Online, Delaney Rowe has made a name for herself as the connoisseur of cringe. Through TikToks and Instagram Reels that garner millions of views, she captures cultural tropes, sometimes receiving comments like “I watch these with my peripheral vision.” But when she greets me from the airy Los Angeles loft that serves as a backdrop to many of her videos — and, she informs me, once housed a start-up she applied to and was rejected from — Rowe is warm and self-possessed, exuding the sort of energy that puts me right at ease.
She’s perhaps the best known of a crop of actors who have taken their talents to social media, parodying characters that feel like they just emerged from a badly written crime drama or rom-com. “I’m not doing anything other people aren’t already doing,” she maintains. But what sets her apart, she says, is specificity. “I’m an extremely specific writer and performer, and that is something I can really leverage.”
Unlike most of her characters, Rowe is what you’d call a pleasure to have in class (she holds a B.F.A. from USC’s drama school, after all) and moves with all of the social graces that “Friend who always flirts with your dad” and “The worst person on earth” sorely lack. In fact, her reputation for virtuosic character work is rivaled only by her reputation for throwing an excellent dinner party. Having once worked as a personal chef, she now cooks only for her friends, hosting lively meals accompanied by many, many bottles of wine.
What first attracted you to cringe portrayals?
I don’t view it as cringe per se, because I’m just trying to replicate a certain style that I’ve seen in entertainment — certain tropes. It’s me trying to hit the nail on the head that induces that cringe, you know what I mean? I love movies and television, and all of the characters and the tropes that I make fun of are things that I really love and grew up watching. People are like, Why is it so accurate? It’s because I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m just doing things that I’ve seen.
And then my other videos that are not making fun of tropes, that are more like social commentary … that comes from just being so uncomfortable with myself for so long, and recognizing, like, God, what am I doing right now? That’s so annoying, or, How did I walk into this room and suddenly everything became a disaster? I can tap into some of these weird social norms that everybody participates in.
Is there a rule you follow when you’re developing an impression or a character?
Just get through it. Tell the story, get your point across, and then worry about being funny later. And maybe don’t even worry about being funny, because whenever I’m worried about that, I’m usually not that funny. I just did some appearance where I had preplanned jokes, and that was my downfall. I stopped listening because I was too worried about being funny.
What are some of your all-time favorite characters that you’ve done, and what do you think their life’s guiding rule would be?
I have a character, “girl who’s convinced everyone’s obsessed with her.” Obviously, I’m making fun of people like that. But I think what we can take away from her is that she walks into a room and she just assumes everybody loves her. And I’ve heard that that’s a good thing to do if you’re going into auditions or job interviews: Act as if everybody there already loves you.
I mean, I look at my insufferable indie lead. I think that’s a girl or a guy or a person who is really interested in identity. They have these hyperspecific quirky traits because they seem to know themselves really well. I’m definitely pulling things out of my ass right now. But whatever. And then the worst person on earth is a character that I’ve been doing recently. The motto of the worst person on earth is probably, “Say it with your chest.” And they take the consequences as well.
You create a full vision for your characters with your aesthetic choices. What’s your No. 1 fashion rule?
Leave something undone. Fuck it up a little bit, whether it’s your eye makeup or your hair, have something that looks like you forgot to do it. I think that’s sexy.
As much as you’re known for your characters, you’ve also become known for the dinner parties you throw. What’s your No. 1 rule for a successful one?
Get more wine than you think you need. I always say a bottle per person — that’s the good wine — and then you have your backups: You got your Joshes, you’ve got your Ménage à Trois, you’ve got your bottles that people have gifted you over the years that you don’t really want to drink. You break those out once all the good ones are gone. Then have some sort of game or interactive activity. Believe me, I hate board games as much as the next person, but I write controversial questions and I put them into a bowl — you know, lighthearted, not crazy. We’re just talking about things that are thought-provoking. I write as many questions as there are people at the dinner. Halfway through, when people are finishing up eating, we go around and everybody has to answer one out loud in front of everyone at the table. It’s so great because then there’s this sense of camaraderie. It makes for a really great rest of the night.
