Comedian Rob Delaney on Fran Drescher, labias and the comedy of sex
This Sunday, comedian Rob Delaney will be at the Gothic Theatre bringing his unique blend of incredibly manly, slightly offensive humor to Denver. To prep for the big event, we talked to him about a few of the main points of his stand-up, which mostly boils down to sex, sex, sex and the occasional political observation. You'd think it'd be offensive, and it is, but Delaney takes an egalitarian approach to making fun of people, so it evens out in the end.
Westword: You talk a lot about sex, to a point that on at least one occasion, someone has asked you about your thoughts on weird, big labia. Do you think you're as qualified as say, the people who write Cosmo or Maxim to address things like this?
Rob Delaney: I am qualified to write about labia, absolutely. I'm only sharing opinions on it, though; I'm not offering medical advice or anything. Maxim is not qualified to write about labia; they are qualified to review video games and sell cologne. Cosmo can write about labia since women read it, as long as they're saying things like "Your labia are pretty," or "Have you played with your labia today?"
You manage to balance your -- I don't know, maleness? -- by talking about all brands of sex. How important is it to you to talk about everything equally?
"Brands of sex" -- that's funny. Like "Chevrolet sex" or "Microsoft sex?" I think you mean that I talk about homosexuality and may sometimes imagine a woman's POV or something? I guess I do that because I like people and I like to try to imagine how they feel about things and where the similarities and differences to what I feel exist. And I think sex is a good place to do that because it's tied up in so many other things in our minds and hearts. So, really, I think it just allows me to go to funnier places, since some of the best laughs come from identification in scary or ostensibly "secret" areas.
What do you think Americans' aversion to sex stems from? Have you done any shows overseas where the audience had a different reaction than you're used to?
I don't think Americans have an aversion to sex. There's hypocrisy in the media and the government and in religion and that can inform our behavior, but we're all thinking about sex all the time, or at least I am, so I wind up talking about it all the time. It is certainly a "sweet spot" comedically. I've never done standup outside of the U.S. Hope to soon, though.
In one of your last Vice columns, you delved a little into politics with the debt ceiling mess. How do you feel about mixing politics and comedy?
I think about politics a lot. Sometimes I wish I didn't. I also enjoy economics as a science and read a lot on the subject. For the moment, my comedy and my political writing are somewhat separate. Perhaps they'll blend on their own in the future. I don't really care if they do or not. I don't know if a "comedian" has an obligation to speak about these things, but I feel an obligation as a citizen and a voter and a person who's fortunate to have access to a lot of ears. At the moment (and since time began) there are people in positions of power abusing their power and hurting and killing people in the U.S. and around the world. If I am aware of that, it is quite literally the least I can do to get angry and talk about it.
One thing I've noticed about comedians is they seem like the they're some of the few people that really get Twitter, and my guess is it has something to do with creating trust with an audience. As a performer and a writer, do you think you have an image to maintain in your columns, online and at your shows?
I try not to worry about an image. I don't know if it would really even be up to me what my "image" was. Isn't that something other people decide? I like to make people laugh and I try to do that by saying what's on my mind. I am VERY grateful that there are people who enjoy it. So rather than worry about my image, I try to make sure that all or most of my tweets are entertaining. I have trained myself to ask "Might the people, who so kindly give me a few seconds of their time, enjoy this joke I'm about to post?" If I think the answer's yes, I post it.
I try to NEVER bother people with stuff like "What's up with traffic on the 405 today?" Jerry Seinfeld tweeted the other day that "Comedy is just complaining in an entertaining way. Enterplaining." Comedy is more than that, but when you complain as a comedian, he's right that you'd better do it in an entertaining way. So if you want to complain about the traffic on the 405, say "Traffic is so bad on the 405 I'm probably going to have to eat my fat daughter in a few minutes."
If you actually had to write a doctoral thesis about The Nanny (as referenced on a recent episode of Julie Klausner's "How Was Your Week?"), what would your thesis statement be?
The Nanny is an elegant, airtight situation comedy anchored by four hilarious archetypal characters that puts most other television shows to shame with its perfection. Plus Fran Drescher is hot.
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