The Disaster of Romance, in 3 Life Stages
At the beginning of Catastrophe’s second season, we find Rob Delaney’s character (also named Rob) sitting in a sleek conference room—trying to backtrack on a joke he’d just made about why Coldplay might not be the most rousing soundtrack for an pharmaceutical ad—when he receives a series of texts from “Sharon London Sex,” informing him that she’s going into labor. Admittedly, seeing those words—“Sharon London Sex”—pop up on his phone sent a giddy shot of girlish delight through this viewer. It was an impish reminder of the cavalier, unconsidered encounters that become the most permanent fixtures of our lives, which is pretty much the crux of Catastrophe.
Season one ended with the birth of Sharon and Rob’s first baby, having covered their shotgun courtship (in tandem with their unexpected pregnancy) after a sloshed sex-bender business trip to London. By season two, however, Rob and Sharon (played by Sharon Horgan) are having their second child, and have waded fully into the marshland of marriage; Sharon is throwing dirty baby sheets out the window while flirting with post-natal depression, and Rob is contemplating the remission of his sex life alongside the disposal of an unwanted dog carcass.
Written, produced by and starring Delaney and Horgan, Catastrophe enacts a hyper-conscious new breed of television, the scripted super-real that reads reactionary to the un-realities of both traditional network and reality programming. “We spend a tremendous amount of time reading out loud and making sure the things we say would actually come out of a human’s mouth,” Delaney says, “which is important because it’s dangerous writing a sitcom with characters that are too clever. I can’t stand watching stuff like that.”
Delaney, who came to fame largely by way of social media after Comedy Central named him “The Funniest Person on Twitter,” and Horgan, the Irish comedian who penned the forthcoming HBO series Divorce starring Sarah Jessica Parker, will both be household names within the year (they already are in the UK, where Catastrophe cleaned house at the various TV awards). Given that the inspiration and primary subject of their show is marriage, when I sat down to talk with Delaney I was curious about his feelings on the matter of romance. Here, we’ve compiled the Rob Delaney guide to the misadventures in a lifetime of love.
Pat 1: The Sweet Bliss (Just Kidding) of Young Love
“Early romance is dire romance. The fear romance. When you’re adolescent and you first start to feel pangs, it’s so much stringier and stomach convulsing than you want it to be. The first sort of love you feel is a thing in your stomach because a boy looks at you in that class. And then you’re like oh god, do I have to poop? That’s what love feels like. Love feels like, do I have to poop?”
Part 2: Middle Life (Baby-Making) Romance, with a Miniature History Lesson
“My wife and I are approaching our tenth anniversary of marriage, and the way we’re in love with each other now is different than when we first met. I don’t know about the world at large, but I sort of suspect that romance as a goal has always been a difficult thing to achieve. When you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we’ve always want to feel loved and give love, but 500 years ago there were probably more people concerned with, will I be eaten by a wolf today? So then, for the English speakers among us, Shakespeare showed up and fused together a lot of stories that were already out there that helped to sort of map what you could call our modern era of romance. These days everybody wants to be happy, and to be the object of romance, but I think a lot of people still spend more time thinking, how do I get food on the table? Why don’t my pants fit? How am I going to feed my children? Those are things I think about, and then at the end of the day, I’ll be like oh yeah I have a beautiful wife that I’ve taken for granted for the last three days. Now that I’m older and more experienced, I think it’s even romantic to wake up and decide, okay my wife’s going to be crazy today, but you know what—I’m going to do something nice for her anyway. She gave me these three beautiful children and she works her ass off to take care of them, and me, all the while bettering herself to be the fascinating person that she is. If you really sit down and get out of your own selfish way to look at the person you’re with, you might just want to wrap your arms around her ankles and be grateful they let you use the same toilet they do.”
Part 3: (Overly?) Seasoned Romance
“Ultimately, none of this means I don’t chase romance with the insanity that everybody else does. But at the same time, I lament when I see a 70-year-old guy in a Viagra commercial being like, I need a better boner! Jesus Christ. When I’m 70, I hope I don’t care. I hope I am just in a rowboat. There’s no woman in the rowboat. Like—women, why are you trying to take a bath with me in on a dock over a placid lake? Go away! I don’t know what I’m talking about at this point.”
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