By most accounts, Rob Delaney is the king of Twitter humorists.
Monarch or not, Delaney is an impressive Twitter comic, particularly when it comes to variety. The dude can do it all. Delaney raises disturbingly disgusting questions, like “Which do you think was softer, Yoda’s balls or Roy Orbison’s neck wattle?” He can write a solid “my wife” joke: “Like many of History’s Monsters, my wife likes to ‘plan our menu for the week’ on Sunday night.” He offers astute romantic advice: “‘I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen Patch Adams twice, so can I play with your butthole?’—not my BEST pickup line.” Though he’s often gross and explicit, he can write clean jokes that are fresh and specific, like this holiday gem: “For Halloween I’m going as that feeling you get at a store when you try to refold a sweater properly & put it back on the shelf.” And he rarely fails to surprise: “Hats off to the NY Marathon runners. I ran it in 2006. Fitness is a huge part of my life & I like to maintain eye contact during orgasm.”
Delaney also fights the good fight for women and other groups that regularly get shit on, but he manages to do so in a funny way, like here: “First a woman nominated to head Fed, then one gets Nobel Prize for Lit. What’s next, a woman grows a man in her body & trains it to breathe?” In fact, Delaney is so committed to decency that he puts aside humor entirely once in a while. That decency resulted in his most popular tweet: “I love gay people. Or as I sometimes call them, ‘people.’”
However, my favorite Rob Delaney joke has no decency at all. This is it: “All dogs go to heaven. Unless they’re Jewish.”
As I mentioned in my very first column on the great Jack Handey, brevity is a signature quality of great jokes, and this Delaney joke is about as brief as it gets. The set-up (“All dogs go to heaven”) is a common sentiment that could be spoken by a lying parent, an optimistic pet-owner, or a platitude-loving Facebook friend. The punch line (“Unless they’re Jewish.”) shifts to the point of view of a religious fanatic, Nazi, or other anti-Semite. What a quick, smooth, sharp turn. This joke is technically perfect.
It’s also a clever attack on poisonous religious malarkey. I’m not aware of any pooch prohibitions, but the No Jews sign on the pearly gates is real to many believers. I find any notion of an afterlife to be a bananacakes fantasy, but the idea that a certain group is excluded is worse than bonkers: it’s hateful nonsense. Delaney’s joke is a brilliant, Colbertian takedown of such evil stupidity.
My love for this joke is also informed by the fact that I freaking love dogs. I’m obsessed with my own dog, a rat terrier named Monkey, and my friends’ dogs, which include a Yorkie mix named Dynamo, a German shepherd named Kelly, and a mixed breed named Cobber who humps towels. My neighborhood is loaded with dogs, and I kinda like them all. Just as some people are suckers for cat humor, I’m a sucker for dog humor.
Speaking of dog-lovers, this joke gently pokes fun at the absurd lengths people go to mythologize their pets. I love my dog more than Batman or Thai food, but I’d rather eat him than call him a fur kid or fur angel, as some do. A fur angel sounds like an unholy hybrid, and when my dog dies, I’m not going to be comforted by the idea that he might go to heaven, Asgard, or Portland. Besides, if every dog goes to heaven, then heaven is the dog park from hell. I like how Delaney skewers this sort of silliness.
But the main reason I love this joke is the feeling of glee I get when I tell it to my friend Laura, who is Jewish. Laura is one of several friends I took sketch comedy writing classes with at Second City in Chicago. As you can imagine, when a group of people become friends while writing comedy, the jokes aimed at each other fly quickly and sometimes brutally. I can think of at least three sketches about me, and I wrote a song about one friend’s mom that called her, among other things, “the patron saint of bukkake” who “smells like week-old teriyaki.” I enjoy Delaney’s joke in the same way. There’s something so fun about saying horrible things.
I should also mention that Delaney is a standup comedian who recently published his first humor book: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. I haven’t read it yet, but the title is brilliant and another contender for his best joke ever. Every single word in that title functions as a punchline: it’s like a comedy firework with nine timed explosions. Delaney is one hell of a comedy cabbage.