Points of Reference
How Margaret Atwood and Heavy Metal Influenced Rob Delaney's New Book
The comedian and Twitter star discusses the music and literature that shaped his new book.
Twitter is really a medium for two things: news and jokes. No one has capitalized on the latter quite like Rob Delaney. He’s become a Twitter star with his often filthy (but never mean-spirited) jokes. Delaney comes to town on December 4 at the Neptune Theatre with a new standup set and his first book Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. The book is poignant as well as being funny, as Delaney touches on his darker moments, including his struggle with addiction and the deaths that surrounded it. As previously mentioned, Delaney's show is the same night as Jimmy Fallon’s Clean Cut Comedy Tour at the Paramount Theatre. With that in mind, we asked Delaney to make the case why you should choose his somewhat raunchier show:
“Well a good portion of my show is not filthy, and a portion of it is,” said Delaney. “And their show is just not filthy. So with me you’re going to get a greater variety. You’re just going to get mayonnaise at that show, and hey, I like mayonnaise. But with mine you’re also going to get little slices and bits of hot dog in the mayonnaise, and that’s more nutritious!”
For our latest Points of Reference interview, we asked Delaney about five pieces of pop culture that influenced the creation of Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.
“King of Days” by High on Fire
High on Fire’s newest album is called De Vermis Mysteriis and I listened to that constantly while I was writing the book. The guy—Matt Pike —who has that band, he just is metal. But he’s messier. Even though he could embarrass any other guitar player’s world to tears, there’s messiness and a bluesy-ness to a lot of what they do. “King of Days” is not a ballad; it’s almost more like a dirge. On the song there’s this guitar solo, which is not technically insane, but he does these things that’s kind of weird with the effects. And, you know, effects are cool, but he’ll play a bit of solo and then he’ll play it again, and then he’ll switch pedals and he’ll do it again. It’s almost like you could feel him in a forge, like hammering out the perfect solo. It’s almost like Goldberg variations. And you can just feel him crafting, like he’s letting you watch in his workshop. And it’s just nasty, fists of song. He plays just like a brutal lick that’s really beautiful. It’s almost like at the end of Abbey Road when John, Paul, and George trade solos for a few bars. But with this, it’s like him doing that, except he’s all three of them and better at playing guitar.
…Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age
The thing about the new Queens of the Stone Age album is that it’s the top-to-bottom, note-for-note masterpiece that the last two albums that they did before that (Era Vulgaris and Lullabies to Paralyze) were not. They’re my favorite huge band right now. Or I guess (in terms of influence) I should say their last three albums, because they couldn’t have made this newest one without having made those last two. On the prior two albums they really stretched out in crazy directions that, for me, were not sometimes as rewarding to listen to, but you can see it was almost like they were learning a new form of fighting that they then brought back into the boxing ring or something for this new one. So I think it’s great that they totally went off the reservation and did some crazy stuff and then made this album. It’s just a towering classic.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Let’s talk about The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood now. You know Margaret Atwood writes children’s books, she writes poetry, she writes non-fiction, and she does a lot of environmentalist work in Canada. There are passages in The Blind Assassin where an elderly woman describes being driven to her lawyer’s office. And many writers—like Elmore Leonard—might not describe that. He might describe something that happened at the lawyer’s office, but the journey to the lawyer’s office? He might omit. And Margaret Atwood doesn’t, and I’m glad she doesn’t because it’s so compelling; her descriptive power. You’re reading about an old and elderly woman being driven to her lawyer’s to take care of some business, and you’re like, “Oh my god!” You’re almost weeping because of the beauty. You’re with her; you feel her bunions, and her getting hungry. You want to rip the pages out of the book and rub them on your hair and on your face. So this is a woman who’s spent so much time writing in so many different genres that she can apply that to this basic life stuff and really make you just focus like a laser on what she’s saying. It’s just beautiful.
Phoebe Gloeckner’s comics
Phoebe Gloeckner isn’t afraid to go deep into the dark stuff and really map her fears, and that is admirable. She takes you to scary places and shows you them in the starkest relief and it invites kindness and compassion in the reader; you read her stuff and you want to go out and be kinder in the world, which is pretty awesome. It’s a pretty great thing to achieve. So finding her not long after I got sober 11 years ago was really instructive for me. Just in the way to live, and, later, in the way to make stuff sound very helpful.
The The’s music
The The is probably my favorite band of all time. That they’re not ten thousand times more famous boggles my mind. The lyrical evolution of Matt Johnson, who is the one constant in the band, is almost like watching an enlightenment happen. Because his stuff is so carnal and selfish in the beginning; it sounds whining and affected. And by the time it gets to Dusk and NakedSelf, The The’s most recent album, you really get a happier, kinder guy, whose rock ’n’ roll has become even filthier because he’s become better at rocking over the decades. And like a Margaret Atwood, but musically, there’s this attention to detail. His albums are the best produced albums there are. Like if Brian Eno went to the making of a Matt Johnson album he would be like, “Oh wow, I’m learning things.” But lyrically, you’re seeing somebody who is in less pain and has a greater understanding of life’s beauty and appreciation for it. You can learn how to be a better person by listening to the catalogue of The The in order.
Dec 4 at 8, Neptune Theatre, $25