Rob Delaney: Hilarious On Twitter, But Is He Any Good Live?

When consigned to 140 characters, the comedian's dry humour works wonders, but how will he act when thrust under the spotlight in front of a live audience?
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When consigned to 140 characters, the comedian's dry humour works wonders, but how will he act when thrust under the spotlight in front of a live audience?

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Rob Delaney is good at being funny on the internet. His dispatches via Twitter are like a sort of digital comedy snack, perfect in small amounts, less effective when consumed en masse. He has built a reputation of sorts from his social media output, making him a model comedian for the 21st century. But condensing humour into 140 characters is one thing, delivering to a live audience is entirely another.

Tonight, then, feels as much a proving ground as it does a gig. Before Rob can take to the stage, we have his support, Los Angeles-based comedian Morgan Murphy. She is an unknown quantity compared to the headliner, with an unenviable task in front of her, but gratifyingly, she is fantastic. Tall and and laid-back with a giant mass of ginger curls, she pauses only to grin and sip from her pint of beer as she delivers droll, cynical humour which keeps the audience in stitches. She sets the tone early on with jokes that are just the right side of dark: “I didn’t drink while I was pregnant. It wasn’t easy but I did it. It was the longest four days of my life.”

Elsewhere she explores traditional stand-up tropes like relationships (one of the biggest laughs was over a gag where receives an over-affectionate text message from a suitor and has to forcibly stifle the urge to reply with the words “fucking faggot”) and body image. She goes down so well with the crowd that she wishes she could have had a similar response when she played the Edinburgh Festival: “My show was the place that Anne Frank should have hid. No-one went there.” She performed for 30 minutes but I would have happily sat through 30 more. I hope she comes back soon.

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And so to Rob Delaney, who opts for a bombastic opening as he strides onstage to the new Queens Of The Stone Age single, which blares from the house PA as the audience gives him a hero’s welcome. His rock n’ roll credentials are played to the fore tonight, as he wears a navy blue Kyuss t-shirt and begins the set with an anecdote about writing to the band Danzig as a teenager. It’s interesting to see him in a live environment as it’s not all that different from scrolling down a screen full of his tweets. The humour is lucid, scatter-shot and wilfully over the top, veering from one subject to the next with little thought given to any kind of cohesion or overarching theme. Sexuality looms large in Delaney’s material; he is obsessed with sex and venerates women, which makes one of his best jokes of the night all the funnier for its mock-misogyny: “There are terrible things in this world, like famine, or when a woman’s like; ‘here’s what I think.’”

He describes his physical appearance at one point as what would happen “If David Cameron held Mitt Romney down and fucked him”, and speaking of physicality, he cuts a fascinating presence on stage, with a de-facto hand-on-lower-back stance that almost seems camp. There’s no doubt that Delaney is an accomplished comedian and the gut laughs come thick and fast, but the ADD nature of his humour sometimes works against him. We have barely got into one routine when he suddenly slams the brakes on and hurtles into another. On occasion it feels like we’re struggling to keep up but on other occasions the build-up to a gig is so protracted that I had difficulty staying with him.

But for the most part, he delivers in a live setting. Not every joke is gold, but it is delivered with an immense sense of cheeriness and likeability. Delaney is so happy to be here, talking about his life and making us laugh, that there’s no way that we the audience can’t love him for it. Much of his humour is puerile and scatological, but his delivery is infused with glowing charm and a giddy energy that almost seems adolescent.

He does well enough to earn an encore, which provides the only hollow moment of the night as, following an hour of new material, he dusts off an old routine from Live At The Bowery Ballroom album released last year. It feels as if he has no more fresh ideas to share tonight, like a band that ran out of songs, but it’s a blip in what is otherwise proof of the pudding. Rob Delaney is one of the funniest people on Twitter, and one of the funniest people on stage. His work here is done.