Catastrophe, a British series that recently premiered on Amazon, is so fresh and warm and funny that its humor seems almost effortless. The brainchild of comedian and Twitter star Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, a lesser-known writer/performer in the U.S but a mainstay in the U.K.’s comedy world, the show details the blossoming relationship between “Sharon,” an Irish woman, and “Rob,” an American man, after a surprise pregnancy. Vulture recently crowned it the “TV Rom-Com We’ve Been Waiting For.” Delaney is currently in London working on season two, and Vulture caught up with him on “the tube” to ask him a few questions and help him rack up some serious long-distance minutes.
Your relationship with Sharon Horgan seems so natural and real on the show. Tell me how you and Horgan initially found each other. It was through Twitter, right?
Yeah, I was already a fan of hers. She’s made a lot of amazing shows. Her sitcom, Pulling, is my favorite sitcom ever. So I saw she followed me on Twitter, and I wrote her and said hello. Over time we became friendly. We’re both married, we both have kids, and we both think about all that stuff a lot and sweat over it. And we’d wanted to write something together, about a relationship, so we sort of looked at our own lives and made something about that, really.
Did you come up with the story together? What was appealing about this subject matter in particular?
We knew we wanted to write about a husband and wife who were parents. And what we were surprised was that we really enjoyed writing about how they met. We kind of didn’t plan for that, we thought we were going to write about people who were already in it, in the thick of it, but we started to imagine their backstory, and we really liked that a lot. So that’s sort of what you’re seeing now, in the [first season].
So the plan was more a show about long-term married life. Is it safe to say that’s what we’ll see more of in the second season?
That is correct, yeah.
Did you pitch Catastrophe in the States, or was it always going to be a British show?
It was always going to be a British show. You know, it’s hard to get a TV show made anywhere, and then when we got the deal over here, we thought, Well, this is where we’ll do it. While it certainly is a British show, it could have been made in any number of countries because people do meet under interesting circumstances all over the world. It just happened to be born in London.
This is your biggest TV acting job so far.
Oh yeah. Big time.
Did you always know you wanted to co-star in it?
Yeah, we always knew we wanted to write and produce and be in it just so, you know, we could really bleed into it. We wanted to bleed. And we’re so grateful it’s gotten the response that it has, and for the people who do like it, I think probably the reason they like it is because we sort of leave it all on the page and keep it as genuine as possible.
The characters share your first names, so I imagine they adhere closely to your real personalities. How close is the “Rob” character to you?
The names are ours, and some of the traits are ours. The characters are certainly fictional, they do things we wouldn’t do in real life. But there’s a lot of overlap. The Venn diagram between Rob the character and Rob the human being, there’s real overlap. Same with Sharon.
You sort of preside over an empire on Twitter, and the humor of Catastrophe, while certainly dark at times, can be different from what you post on social media. Has the response from your Twitter fans been positive?
They’ve been super-kind about it. One might think that because of the garbage I peddle online, the people that pay attention to me are all scumbags, but really, they’re not. A lot of the people who tell me how they’re feeling on Twitter are kind and sensitive and well-read, so it’s been going really well as far as the feedback I’ve gotten from people on the ol’ internet.
The couple on the show love each other, they care about each other and laugh at each other’s jokes. There’s a real warmth there, which almost seems rare for a TV show about a couple, even though it shouldn’t be.
Yeah, I’ve always been upset when you see — this is a sort of weird example. The Bourne Identity is a movie I love. The Bourne Supremacy, I love. The Bourne Ultimatum, I’m not as crazy about because it’s just sort of like one long fight. And I enjoy those fights, but there are not a lot of dishes at that buffet. In the first film, there was a lot more variety of sadness and emotional searching and even some humor. And in a lot of sitcoms, you’ve got a lot of one-note stuff. Like, “Oh, she’s driving me nuts!” and “Oh no, she’s putting the diaper on the baby backwards!” and “Ugh, I’m gonna kill her!” Things like that.
Classic lines, there.
Right, and obviously, marriage isn’t like that. It’s much more nuanced. So we wanted to do something that had more flavors. Because that’s what it’s really like. If you add up both me and Sharon’s marriages, you’ve got about 20 years. And it’s interesting, it’s really interesting, and there’s warmth there. Of course there’s sub-Arctic freezing temperatures as well, and occasionally some molten lava. But we wanted them to be genuinely in love, even though there’s all this tough stuff surrounding them.
[Warning: Brief spoiler about Catastrophe in the next paragraph.]
After you find out that Sharon is pregnant, your character is so immediately gung-ho about marriage. Do you think that’s an inherently American response?
I think that might be more American than it might be British, yeah. There’s definitely an earnestness about him, and we try to make fun of the Rob character for that fact. But she’s also so hilarious. She’s Sharon Horgan, man.
Sharon Horgan is amazing. I didn’t know her before.
Yeah, I’m comfortable calling her the funniest person alive.
I’ve got to watch Pulling now.
Yeah, you should watch it. Immediately. It’s amazing.
Are you allowed to say where the second season picks up?
All I can say is: The second season doesn’t begin where the first season left off. It’s a hearty time-jump. It’s almost like a sequel to a film, or something. And that’s all we’re allowed to say.