Rob Delaney: The US comedian on the power of showing weakness, how ice-cream can save the world, and why Brass Eye is like Beethoven

'I feel very, very grateful to pay my rent with comedy money'

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The Independent Culture

Bungee jumping illegally from Manhattan Bridge is one of the stories you tell in your book. Would it be right to say you used to be pretty indifferent to whether you lived or died?

At the time I was. I look back and think it's too bad that that person didn't care about themself. At this moment, I enjoy being alive and I would like to remain in an alive state until 2077 or so.

Did the confessional nature of the book – and your comedy – come easy?

The best, most enduring stand-up is deeply personal. If you look at Richard Pryor or Bill Cosby, these men are doing biopsies of their hearts and brains and that's the stuff that really stays with you.

Do you think that kind of honesty is harder for men?

I certainly feel that stereotypically masculine urge to not share certain facts that I would perceive as weaknesses. But one of the greatest paradoxes is that by being honest about what you consider a weakness, you arrive at tremendous strength.

So it's about turning your pain into something positive?

Absolutely. It's an alchemy of sorts when done well, so that's what I try to do. I go into the graphic detail that I do because I hope that I can show something to other people. Like, for example, when I was in jail in a wheelchair, and all four of my limbs were unusable, both my arms were broken, and I was in a bloody hospital gown, naked underneath...

Are there any British comedians you particularly rate?

Steve Coogan, Chris Morris... Sharon Horgan's Pulling is probably my favourite sitcom of all time.

Did Brass Eye register in the US?

Nope. I have to wear a nappy when I watch that show. The Brass Eye Special on paedophilia is like the Beethoven Ninth Symphony of comedy. It is any intelligent, passionate, angry comedian's north star.

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Is Twitter changing comedy?

For me, it has strengthened my love affair with the English language, as I've learnt what word ingredients fit into this little jewel box of 140 characters.

Have you ever been asked to send a sponsored tweet?

Klondike ice-cream bars asked me to do one, and I said 'Yes, with pleasure'. And I'd do it again.

Where would you draw the line?

I love ice-cream. I genuinely think it makes the world a better place. I think it would be hypocritical of me to do alcohol, though.

You gave up an advertising job to go into comedy and have written about the hit that you took on your salary. Has everything worked out OK?

I feel very, very grateful to pay my rent with comedy money. The pants I have on right now, I bought with comedy money. As long as my family can eat food and live in a reasonable degree of comfort, then that feels like unimaginable wealth, seeing as I made that money by telling jokes.

Lastly, what's the point of life in 140 characters?

Be kind, work hard. It's fucking critical to treat people well. Whatever you do, work until your hands are calloused and your knees are bloody and your vision is blurry. And that's all there is.

I think that was a little over...


American stand-up Rob Delaney, 37, won ‘Funniest Person on Twitter’ at the Comedy Central Awards in 2012. His new book, ‘Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage’, out now, tells the story of his battle with, and recovery from, alcohol addiction. He is married and has two children