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Rob Delaney on 'Catastrophe,' and why his characters won't be on Twitter

Updated

Amazon Studios

What happens when you take the ultimate Twitter comedian and put him on TV? You don’t—you put him on Amazon. That’s where Rob Delaney’s raucous new sitcom Catastrophe will stream starting on June 19. The show is actually an import from the U.K., which is where he and Irish comedian Sharon Horgan developed the sitcom for Channel 4. The comedy centers on an ad exec, also named Rob, who visits London for business and ends up having a steamy fling with a, well, Irish woman named Sharon (played by Horgan, if you couldn’t tell by now). Their romance is an intense and messy one, full of sex, sex, and more sex, and it all results in Sharon getting pregnant.

“Yeah, our characters have sex for a full week,” Delaney said recently on a phone call from London, where he’s currently at work on the show’s second season. “And when she calls him to tell him she’s pregnant, my character says, ‘Holy mackerel, that’s the worst news I’ve ever heard!’ But because I’m not a monster, I come over to help her deal with it.” 

“We soon start to find out we kind of like each other, so we try to make a go of it,” he continues. From there, the pair take on challenges poignant and funny. “As soon as we start trying [to make it work], terrible things start happening to us. Our lives fall apart as we fall in love.”

Delaney adds that he’d been wanting to work on a project with Horgan for some time. “I’m a giant fan,” he says. “She’s the funniest person alive, as far as I’m concerned. And I was aware that she followed me on Twitter. And so years ago I wrote her, and we started to hang out when we were in each other’s respective cities, which were L.A. and London at the time. We just had a lot in common, and we laugh at the same things. It’s almost incestuous, because we’re more like fraternal twins in real life, but on TV we’re lovers.” (They’re also married in real life, but to other people.)

The works that Delaney cites as inspirations are varied, including the Richard Linkater Before series. “Particularly the last one, Before Midnight,” Delaney says. “Because they’re married in that, so we were both screaming laughing while watching that. The honesty that the film gets to is out of control. I mean, that’s such an unbelievably accurate picture of marriage, so comedy-wise, as far as comedies about marriage, that’s pretty much the North Star.”

Given that much of Delaney’s success has been tied to his ubiquitous Twitter presence, will Catastrophe’s protagonists deal with social media in their lives? “No,” Delaney says with a laugh. “I always hate that when characters, unless it serves a certain story, spend any time online. I can be online myself at home—I think TV people should be swashbuckling or having sex or punching each other, that sort of thing.”

And while Catastrophe is set in London and features an Irish costar, he’s confident American audiences will enjoy it just as much as British ones did (the show received rave reviews across the pond). “What I like about making TV here [in the U.K.] is that I am absolutely American, so I have to make sure stuff that I do is funny in both places,” Delaney says. “So we really try to do stuff that’s universally funny, and hopefully funnier. As a standup, if something’s funny to men and not women, it’s not funny. If it’s funny to white people but not black people, it’s not funny. Our goal is to be funny, period.”

“Because everyone can relate to shame or fear or aspiration, longing, love,” he adds. “You know, the real building blocks of comedy.”

Catastrophe debuts on Amazon Prime on June 19.