When are we going to see a Rob Delaney show?

I don’t know! I just wrote a pilot for the BBC. And I just gave that to them. Maybe they’ll like that, maybe they won’t, but it was my latest effort to make a television show. It’s a sitcom about a husband and a wife and their children.

Do you have a British accent?

No, I’m American in it. I’m American, and my wife is Sharon Horgan, and she’s Irish. But it’s set in London.

You recently took over Major League Baseball’s Twitter account. How did that come about?

They just asked me to! They wrote me on Twitter, “Hey, can you follow us so we can DM you?” And then they did, and they asked me if I wanted to do that, and I said “Yeah, definitely.” I had done it for Conan O’Brien’s show, I had taken over their Twitter, and that was really fun. They were such great sports and I do legitimately love baseball, so for me it was a blast.

If you could take over another corporate Twitter account, which one would it be?

Maybe Walmart, and not for any social activism purposes. Iif you look at the Walmart Twitter, it is the worst, most pathetically offensive thing on the Internet. They totally have people who have like ***social media degrees*** running it. They clearly have a protocol where you literally respond to every tweet that they get--except ones from me, they never respond to me.

They try to feign humanity and engage with users. First of all, if you’re tweeting Walmart, you’re an idiot. Really? It’s like, “Hey, I couldn’t find Jack Reacher on Blu-Ray!” So they’ll write back, “It’s in the DVD section! Hey, what are you doing for Memorial Day?!” It’s like they ask a question that the answer will absolutely not matter and they’ll never see it but they try to engage like they’re your friend ***Corey***! To me that’s on the level of, if the Nazis had invented SkyNet, that’s what it would be like. To pretend that you’re a human being when you’re a gigantic soulless multinational. I can’t off the top of my head think of anything more disgusting and offensive.

So I would love to literally tweet for them and tell the truth, and be like, “We’re Walmart. We’re giant. We have many things for you to live a very bland and copiously overstuffed life of milquetoast unoriginality. You know what you’re gonna get, so just swing on by. Don’t ask us any questions because we’re a friggin’ robot running a Twitter account." I’d make it much more popular.

So you hate Walmart. Who are your favorite tweeters?

Twitter I believe was invented for Peter Serafinowicz. He’s amazing. He’s just virtuosic. Megan Amram: I literally dreamt last night that she and I were writing jokes, that’s how great she is. The poet Patricia Lockwood is ridiculous. There’s a woman in Indiana whose Twitter handle is MmeSurly. And she’s not a comedian, but I gobble up her hilarious observations everyday.

Those are just a few, but I could literally go on all day with just amazing, exciting, wonderful comedians on there that I can’t get enough of.

Folks to follow this Friday: