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Short-form content has graduated from YouTube to attracting big stars, big studios and big Hollywood backing. Is watching in snippets the future of TV?

State of the Union opens in a bar, where Tom (Chris ODowd) and Louise (Rosamund Pike) hash out an agenda for their marital therapy session over drinks and witty diversions. The two banter and alternately confront and avoid the flailing state of their marriage, before the scene cuts at the therapists door.

And by scene, I mean episode. Each instalment of State of the Union, developed and written by Nick Hornby for Sundance TV, lasts a mere 10 minutes less than half the length of a standard sitcom, and just over a tenth of the latest episode of Game of Thrones. The show, with its two principal characters and single-scene conceit, is peak TV in short-form, specifically designed to fit the time spent between subway stops. At 100 minutes a season, its a refreshing antidote to seemingly endless hours of original shows, said Daniel DAddario, chief TV critic at Variety. There are so many shows nowadays where I think people really feel the burn, because shows can be as long as creators and streaming services want them to be, and they can often be longer than consumers need them to be, he told the Guardian.

Short-form content is not new ask anyone who has gone down a YouTube hole of music videos, makeup tutorials or cooking how-tos but State of the Union represents a growing trend of snackable, stylish short-form from some of Hollywoods major players.

Netflix recently debuted two series with episodes of about 15 minutes: Special, a show about life as a gay man with cerebral palsy adapted from writer and star Ryan OConnells memoir, and Bonding, a series based on creator Rightor Doyles past as the bodyguard for a dominatrix. Just last week, Adult Swim greenlit the quarter-hour comedy series Three Busy Debras, from star Sandy Honig (Isnt It Romantic) and producer Amy Poehler. And the upcoming short-form video platform Quibi arriving from Hollywood titan Jeffrey Katzenberg, formerly the head of Dreamworks, and former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman announced the series #Freerayshawn, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring If Beale Street Could Talk breakout star Stephan James.

In other words, short-form has gone prestige. Once the purview of DIY YouTubers and aspiring creatives looking for a big break (Issa Rae graduated from the minutes-long webseries The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl to HBOs full-length comedy Insecure), short-form now commands a deep well of resources the backing of major studios, streaming-service budgets and top talent. And as the slate of original content continues to expand, scripted short-form TV may become the most contested battleground for heavyweight tech and content companies, as everyone from Snap to YouTube to Sundance TV compete for a quarter-hour snippet of attention.

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A still from Special Photograph: Netflix

Katzenberg has declared the shift to short-form as era-defining, telling a crowd at South by Southwest: Five years from now, we want to come back on this stage and if we were successful, there will have been the era of movies, the era of television and the era of Quibi. What Google is to search, Quibi will be to short-form video.

Quibi, short for quick-bite, is a $5 a month subscription service that will break full-length TV and movies into mobile-optimized six to 10 minute chunks. Set to launch in April 2020, the service is already worth more than $1bn and is developing projects with Lena Waithe, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, Justin Timberlake and a Fatal Attraction 2.0 thriller with Naomi Watts.

Its still too early to tell whether Quibis world of short-form will fundamentally reshape the hierarchy of Hollywood content. But shows like State of the Union have already demonstrated that scripted short-form can open up TV to new formats and voices that might not otherwise make it to series in a traditional length.

Special and Bonding, for example, both feature marginalized perspectives who challenge the TV status quo, and were probably considered a risk in finding a broad audience on broadcast. Netflixs vice-president of product, Todd Yelling, has said that the decision to go short, standard or long depends on the material. Its really about flexibility in storytelling. Some stories are best told in six minutes and some stories are best told in 10 hours, he told Variety in March.

State of the Union isnt about inclusion, but it is a show that for many reasons couldnt really work at 30 minutes because of Rosamund Pikes stature, because of the kind of story that its trying to tell, said DAddario. Each episode is less truncated sitcom than entry in a length-based genre a short story to a novel, DAddario said, made possible by the proliferation of streaming. Streaming presents this real opportunity to experiment that on broadcast and even on a lot of cable, you cant really do a shorter show, he said. Youre locked into these time slots and these formats.

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Chris ODowd and Rosamund Pike in State of the Union. Photograph: Marc Hom/SundanceTV

For Sundance TV, which has both a cable arm and a streaming service, the quality of the short product justified the risk of finding viewers. We loved the idea of using these incredibly talented people to break new ground in television, its executive director Jan Diedrichsen said to the Guardian. Sundance TV played each new episode of State of the Union linearly, at 10pm each night, and made them available for streaming at 5pm, in time for the evening commute. If youre on the train, youre on the bus, youre carpooling, what a great time to be able to catch 10 minutes of an episode in a way that a 50-minute episode may not be open to you, said Diedrichsen of the reasoning.

