Commentary

Rob Delaney: Human. Warrior. Falcon.

Rob Delaney is one of the luckiest people in the Twitterverse.

Well, aside from all the insiders who made billions of dollars via the company’s recent IPO, of course.

Never mind. We’re talking profiting the old-fashioned way, by slaving for almost three years to produce that thing that is printed on paper and bound between two hard covers -- you know, a book.

Despite all the years in the making, the narrow tome somehow hit store shelves the same week the micro-blogging company went public. And the Twitter IPO provided the perfect hook for hyping the book “Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.”

So Delaney, a 37-year-old stand-up comic, most recently known for bombing last spring in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, might make money off of Twitter after all.  

Certainly, his book’s hilarious title is a dead-on parody of the pretension of some Twitter users who think they are so out-of–the-box fascinating and multifaceted that they defy all classification. (Thus the mother/sister/wife/warrior who mistook herself for a hat, or even bled into the category of a cruciferous vegetable.) After all, how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? I agree that this phenomenon needed to be brought to our attention.

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And lest a browser not pick up on the Twitter reference in the title, there’s that large blue circle on the cover that reads (with no apparent punctuation, or irony) “Funniest Person on Twitter Comedy Central Comedy Awards.”

But the idea that the book might be a Twitter how-to -- as in teaching others how to profit by it-- is misleading.

By now, Delaney’s reputation on Twitter has grown so much that he has nearly one million followers. But the book itself is actually an unbalanced hybrid. At times it’s a really heavy (and well-written) memoir about being an addict and alcoholic, hitting bottom at 25, when he blacked out and drove his car into the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building.  He was pretty seriously broken, and for a time unable to use his arms and legs. He had to go through a court date, rehab, and a halfway house. He’s recovered, and that’s the strength of the book, which is then wrapped in much lighter chapters, the usual magazine-essay, dudecentric, stand-up comic fare about masturbation and wetting the bed, growing up as an upper-middle-class white kid in Marblehead, Mass.

That obsession with bodily function is also a mainstay of his tweets, pages of which punctuate the chapters: "Starbucks bathrooms are EXCLUSIVELY for terrible diarrhea, right?"

He does mention the Twitter thing right up front in his introduction, before the chapters about his life with the French titles, like “La Mer” and “La Sexualite.”

He explains that around the time he got on Twitter, “I was in debt and adding to it every month.” He’d submit scripts to TV shows, and get his material back with the comment “Good Stuff!” but no employment offers.

So he decided, since no one was paying him anyway, “Fuck it! I’ll give it away for free! 

He started tweeting, using a photo of his hairy-chested self in a Speedo, that looks nothing like the photo of the suited-up, GQ-model-like, Euro-thin and waxed guy on the cover.

“I realized that my favorite tweets to read were the ones that made me laugh,” he writes. “Tweets of no informational value were that ones that made me happiest. If I wanted to know what someone did every waking moment, I would keep them in my basement, not scan their Twitter timeline.”

He adds: “I decided to show the people who were kind enough to become my Twitter followers that, whether or not they necessarily thought I was funny, I had a work ethic and liked to write jokes all day, every day… My silent motto when people started stealing my jokes on Twitter was, ‘Go ahead and take ‘em motherfucker. Here come five more.’”

In December of 2010, an editor at the estimable publishing house Spiegel & Grau, who was unknown to him, tweeted him, “Would you please write me a book?”

And the rest as they say, is history.

And with his finished book, Delaney indeed becomes a prime example of how this online “idea economy” (aka, “we can’t pay you, but you’ll get tons of exposure”) works.

“You have to remember, Twitter pays no one’s bills. It can lead to opportunities, but you still have to get up every day and work,” he writes.

It’s a tough lesson, but not one without hope.

Dude’s a warrior, I tell ya, and a yardstick.
3 comments about "Rob Delaney: Human. Warrior. Falcon.".
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  1. Paul Van winkle from FUNCTION, November 20, 2013 at 7:23 p.m.

    Great article, love reading you. This = what many still manage to miss even after countless speakers at digital conferences everywhere have been yelling: "Listen, you dinosaur-like twits....wake up! Technology has turned the whole idea of advertising on its bald head!"

    Who can ignore the mountains of evidence from all audiences, everywhere: they "hate advertising". Why? It stinks. It's not funny, it's not anything, it's annoying. No one can do anything but exponentially spread more annoying nothingness? Delaney's at least understood how and what to do with a new medium to make people laugh, feel something, think something.

    Nobody else seems to know what to do with it. People became obsessed with "technology", instead of what you can do with it. Les Paul, the creator of the electric guitar, did NOT make rock and roll. He was a bloody technologist. Hendrix, Page, Beck, Clapton, et al, actually did something with it. Jesus, can we please follow Delaney and hurry it up?

  2. Jude Hammerle from The Next Level, November 20, 2013 at 8:14 p.m.

    Delaney makes fun of himself. Every brand should make fun of itself, but few do. Disruptors take notice: brands that take themselves most seriously are the easiest to topple. Jude Hammerle

  3. lisa shawn from self-employed, November 20, 2013 at 8:29 p.m.

    Another great piece of writing from wordsmith par excellence Barbara Lippert, whose intelligence, insight and wit never cease to hold my interest.

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