US comic Rob Delaney talks about his new Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe, and dealing with ‘dog weirdos’
The buzz around Catastrophe is huge – how did you come up with the show?
Yeah, it’s crazy, I’m in shock. Sharon Horgan [co-star and co-writer] and I knew each other and sensed we might work well together. For me, there’s nothing more fascinating or hilarious than being married and being a parent. We wanted the series to show that in its truest form. We wanted to strip away the clichés and silliness that surround sitcom romance and make it as real as possible.
Which clichés did you get a kick out of skewering?
The sex is so clumsy, silly and messy. In the first episode I throw Sharon on top of a bed that has pizza on it and it sticks to her back. Scary things happen, too. Usually with a sitcom pregnancy you have the cliché of the female cravings, the woman going, “Stay away from my ice cream, I’m having cravings!” I mean, as if. We didn’t want it to look romantic or glossy. We wanted to tell the truth about our experiences.
In the pilot, Sharon’s character suffers a cancer scare – did you want the show to be edgy, too?
It would be a bad idea to strive for edginess – but we wanted to have edges. We wanted things to hurt. We both like being married, we both like being parents, but it’s so incredibly hard – we wanted to show that. Our goal’s been to make it as real and funny as possible, not necessarily shocking. If people are shocked, it’s hopefully because we approach subjects with candour instead of being precious.
The characters Rob and Sharon share your names, but how much of it is autobiographical?
I figure it’s about 49 per cent true, which is pretty high for a sitcom. We joked that if people didn’t like the show, they wouldn’t like us.
Was it strange writing, producing and starring in your own show?
Because Sharon and I would write together, we seldom found ourselves on set thinking something didn’t work – we’d already performed it to each other. One time we read something we’d written a while back and realised it was rubbish, unfunny and unfilmable. We thought, “Didn’t we laugh when we wrote that?” Then you realise you must have been momentarily insane. It was a big transition, producing. One of the actors would ask, “Could I say this line instead?” And we’d both go, “No. No you may not.”
Carrie Fisher plays your mum. How did you convince her to get involved in a UK comedy show?
Sharon and I were at an awards show last year, she gave an award and her speech was amazing. We thought, “Could we get her? Of course not.” But then, miraculously, we did. We got in touch with her agent with the script and she agreed to do it.
Did you ask her for any Star Wars anecdotes?
We were so rushed shooting her that there wasn’t time for shenanigans. We just worked her like a dog, put her in a car and sent her back to her hotel. A normal person would’ve asked her about The Force Awakens. But we were at fever pitch trying to get the show done. We were entranced with our work – maybe she used the Force on us so we wouldn’t ask her anything.
You became famous via your Twitter feed – ever regret it?
I think that’d be silly, I’d be looking a gift horse in the mouth. Do you use that expression here? Anyway, I did stand-up and I acted before, but if Twitter’s the reason why people found out about me, I don’t regret it. It’s a very powerful tool, a kind of living notebook. I use it as a joke delivery mechanism, a way to sell tickets to my live shows. If I’m tweeting a lot about something, then that means it’s something important to me, and I’ll go deeper into it on stage and riff on it.
You recently tweeted about the Paris terrorist attacks – do you often delve into politics?
My stand-up isn’t political, I’m more interested in sexual politics and interpersonal politics because that stuff endures more. But certainly, in times of strife, uncertainty and fear, comedy is very helpful. Jokes can help you make sense of things, too – the attacks on Charlie Hebdo were fraught with religion, politics, art. How the hell do you make sense of it all? Hopefully humour’s one of the ways.
What’s the worst reaction you’ve had to a tweet?
As individuals, people are wonderful. In groups, people are f*cking garbage. The people with the worst sense of humour? Dog freaks – the ones who treat dogs like human beings. A joke about a child and nobody cares. You make a dog joke and people go nuts. Dogs don’t want to be treated like people, they want to run and sh*t and eat a bone. Militant atheists are the other one. I’m an atheist, but I almost want to become a priest as a symbol of protest against the atheists who foist their views on others. I want to round up the dog weirdos and militant atheists, put them on a barge and send it out to sea.
Catastrophe continues on Mondays, 10pm, Channel 4
[Images: Avalon, Luke Fontana]