DAddario said thats exactly how he watched I Think You Should Leave, Tim Robinsons 15-minute sketch comedy show on Netflix and enjoyed it.

These kind of fast-moving 15-minute shows that are trying to do a couple things really well, and are youre in and youre out in a quarter of an hour, are a really satisfying mobile experience.

I love the fact that the creativity around this format really gives you a different sort of satisfying feel in premium television, said Diedrichsen of the length experiment. While its too soon to know how viewers responded to State of the Union did they watch episodes individually? All at once? Diedrichsen loves how the show takes the short-form structure and it makes it premium. The talent, the production values everything about it feels prestige and high-end.

Snappy dialogue, expensive lighting, slick production its the hallmarks of so-called prestige TV, pared down to the anti-Thrones extreme. In that way, the new short-form is as characteristic of the streaming era as is an overlong, somewhat bloated series, said DAddario.

I started watching State of the Union for this piece, intending to get a taste of the format through two or three episodes. But soon I fell into the rhythm of binge-watching, that liminal space where real-life hours become show minutes and the pull of responsibilities faded with each autoplay. Its not unusual for me to lose a whole sleepless night to an engaging seven episodes of TV. This time, though, it was just my lunch break.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/may/14/short-form-tv-future-state-of-the-union

Kiss frontman reportedly barged in on a meeting where he exposed his torso to staffers, mocked their intelligence and told lewd jokes about Michael Jackson

Kiss frontman Gene Simmons has been banned for life from Fox News after claims that he insulted and taunted staff members.

Simmons was appearing on a pair of shows on the conservative news network Fox and Friends, and Mornings With Maria to promote his new book, On Power. According to a Fox News source speaking to the Daily Beast, Simmons barged in on a staff meeting, unbuttoned his shirt and exposed his torso, shouting: Hey chicks, sue me!

He also told jokes about Michael Jackson and paedophilia, and made mocking remarks about the intelligence of staffers. His behaviour has now seen him banned from the building and from further Fox News shows. He has not commented on the claims.

Simmons had previously condemned Harvey Weinsteins harassment, saying: Men are jackasses. From the time were young we have testosterone. Im not validating it or defending it. In another interview earlier in the week, he had said: I want all the jackasses to go to jail for being improper.

He recently caused more controversy by claiming women had to choose between a family and a career: Get over your biological urges Its natural to want to have kids, but, sorry, you cant have it both ways. You have to commit to either career or family. Its very difficult to have both.

The ban comes as Fox News is trying to repair its reputation in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal around former host Bill OReilly. The anchor was ousted from the network in April, following news that he had paid out $13m (9.8m) to five women in settlements over sexual harassment; another payment of $32m was revealed in October. Despite knowing of the various cases, Fox had renewed his contract earlier this year, before eventually cancelling it.

In July 2016 meanwhile, the networks then chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes, resigned from the company following sexual harassment claims.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/nov/17/gene-simmons-fox-news-kiss

The credits for prestige dramas are often turgid monuments to codswallop which is why this tool is the greatest invention of this century

Last year, Kanye West embarked upon a self-aggrandising seven-minute monologue during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show. As this monologue hit full speed, West bellowed the following statement to nobody in particular: Picasso is dead, Walt Disney is dead, Steve Jobs is dead. Name someone living that you can name in the same breath as them.

This question has remained unanswered until now. Because, although I dont know the name of the genius in question, an heir has finally been discovered. The pattern now goes Picasso, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and whoever invented Netflixs skip intro button.

Im increasingly of the persuasion that this tool is the greatest invention of the 21st century so far. Its certainly the most satisfying. If youre yet to experience its magnificent wonders, let me walk you through it, step by glorious step. You turn on Netflix. You choose a show. Its interminable title sequence lurches into action. A little rectangular button pops up in the bottom right of the screen. It says skip intro. You hit it. As if by magic, the title sequence goes away and youre slap-bang into the show itself. Its miraculous.

One little-discussed downside of Peak TV is that 95% of all title sequences are terrible. This is because there are too many prestige dramas and theyre all trying to prove that theyre more prestigious than the others. The fastest way for them to do this is to hurl every last ounce of pretension they can at the opening sequence. The signifiers have almost become rote now: if theres atonal music and tiny writing and you start to lose the will to live about halfway through, you know this must be a really important series.

Prestigious opening titles have become such a lazy trope that lesser shows are starting to misuse them. The intro to Star Trek: Discovery, for instance, is as toweringly self-important as anything since the first series of The Leftovers. It is a monument to codswallop, dripping with references to the Renaissance up to and including Michelangelos fresco of The Creation of Adam, set to the sort of ambient chiming they play in tall lifts to stop people from freaking out.

