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Don’t Call It a Rom-Com: Rob Delaney on Catastrophe, the Best New Show on TV

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Rob Delaney’s rise to Twitter stardom has been well documented: He joined in 2009, turning the social media platform into an outlet for his wild, foul, satirical jokes, and quickly started to amass followers, both on the Internet and in the comedy world. In 2012, he won Comedy Central’s first and only Funniest Person on Twitter Award. So it’s only fitting that his newest project, a British sitcom called Catastrophe, also began with a tweet.

Like the rest of us, Sharon Horgan, “the Tina Fey of British TV,” first followed Delaney on Twitter, sometime in 2010. Delaney, a fan of the Irish comedian’s work, then sent her a direct message. The two met up and became fast friends. “I never would have dared to hope that we would make a sitcom together,” Delaney says by phone.

But the pair got a deal to develop a six-episode show together, and this January, Catastrophe aired on Britain’s Channel 4. Delaney plays “Rob,” a Boston-based ad man who, while on a business trip in London, meets Sharon (Horgan) at a bar. What starts off as modern rom-com cliché becomes immediately disarmed during introductions. While trying to buy Sharon a margarita, Rob reveals that he stopped drinking after an embarrassing incident: “I quit a few years ago after I shit my pants at my sister’s wedding.” (The fictitious Rob and the real-life Delaney share many things, among them a love of scatological jokes and abstinence from alcohol; Delaney stopped drinking in 2002 after a drunk-driving accident.) His off-color pickup line does the trick, and Rob’s and Sharon’s one-night stand turns into a weeklong fling, and an unexpected pregnancy.

Catastrophe, which became available on Amazon in June, offers up a lot of the usual rom-com fare, but with a whip-smart current of realism, alternatingly horrific and hilarious. It’s credited with breathing new life into a stale genre, yet another thing Delaney said he and Horgan had no intentions of doing. “I swear to God, we didn’t even realize that it was a romantic comedy until we were done with it,” Delaney said. “We thought it was a comedy. And it had some romance in it.” Here, more from Delaney on his new show, what we can expect from season two, and why calling Catastrophe the saving grace of rom-coms is just “silly.”

You met Sharon through Twitter and eventually became friends. Did you always have the hope of working together?
Well, no. At first, I was just a fan of hers. We just became friends and we realized we had a lot in common. We thought a lot of the same things were funny. We kind of had been kicking around our own versions of a story, so we just smashed them into each other and came up with Catastrophe.

Did you have any trepidation about turning your friendship into a working relationship?
Our relationship hadn’t been around too long so it’s not like there’s a wealth of memories we built up that could have been destroyed if we didn’t enjoy working with each other. There was trepidation when we started writing together, though. Not everyone can write together, certainly. So we were grateful when we realized it was fun.

What about adding the onscreen romance?
It wasn’t too weird to be writing something that had a romantic element to it with each other, only because both of us would, like, cut off an arm to serve a story. I remember at some point, writing the scripts for season one, I was, like, “So, this is super weird, right?” And she was, like, “It really is!” And then we both looked at our keyboards for ten minutes and then it passed. We just charge forward to make the story. We try not to bother ourselves with anything as silly as our own emotions or fears. Why would we let that stop us, you know?

Did you ever consider naming yourselves something other than your actual names?
Oh, totally. We meant to, but as we were writing, we kept our names, since aspects of it were autobiographical for both of us, we thought it would be easier to kind of access honest emotions about stuff if we kind of tricked ourselves into thinking we were talking about ourselves sometimes. So we were going to change them, but then it just felt too weird after a certain point.

How do your spouses feel about the autobiographical aspects of the show?
I know it’s weird for my wife to hear things in the show that are practically transcriptions of things that happened to her or to us. But I think they get a laugh out of it, and we tell them so they’re aware of what’s happening in the scripts and stuff. We’re also friends with our spouses and we care what they think about what we do. And both our spouses are both very funny as well.

How much of the show is scripted?
The show is one hundred percent scripted. There’s almost no improvisation. We’re despots that way. Improvisation produces amazing, amazing comedy and many people use it to brilliant effect. We generally don’t because we’re acting out all the roles constantly as we read and re-read the scripts to each other, because that’s how we work. So by the time we got ready to shoot it, it was pretty locked, since we agonized over every syllable that every character says.

How did Carrie Fisher get involved in the project?
We saw her give an award to Graham Norton at the Attitude magazine awards last year and she was so amazing, and Sharon said, “We should see if we could get her to play your mom.” And I thought that was crazy. I mean, how the hell? But then we just went through the normal channels. It was ridiculous! I didn’t believe it until we had her fully shot. I didn’t even believe it when I saw her walk onto the set. Why wouldn’t she in the middle of the day come to her senses and think: What the hell am I doing with these clowns?

Your show has been credited with revitalizing the romantic comedy genre. How do you feel about that?
You know what, that’s sort of a silly conversation because the trends reflect that maybe the fact that a smaller percentage of annual global film budgets is being devoted to romantic comedies and who seriously cares about that? Especially when you’re trying to make something good, you can’t concern yourself with trends, or you’ll just make silly garbage. People want to file it under romantic comedy, that’s fine with me. That’s not my place to do it. Our job is to make compelling story that is funny.

Are you worried about season two living up to season one?
I’m totally worried about it. I’m one hundred percent worried about it. The pressure comes from Sharon and myself because the network will be forgiven, but we won’t. So it’s our duty to make it excellent.

What can we expect in season two?
The only thing we’re saying about the second season is that it will be in the future. And I suppose you might say more of sequel than a continuation. You can only show a couple meeting for so long, and now they’ve met. So it’s going to be a different ball of wax. We’re casting for season two right now. And it’s so fun, I’m going to throw up.

This interview has been edited and condensed

The post Don’t Call It a Rom-Com: Rob Delaney on Catastrophe, the Best New Show on TV appeared first on Vogue.

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'And So It Goes' Trailer: Michael Douglas And Diane Keaton Are This Summer's Rom-Com Duo

The comedies Rob Reiner has directed over the past 15 years haven’t fared especially well with critics, and we aren’t convinced “And So It Goes” will reroute that trajectory. Still, it stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, so we’re willing to give it a shot. Douglas plays an arrogant real-estate agent who’s shocked to learn his estranged son has a granddaughter he never knew about. He’s left to take care of said granddaughter with the help of his generous neighbor (Keaton), who, despite much hesitation, emerges as an obvious love interest.

Mark Andrus (“As Good As It Gets,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”) wrote the script. Frances Sternhagen and Frankie Valli (as in Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons) have supporting roles. “And So It Goes” (no connection to the Kurt Vonnegut adage, as far as we can tell) opens July 22. Watch the first trailer below.

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