Comedian Rob Delaney's tweets about Mitt Romney are so popular that, at times, they get re-tweeted more than Romney's own tweets. Brooke speaks with Delaney about those tweets and the rise of Twitter in the world of political humor.
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BROOKE GLADSTONE: Stand-up comedian Rob Delaney’s comedy career took off when he began wielding his Twitter account to mock Mitt Romney.
ROB DELANEY: Mitt Romney, help. A black man tried to give me health insurance, I’m hiding with my family in my basement, come get us.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Those Romney tweets have been so popular, in fact, that a study commissioned by Business Week found that in June, on days when Romney tweeted himself and Delaney tweeted about Romney, Delaney’s tweets got re-tweeted more often 44% of the time.
ROB DELANEY: Mitt, if you won’t release your tax returns at least tell us what conditioner use. #hashtag sheen, #hashtag luster, #hashtag body.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It says something about the perils politicians face communicating their message on Twitter that a comedian could match and sometimes exceed the reach of a presidential candidate just a few months in front of the election.
ROB DELANEY: My other car is a dancing horse. That’s a bumper sticker on Mitt Romney’s limo.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] Rob, welcome to the show.
ROB DELANEY: Thank you very much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You’ve said that you’ve been drawn to tweet about Romney because he fascinated you. It’s clear you're not a fan, so what’s so fascinating?
ROB DELANEY: Well, the thing about Mitt Romney is his desire to be president is so overwhelming, he just wants it. Like for example, when he lost – it might have been South Carolina – and the next morning he said – in the news he said I said I liked grits. I said the thing that they wanted to hear, why didn’t they – you know?
And it’s just so idi – he just, he blows my mind.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] So a lot of your tweets about Romney we can’t read out loud, but then there are other ones Rob, that are more political, like thank you for signing into law the permanent ban on assault weapons in Massachusetts in 2004. You should be proud and campaign on that. Not hilarious.
ROB DELANEY: Hmm-mm. [NEGATIVE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So is the point to mock Romney as a person or Romney’s political stances?
ROB DELANEY: I don’t care about who the person is. You know, I never wore a Barack Obama t-shirt, hope and change were always just silly slogans on bumper stickers to me. It’s policy stuff that I care about. My, my dream of dreams –
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm. [AFFIRMATIVE]
ROB DELANEY: Is an undecided voter might read a tweet of mine and think it made me laugh, but what’s he talking about? And then look up the background. Do I hope that I can affect some, what I consider positive change? Yes. Will it happen? I don’t know. And, you know, it’s not my job to care.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] There’s a long history of comedians mocking politicians.
ROB DELANEY: Mm-hmm. [AFFIRMATIVE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: There are political cartoons go back hundreds of years.
ROB DELANEY: Oh, yeah.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: On TV you got your presidential impersonations, your SNL sketches.
ROB DELANEY: Twitter is a wonderful meritocracy. One thing that Twitter’s been great for is women in comedy because you’ve got, you know, the male-dominated comedy writing world and so many amazing women comedians have shown up, you know, so you can hear a joke from a, a woman who works at a, you know, auto body shop in Topeka, Kansas.
The, the voice that people can have is kind of remarkable. So you can have a Sheldon Adelson pumping money into the system, money’s very powerful, but if an idea, if a little chunk of truth hits you in the gut, whoa, you know, it’s very easy for you to hit re-tweet and get that out there at a speed that I think is faster than actual lightning.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And it’s also been a big boon to your career. It’s really helped separate you from many other stand-up comedians out touring on the road. And yet, your stand-up sets don’t feature any political jokes, right?
ROB DELANEY: That is correct. The funniest stuff is not the political flavor of the month, the funniest stuff is what’s going on within your own body, within your own mind, you know? What are you gonna do at a political joke? Smirk? I want to punch you and pummel you and assault you in a stand-up setting with stuff that’s gonna make you – I mean, I want people to throw up.
Because to me, the best stand-up comedy are Pryor or a Cosby or a Carlin, although Carlin certainly was political, the stuff that you're like “oh my God,” you know, in amazing abdominal pain laughing at is not the political stuff that he did, as amazing as it was, and as vital as it was, and as much as I study it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Still, I want to end with your favorite Romney tweet if you have one.
ROB DELANEY: Okay. I think my favorite Mitt Romney tweet that I did, and it’s a quote, and it goes "Ha ha ha! Terrific!" - Mitt Romney, every time Jar Jar Binks appears on screen.
I think that’s the one that affects people the most because Jar Jar Binks was George Lucas kowtowing to an imagined audience, the denial of basic Star Wars universal truths and, and an offense.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Which also proves that Twitter is really a great gathering place for nerds.
ROB DELANEY: Big time, big time, absolutely.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Rob, thank you very much.
ROB DELANEY: Thank you so much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Comedian Rob Delaney. And thanks to the political and social research company VoterTide for walking us through its study of Rob Delaney’s tweets.