Worse still, just when you think its done because the words Star Trek Discovery pop up it lumbers on for 13 more agonising seconds. This would be good if Star Trek: Discovery was actually prestigious, but it isnt. Its a workaday spin-off of three or four better predecessors. Show me someone who wouldnt skip the Star Trek: Discovery intro, given the chance, and Ill show you a masochist.

Same with Mindhunter. Its title sequence is novel the first time around hey, a tape recorder really does look like a bit like a dead persons face! but watching all 95 seconds of it 10 times in a row, and listening to the title music, which sounds like someone tuning a railway station piano as slowly as possible, is too much to ask. We just want to see some serial killers. Of course were going to skip the intro.

Netflix has toyed with intro-skipping before. It used to start episodes automatically once the opening titles were finished, but the lack of choice irritated some. Now, though, you need only hit a button and bang the whole thing blows up, never to be seen again. Its destruction of the most satisfying kind. Its the televisual equivalent of being a drone pilot. I cant get enough of it.

In an ideal world, all title sequences would be as short as the one for The Good Place, which is just a momentary white-on-green screen. A sequence like that proves that the show is desperate to tell you as much story as it can before time runs out. It tells you theres no time to waste. Its exciting. But, until that happens, at least weve got this magical button. Its unknown creator should step forward immediately, so we can all throw flowers at them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/nov/08/in-praise-of-netflix-skip-intro-button

Two of the channels libertarian comedians are slagging off the British band and their fans after Thom Yorke and co were nominated for inclusion in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Name: Fox News v Radiohead.

Age: About two weeks old.

Appearance: Almost entirely on Fox News.

What is it? Some kind of remix? Its a feud.

Who are the combatants? On the one hand, Fox News; more specifically, Greg Gutfeld and Kat Timpf.

Ive never heard of either of those people. Timpf, a millennial libertarian comedian, is a frequent guest on Gutfelds comedy libertarian chatshow on Fox.

I didnt know there was such a thing as a funny libertarian. It turns out there isnt, but they plough on.

And on the other hand? The popular beat combo Radiohead, formed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in 1985.

Its hard to imagine two such entities squaring off. I thought Fox News was entirely devoted to hating immigrants, Muslims and Hillary Clinton. If it is trying to diversify, its off to a shaky start.

How did all this come about? It began during a televised discussion about Radioheads recent nomination for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Timpf described the bands fans as strange, malnourished and sad, and their music as elaborate moaning and whining over ringtone sounds.

Slagging off Radiohead the one area where the US is still 10 years behind Britain. After some pushback from fans, Gutfeld and Timpf revisited the topic last week, with Gutfeld referring to Radiohead as the poor mans Coldplay.

That remark proves he knows the names of two British bands, and almost nothing else. On another Fox News show, Gutfeld called for Radioheads music to be banned from public places, and referred to them as the poor mans Air Supply.

Watch Kat Timpf take on Radiohead

That doesnt work either. He sounds like a cut-price Jeremy Clarkson. All the bad-mouthing culminated in a spoof ad featuring Timpf as someone suffering from Radiohead lice.

Now theyve gone too far. Theres nothing funny about head lice. This sketch certainly proved that.

What did Radiohead do in retaliation? Not a lot. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood changed his Twitter bio to include the phrase strange, malnourished and sad, but then he changed it back again.

So they won the feud. They didnt really even turn up for it, but yeah.

Do say: Fox News where music criticism comes to die.

Dont say: I think youll find most of us Radiohead fans are happy, conventional and dangerously overweight.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/shortcuts/2017/oct/31/knives-out-why-fox-news-declared-war-on-radiohead

He made his name as the funniest person on Twitter. But can the Catastrophe writer and star make light of dark times?

Catastrophe: noun; an event causing great and usually sudden damage or suffering; a disaster

Theres a huge titanium plate in Rob Delaneys right arm, one that goes pretty much all the way from his wrist to his elbow. Delaney is a man who doesnt do things by halves. Its a constant reminder to him of the time he should have died, and the time he chose to get to grips with life.

The standup/writer/actor/Tweeter of note was a drinker in his 20s. Actually, he had been a drinker since the age of 12. Not a casual drinker: a voracious drinker. He is 6ft 3in, and broad with it a huge petrol tank of a man and he just loved to fill himself up with booze. A dozen beers or more for starters, on to the wine, then the spirits. Nothing made him feel so fine as alcohol, so he would drink till he passed out, and when he woke up, often in the middle of a blackout with his memory shot, hed drive himself home.

It was on one of these journeys that he drove into a branch office of the Los Angeles department of water and power. He broke his right arm and left wrist, and his knees were ripped to the bone. It was a miracle he was alive. After they stitched Delaney back up and put him in leg braces and a wheelchair, they packed him off to jail for the night.

Delaney couldnt remember a thing. He asked if he had killed anybody, and promised himself that if the answer was yes, he would kill himself, too. He was told nobody else was involved, and says he can still feel the surge of relief. From that moment on, he swore hed never drink again. Its tempting to say he never looked back, but life is not so simple.

