In the first season of brilliant Channel 4 sitcom Catastrophe, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney nearly killed us with funny via their accidental pregnancy-fuelled love struggle. They’re back – and love hasn’t got any easier, they tell Hannah Dunleavy.
I’m not big on quotes but the statement I love more than all others was made by Carrie Fisher: “If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”
So it’s fitting that Fisher is back for the second series of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s Catastrophe, a show determined to find the funny in everything, be it childbirth, torturous family parties, inadequate sex or dead pets.
Without wanting to spoil anything for you, there’s a time jump at the start of this season, taking it to the place the pair sat down to write a sitcom about in the first place.
“When we first conceived the show,” Delaney says, “we started thinking about the story of them meeting and we became more intrigued by that. So the first series was a pleasant surprise.”
“We wanted to show a real marriage,” Horgan adds. “To show how hard it is to keep things sweet when there are awful things like children running around.”
“Although Rob is now a husband and a father, he’s not really a changed man – his wife still comes up as Sharon London Sex on his phone.”
It makes the second season about “staying in love” rather than being in love, she says. And despite a seeming lack of romance in the first two episodes, the second ends on a rather touching act of love, albeit in that messed-up, Catastrophe way.
“We weren’t setting out to make a romantic comedy, it just kind of happened, and I think that’s why it’s worked,” says Horgan. “We didn’t have an ‘I Love You’ in this first series. We have one in this series.”
“But it’s pretty fucked up,” Delaney laughs.
Pretty fucked up isn’t a bad description for the series as a whole and both actors show a complete lack of vanity, putting themselves through the rigours of childbirth and a swift at-work toilet wank for the sake of comedy.
“We don’t push the envelope for the sake of pushing the envelope,” Delaney says. “We just want it to feel as real as possible.”
This inevitably leads to the assumption that it’s Delaney and Horgan’s lives up on screen. (“About 48 per cent,” she says.)
Series two remains dark, maybe even darker, with some fearsome rows, as well as the very real issues of a lack of bonding with a child and the loneliness of a new mum. “We really put them through the wringer,” Horgan adds.
Perhaps the genius of Catastrophe is that it achieves this without losing the viewer who might not have been there (hello!) and by staying funny. Very, very funny. Horgan completely nails everything she does and the scenes at Rob’s work are an absolute riot. (In fact, I think my favourite part of the first two episodes was the fact that, although Rob is now a husband and a father, he’s not really a changed man – his wife still comes up as Sharon London Sex on his phone.)
But the pair’s biggest achievement has to be that this is the second series to air within a year. And to make a second series that would have been worth the wait is extraordinary and confirmation that Horgan and Delaney might be one of the most efficient – and most amusing – comedy pairings TV has yet given us.
“It was really hard work, I abandoned my family for a while,” Horgan says. “It was great that Channel 4 wanted it back so soon, but the last thing we wanted was a dip in quality, so we really worked very hard.”
Delaney agrees: “At the end of shooting series two, I said, ‘I think we damaged ourselves.’ But by gum we had fun.”
Can we expect two series a year from now on?
“You’ll be lucky,” she laughs.
The new season of Catastrophe starts on Tuesday 27 October, 10pm, Channel 42096 Views
Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.