Published on January 30th, 2014 | by MacKenzie Warner0
Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. – Rob Delaney
When hearing about Twitter for the first time, I made the same mistake that Decca Records made about the Beatles. They said, “The Beatles have no future in show business.” While the CEOs of Decca Records are probably rolling in their graves, I am apologizing profusely to Twitter. (Not actually, but you know what I mean). What I thought was yet another extraneous platform for social media has proven to be a catalyst in giving writers a stage to write, promote, and attract new audiences.
While I’m not inclined to sign up for Twitter any time soon, I have come to especially appreciate its ability to give writers a space to cut their teeth in comedy. Case in point: Rob Delaney. A writer and stand up comedian, in 2012, he won Comedy Central’s ‘Funniest Person on Twitter’ award. In 2013, he wrote his first book called Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. Just like his Twitter writing, his book captures the humour and absurdity of life.
In his past, Delaney has battled alcoholism, depression, and close calls with death. While some people would curl up and admit defeat, Delaney chose instead to collect his most harrowing stories and find humour in them. Loosely chronological, the book navigates his past self-destructive behaviour and misadventures into adulthood. Of course, his best chapters explore some of his darkest and lowest points in life. Indeed, you can’t help but laugh with him as he recounts waking up in jail in a body cast with a wicked hang-over and a jangled memory of crashing into the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power earlier in the night. Okay, I didn’t make it sound funny, but Delaney certainly does.
His chapter on living in a half-way home months after his accident is one of his best. Now living sober and battling depression, Delaney finds himself bunking with other men struggling with their own addictions. There’s the handsome doctor overcoming an addiction to oxycontin. The young musician who seems like he’s got a fighting chance. The burn-out rock star whose hair and outlandish outfits compare to the plumage of a flashy bird. Delaney tells their stories in good humour but there’s also a strong undercurrent of heartache and love. Without spoiling too much, there’s an incident where Delaney gets a phone call from the handsome doctor’s brother. He tells Delaney that the doctor has overdosed and died. To honour his memory, the brother makes Delaney promise to never relapse into alcohol again. At that moment, the storytelling stops and Delaney breaks the fourth wall to tell his readers directly that he’s sobbing as he writes.
The book could easily become an After School Special cautionary tale about making ‘bad decisions’ but Delaney is smart to avoid that cliché. He doesn’t shy away from the disgusting, pathetic, and embarrassing moments of his past. He doesn’t make excuses for his actions. He recounts them with as much fervour as his happier stories, although I can’t really say there’s a ‘happy’ story in the book, save for the ending. And for this reason, the book fizzles out. I think Delaney wanted to end on a high note but a forced happy ending lacked the punch that was present in other chapters. Perhaps the only dénouement that would be suitable for a book like his is something as grand and absurd as the time he bungee-jumped off the Manhattan Bridge (which is true). Read about it.
As well, the last few chapters seem to be cut and pasted with some light stories and an old article he was encouraged to include by his editor. It makes about as much sense to include the article in his memoir as having a book title as long and disconnected as Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. Standing alone, I’d say every story he tells is enjoyable. Collectively, some of them just can’t hold a flame to his more fleshed out stories.
For his first crack at writing a book, I liked Rob Delaney’s style, wit, and humour. Personally, I find his stories are more interesting than watching his stand-up. Indeed, his writing comes across as more honest, subtle, and heartbreaking than when he’s sweating on stage and talking about “pussy hair.” But that’s just me.
And now, I am more careful to say anything stupid about Twitter. Some very funny and intelligent people have found a way to use it to their advantage when it comes to writing. Rob Delaney is one of them. If you aren’t inclined to read his book, then take a few minutes to read the strange and hilarious things he can say in a 140 characters on Twitter.