Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Rob Delaney: Live At The Bowery Ballroom

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Rob Delaney is one of Twitter’s brightest beacons, thanks to his brevity, tenacity, and imaginative scatological humor. On Live At The Bowery Ballroom, Delaney’s self-released special recorded last May, the comedian showcases all three in spades. His material is full of memorable one-liners, a variety of silly and sweet, and myriad descriptors for the butthole. What he doesn’t have, to the detriment of the special, is an exit strategy for his jokes. On Twitter, Delaney’s bursts of strange are followed by whoever’s next in the reader’s feed—there’s a built-in out. On Bowery, he stumbles over big closing lines, fumbling transitions with plenty of “ums” and repetition. The longer and more elaborate the bit, the steeper the taper on either end. It’s a massive roadblock to Delaney’s natural charisma.

Bowery runs the gamut of subject matter, but focuses mostly on Delaney’s new fatherhood. He wants to sniff his son all the time (“He smells better than cocaine”) and literally eat the boy; he’s mesmerized by his son’s ability to spread shit all over his body, as if there’s a second anus on his back. When discussing circumcision—he’s cut, his son isn’t—Delaney intends to explain his lack of foreskin as punishment for not putting away his toys, scaring his son into submission. The punctuation on the bit, though, is, “Um, I don’t know. So anyway…” This is how just about every segment ends, diffusing any momentum Delaney builds up and making it difficult to cleanly move on to the next topic. He tells a touching (literally) and funny story about a testicular-cancer scare, fumbles the end, and then has to slowly wind into material about his wife’s pregnancy.

Bowery packs its tightest, most imaginative material between the shoddy bookends. As an aside during an airplane run, Delaney jokes about sitting next to Lance Armstrong on a flight—a 400-pound Filipino man with a muumuu, whom he recognizes as Armstrong because of the man’s “Livestrong” bracelet. A bit about how unappealing it is to see a man with a shirt and no pants includes the phrase, “Three ham cutlets wrapped in gauze and dirty Velcro.”

Delaney smiles the entire time, even while recreating the time he pooped on the side of the road in front of a Hasidic woman, or groping his penis for a solid minute. He’s endearing. But when he’s searching for his next topic or watching a joke peter into nothingness, his charm wanes.