Rob Delaney, star and co-creator of the Amazon sitcom Catastrophe, often finds comedy in explaining the idiosyncrasies of adult life to a slightly younger audience. In his most recent stand-up special, Live at the Bowery Ballroom, he explains that marriage is only a worthwhile experience for men who are excited to cry over how small their wives’ socks are shortly before becoming so angry with their wives that they Google ways to get away with murder. Catastrophe, which Delaney co-writes with Sharon Hogan, feels like an extension of Delaney’s take on marriage, all chaotic emotions ranging from devotion to rage.
“I don’t personally care if anyone gets married, but I guess if you watch Catastrophe, and you feel like the version of a real marriage that Sharon and I write sounds fun, then you’re probably right,” he told Inverse in a recent phone conversation.
The fictional Rob and Sharon on the show come together after a week-long sex bender, in which Rob — then just in the UK on business — accidentally impregnates Sharon, whom he met at a bar. Because they’re in their 40s and seem to get along, rather than call it a day and have an abortion, the couple decides to commit fully to their new life together. Two seasons later, Rob and Sharon have two children, and they haven’t gotten any better at acting like a typical sitcom couple. But that’s what make Catastrophe compulsively watchable — Rob and Sharon feel like a couple you know. Inverse spoke with Delaney about the new season, marriage, and flatulence.
I feel like this is the first sitcom about a married couple I’ve ever watched that makes me feel like it’s a thing I could do. Is that strange?
I love that! I love it. I happen to like being married a lot, and I try to convey that in the stuff that I do. My thesis is, well, it’s interesting. It’s not always fun. But too much art makes marriage sound only miserable — which it is — but it’s also fun and funny and intriguing and challenging. I try to show people the rainbow of what marriage can be.
Rob and Sharon talk a lot about sex, but we don’t see them having sex often. When they do, it’s never sexy. Do you guys have rules about sex scenes when writing?
Seinfeld had this rule: no hugging and no learning. We don’t have that rule, obviously. Sharon and I hug, and our characters learn as the show goes on. But one of our rules is: They may not absolutely ever have sex without it being awkward.
Awkward how? They like having sex with each other, right?
We’re not going to have a sex scene where someone doesn’t get cramped in a corner, or lose their balance, or fart. I mean, I don’t want anybody jerking off to Catastrophe.
Was it uncomfortable to write and act out the process of slipping into drinking again? We really see Rob go through a lot this season.
It wasn’t. I’ve been sober long enough, and I’m happy to be sober. Our characters are under stress, and we wanted to show a realistic problem and have it play out.
You know what was stressful? There’s a scene where Rob goes back to the car to get his credit card, and filming that made me want to puke. It was awful; that’s an actual, terrible scenario, dealing with finances that felt like a nightmare to me. It’s not enjoyable to act out.
Yeah, it’s very difficult to watch Rob’s descent. He stops sharing things with Sharon at some point, and then we’re just helpless as people around him realize what’s wrong.
Yeah, we structured all of that very carefully. My wife and I just read Remains of the Day, and we listened to a podcast afterward about [Kazuo] Ishiguro structuring the book. It was a very conscious thing, plotting out everything that happens.
Rob and Sharon start making the choice — well, Rob more so than Sharon this season — to stop leaning on each other when things go badly, and that’s a really, really bad choice to make in a marriage. To stop sharing.
Uh oh. But their foundation is so strong.
They work as a couple — they just know that about themselves. They make the choice to accept each other every day, and they muddle through it. Their marriage and its success, we hope, is reflective of that fact that they’re making that choice. Some days they fuck up and make the wrong choice, and they wake up the next day and fix it.
Catastrophe Season 3 is currently available to stream on Amazon.