Rob Delaney on Catastrophe and the Rise of the Grown-up Romance
"Write purposefully, and do stuff that people will enjoy watching so they can leave a little bit happier than they started, I hope"
After much anticipation, the new season of Amazon’s Catastrophe is released Friday.
In the show, Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s characters meet in London, and after Horgan’s character unexpectedly becomes pregnant, they decide to get married. But what makes the show so compelling is its unapologetic, authentic portrayal of a grown-up romance. They are openly afraid of starting a family and making mistakes, and this refreshing candor between characters is what makes the show one of the best rom-coms on TV.
PEOPLE recently caught up with Rob Delaney to talk about changes in the second season, what makes a relationship work and living forever.
So, how did you and Sharon first meet?
Well, I was a fan of hers, and she had made some amazing sitcoms before I ever came along, and I noticed that she followed me on Twitter, so I think in 2009 I wrote her and said “Hello, how do you do?” and we became friendly. Then we got the opportunity to make a pilot together, and it got picked up. We’ve been able to make more, which is just bananas.
What can we expect from the second season?
In the first season, the characters were getting warmed up. They were novices at dealing with life’s vicissitudes when they met each other, and now in season two, they’re black belts because they’ve got kids and they’re married, so things are more challenging for them. Bigger challenges come with a higher cost, and any mistakes they make will have greater consequences, because there are people involved that they love.
How do you decide when to use something autobiographical for your show?
Is it funny? Does it serve the story? Then let’s use it, is what I say. I mean, it has to be funny. It has to be pithy and substantial. It has to be believable. I have to think, “Would I want to watch it?” Just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s interesting, you know? I bought two boxes of cereal today and some children’s Tylenol, but you don’t need to see that on TV.
Do you think you need a certain distance before you can write about your experiences?
Yeah, I do think that’s wise, because you should process it. Or I tell myself, I am writing a situation comedy, you know? You have to take pride in it, but at the end of the day, it’s a half-hour television program geared towards making people laugh. So, it’s not for me to have a therapeutic experience, or heal through writing. It’s a very good idea to let time pass before you write about something personal. I strongly believe that.
And portraying marriage and relationships in an authentic way seems to be an important part of your show. How do you try to keep the show honest?
Well, you know how you laugh involuntarily if something is funny? I think your body might not have as demonstrative a response when you hear something true, but you can feel it. So I just try to stay sharp, and in-tune. And it helps that the two of us write it, so that Sharon can say to me, “That smells like B.S., and I can say, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” Or vice versa. That’s why collaborative projects are great.
Your and Sharon’s character face many obstacles together as a couple, but in the end they ultimately seem to love each other. What do you think makes their relationship work so well?
I think they’re sort of in it to win it. If their relationship had a charter, which it doesn’t – nor do my wife and I have one – but if you asked them about their marriage and what their goals are for it, and they were in separate rooms, I think they would have similar answers. And I think that they’re also a little bit older than your average sitcom couple first meeting each other. So their endurance might be better. They’ve been disappointed before, and realize that they bring the same foibles as shortcomings to every relationship that they’ve been in, so I think that sort of sands down the rough edges that might have been in their earlier relationships. It’s not just that they love each other, but they’re also willing to do the work and they’re willing to forgive and surrender in certain areas when that’s beneficial to the relationship at large.
How has having kids affected your writing?
It’s made it sharper, I guess. I’m older, fatter, more tired. If you are nice enough to watch my TV show, why would I waste your time with frivolous scenes and dialogue that I don’t believe in? If I say it, and we put it on TV, I care about it. So, having children has illustrated for me I’m definitely going to die. I’ve seen three lives begin right in front of my eyes, so before that, I thought, “Maybe I’ll live forever.” But now I know that I can die, and I will die. So, I’ll be here trying to have fun. [Laughs] And you know, write purposefully, and do stuff that people will enjoy watching so they can leave a little bit happier than they started, I hope.