rob delaney catastrophe
Beautiful Disaster

Rob Delaney is a Fat Cosmopolitan Asshole, But He’s Happy

Rob Delaney is a funny guy and a pretty reasonable guy. That’s his thing. He’s the guy you want to get a beer with. Twitter loves him for it and, yes, he could probably win an election on charm if he wanted to — at least in his native Massachusetts — but he’s not self aggrandizing enough for that kind of campaign. Delaney, 40, revels in his own weaknesses, body shaming and otherwise degrading himself on the Amazon original series he co-created with his work wife Sharon Horgan. Catastrophe is a show about being a parent, being an adult, being flawed, being in England, being in love, and being disappointed. It’s a lot of things, but, like its star, it is most notable for being incredibly fucking funny.

Now in its third season, Catastrophe is follows an American marketer in London who marries a woman after getting her pregnant during a marathon of a one-night stand. It also follows an English teacher who marries an American idiot after getting pregnant during a marathon of a one-night stand. It’s a balanced show, which is a big part of why it has a cult following.

“The response has been warm and satisfying,” Delaney says of his experience making something that is, in turns, sweet and low down. Perhaps that’s a bit of an understatement. Perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement.

With the show returning for its third season, Delaney spoke to Fatherly about dealing with age, the parenting differences between LA and London and looking forward to the heat-death of his libido. 

Your character, Rob, on Catastrophe is a compound character. He’s half funny and responsible father figure and half out of control maniac who wants food, alcohol, and sex. To what degree has your body become your foil as you aged?
I quit drinking because my drinking was deadly. A year or so after that, I started to deal with depression and I had to go to therapy and take medication for that. And then some years after that my metabolism started to slow down because I was getting older. Then I realized I had to start watching what I ate and I deeply resented that. A big part of me feels like since I can’t drink and I have to take medication for depression, shouldn’t I at least be able to eat six pounds of codfish every half hour? The fact that I can’t do that is metaphysically offensive to me. I’m kind of wrestling with that now.

Life isn’t fair and it seems to get less fair as you get older. You seem like you’re fascinated to watch that play out. How’s that going for you?
As you get older the things you have to regulate or cut out is so fascinating. And that is just how it is. Whenever I see a commercial for Viagra for a guy in his 70s or 80s — who’s worried about getting a boner — like I can’t wait until I’m not led by my libido. I’m always like, ‘Guys, let it go.’

It’s like you’re trying to wriggle out of a bad relationship with your bag of organs.
I definitely feel at war with my body in various forms. And it makes me laugh. I can say 8,000 more words about my body, but I’ll stop here because we should talk about other things.

Let’s talk about parenting. How is it different in England?
I think it’s pretty similar. I’ve lived in LA, where people are clownishly ridiculous and precious about their kids. And then I moved to London where it’s the same deal. The cool thing I’m happy about is that my wife and I had three kids in a row, which removes all that preciousness. It’s not, ‘Well I make my own child’s food.’ If they eat cat shit with a cigarette sticking out of it off the road, we’re like, ‘Great! That was lunch!’

When you have too many kids and they overrun the house, you drop all that stuff and that’s been good for us, but bad for them. We let them eat feline fecal matter off the road.

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Is there a different role carved out for fathers in the UK?
There’s been a homogenization of Western culture and globalization. I have not been able to pinpoint in between London parenting and LA parenting. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about a suburb of Evansville, Indiana and a suburb of Birmingham, England. That I can’t speak to because I’m a cosmopolitan asshole.

Does the awareness of class play into the parenting experience in England?
In the UK, what’s nice is people are more cognizant of that on the surface. In the U.S., people will pretend that doesn’t exist as much. I think it might be psychological healthier in the UK. I really like the fact that there is a royal family. I think, obviously, that it’s ridiculous, but it’s good that on your money there are these pictures of people who are just born into wealth. I think that’s a good reminder that the deck is totally stacked. Once you acknowledge that, you really can transcend it.

In America it’s, ‘There’s not a problem! Anybody can do anything!’ Which is a horrible cripplingly lie. In the UK, they’re more aware of it. It’s like, ‘No. No one can do anything.’ Once you accept that, then you realize you really can.

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Catastrophe is about family and money is part of that. To what degree do you see it as your responsibility as a man to be a provider?
I do feel like I should provide even though I feel like I shouldn’t feel that way even though I absolutely totally do. Once you have kids, it gets weird. My wife, she’s an amazing woman who I fell in love with because of her personality, her dynamism, her creativity, and her love for her own career. But whoops—biology dictates that the babies grow in her body. So her career has been torpedoed while mine’s been ascendant in the last few years and that’s a big dynamic in my real life marriage that we struggle with.

What I think that’s good about being married now is that you can talk about it. Like you and your spouse can say, ‘Hey, here’s an interesting problem’ because we’re being lead to or being railroaded into these traditional gender roles. At least we’re talking about it. And yeah, we try to do that with Catastrophe.

Do you think talking about it creates a happy home? Or is there a chance that we were better off when we just played a gendered game of make-believe?
What I like about being married to a woman—and here’s a sexist thing that I deeply believe is that women have a large number of words they have to say each day or they’ll die. There’s a bigger quota of words that has to come out of their mouths to say than men have. And what’s good about my marriage is I learned, ‘Hey, what if I said more? What if I said how I feel?’

It turns out that is a good idea. And that’s why it’s good for me to live in a house with a woman—preferably my wife—and learn from her good emotional health and stuff.

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