What’s your No. 1 rule for canceling plans?
Be honest. Don’t come up with a bullshit excuse. That’s so transparent. Don’t say you’re sick when you’re not sick. Just be like, God, I’m really not feeling it tonight. I had a weird day. I don’t feel good about myself, et cetera. People really appreciate that honesty and then they trust you more to stick to plans in the future if you’re not dealing with some vague, made-up lie, so just be honest.
You have a skit about this, so I have to ask — what’s your No. 1 rule for splitting the bill with friends?
Don’t. Trade off. That’s what I think. But if you’re at a really expensive dinner and that doesn’t seem like a good idea, one person puts down their card and everyone Venmos. It’s just way nicer for the waitperson.
What’s your best rule for engaging with people at parties?
Ask specific questions. Ask questions that you genuinely want to know the answer to, because then you’ll actually be engaged in that conversation and you won’t be looking around, trying to get out of it. People get really exhausted by small talk — that can be somehow way more draining than actually talking about things that you’re both interested in.
Do you have a rule for food at your dinner parties?
No potluck allowed. Don’t bring anything. I want to create an experience for you, so just let me do that. However, the only exception to that is dessert. I always welcome dessert, because I’m not a baker. And bring wine. I like to cook something that you can’t easily fuck up — if you lose track of time while you’re talking to people and it burns, it doesn’t completely ruin the whole dish. You can kind of make it seem like it was on purpose, like, “Oh, it’s a blackened chicken.”
What rules do you have around your phone? For yourself and for others?
For a significant other, if we’re out to dinner — if we’re even just watching a movie at home, or spending time together, I don’t want to see it. I don’t want it anywhere near us. I think I can ask that of them because I’m really committed to that, but it’s also because my phone stresses me out. I don’t like to be around it, since it is a lot of my work. People are like, How come you’re so unattached to your phone? And I’m like, Because I get a burst of cortisol every time I pick it up.
What rules do you have in your home?
I love this question. Keep your shoes on. Yeah, hot take. A shoe is a part of an outfit. I don’t expect you to take those off. Keep your shoes on! It doesn’t bother me. I am the opposite of a germaphobe.
What about shoes on in bed?
No, I’m not doing that. There was a time in my life where in high school I was like, sneakers on the bed, which is crazy. Now I look back on that, and I just instinctually would never do that. The bed I’m more protective about. Even now, I’ll look at the bottom of my socks before I put them in there and be like, are these black? Are these clean? But usually they’re pretty sooty because the floor of my weird loft is not cleaned regularly — oh, maybe that’s because I allow shoes in the house. It’s all coming together.
What do you sign your emails with?
A dash and then D, short and simple.
What’s the last app you downloaded on your phone?
It’s gonna be so weird, I’m sure of it … Expedia. It’s because I use Expedia for everything, which I actually wouldn’t even recommend, but I’m so deep in. I’m balls deep in Expedia. That’s where I’ve started accruing all my points. I’m way too far gone. But of course, I would always recommend going directly to the airline or the hotel. Again, a contradiction here. I’m booking through a third party. But fuck it, I’m just too far gone.
No. 1 rule for sending a gift?
A card is really important. Maybe more important than the gift. And it’s something that you can do for free. And then be okay with it if the person doesn’t text you about it immediately. People forget. Give them a grace period to get back to you on the gift.
What about tipping?
Always, always 20 percent. The waiter could slit my throat and I would give them 20 percent. But if you can, 25.
Do you have a No. 1 rule for posting on social media?
Think about the whole scope of what you’re trying to put out there, the vibe that you’re trying to put out there. I’m speaking as somebody who uses social media as a tool for my work, so I don’t think this applies to someone who just uses it as a private profile. But I really try to think: Does this video — or photo dump, or whatever the hell we’re doing these days — fit in with the general picture I’m trying to paint of myself? Because ultimately, that’s what social media is. It’s not really a way for people to get to know you. It’s to put out an image that you can control, so I’m thoughtful about that.