Delaney was 25 at the time, and working as a comic an unsuccessful one. It took him another decade to make his name, first for being funny on Twitter, then as a standup, and now as the star and co-writer of Channel 4 romcom Catastrophe. The show about the lives of an accidentally married couple (Rob, played by Delaney, and Sharon, played by Sharon Horgan) blurs reality and fiction. American Rob and Irish Sharon have a brief affair; she finds herself pregnant in her late 30s and decides to have the baby (as Horgan did, six months after meeting her now husband); he returns to London from America, and they try to make it work.

The writing is wincingly truthful: the throwaway comments that escalate into huge fights; the chaos that comes when sex and alcohol are combined; the vile things we say to each other (Is your email still fat-idiot-at-bad-breath-dot-cunt?); the hankering after something better and still settling for second best. But there is also a sweetness to Catastrophe: when they are not being horrible to each other, Sharon and Rob share something special.

We are in a photographers studio in London, where Delaney is having his picture taken. He is sitting in a chair with his back so thoroughly reclined that he is virtually horizontal. This chair will be like sodium pentothal, he says. Its a truth serum. If you take it, you will give up secrets under interrogation. Has he ever taken sodium pentothal? I havent. I dont know if I could, because Im sober. I dont drink or take drugs, so it would probably be a bad idea.

Delaney tells me that Richard Linklaters wonderful Before trilogy of films was an inspiration for Catastrophe, which surprises me, because Linklaters films are so searingly romantic, while Catastrophe is grounded in fart and shagging jokes. But it makes a kind of sense: both look at how the early euphoria of a relationship is challenged by the prosaic demands of everyday life, and how we learn to love each other despite the compromises; both are about how couples grow up.

As well as Horgans unplanned pregnancy, Delaneys drink problem has been written into the show (his character turns up for interviews smelling of booze). Sharon is a teacher, as is Delaneys wife. I ask him if some of the scripts more intimate details are true. Like what, he says defensively. Im thinking of one occasion when Rob is lying in bed by himself and Sharon asks if he has just been jerking himself off. Delaney looks relieved. Oh sure, yeah, my wife will come in and say, Hey, you jerking off there? Yes, definitely.

How does she feel about seeing their private life served up in a TV show? It was hard for my wife to watch the first series. But as weve veered further from the reality of our actual lives, I think she has appreciated that. Because, you know, Im the person who decided to go and be in public and be silly and assassinate my own privacy. She didnt. So, yes, Catastrophe has been educational for me in learning that it is OK to not want to have your business on TV.

Do they discuss the storylines before the show goes out? I have a sense of what I should and shouldnt put in. Whats a no-no? Anything emotionally delicate. My wife and I have been together 12 years, and married 10. Any marriage has difficulties. If one of us has a problem, weve agreed that, rather than draw from our own stockpile of stuff, it would be better if I retreated into my fantasy chamber and make stuff up. Which I think is fine and good. All that matters is that it feels real.

Delaney, 40, has often drawn on the alcohol years in his work; he doesnt mind it being made public because it affects no one but him. But he is intensely private about his family life. On Twitter, he will reveal that he has three children under the age of six, but little else. He occasionally refers to his wife and posts links to pictures but these tend to be of cute animals. Youre more likely to come across a photograph of Banksy online than Delaney and his wife.

As for his screen wife, he met Horgan on social media. She followed him on Twitter, told him she was a fan and suggested they try writing together. He was known for his one-liners back then, and had never written a TV script. Horgan had already written several, including the fabulously filthy Pulling. He describes Horgan as the senior writer and says he has learned a lot from her. Her ability to take a birds-eye view of a full episode or a series is unparalleled. I feel like Jack Bauer on the ground in 24,and shes Chloe, who can see everything: Dont forget we need this, and we need that, and Ill be like: Fart joke, sex joke. Shes in a helicopter above and can see all the occupied territory. So Im trying to take command centre lessons from her. The new series features Carrie Fisher as Robs monstrous mother, in the final role she filmed before her death in December. She died a week after she wrapped with us, Delaney says. Carrie was a bit of a genius kind and empathetic as well as very funny.

Catastrophe is beautifully written, but its the chemistry between Delaney and Horgan that makes it work so well. At its best, it feels as if we are eavesdropping; despite their battles, the glue that keeps them together is the fact that they still fancy each other.

Do they fancy each other in real life? He looks slightly shocked. Its a professional chemistry. We definitely tickle each others funny bones, for sure. Making her laugh remains a huge pleasure. But no, we dont fancy each other in that way, because even though we play husband and wife on TV that would feel… He searches for the right word. Incestuous. Plus it would be deadly for the show. We wouldnt want to kill the golden goose. That would be stupid. Who does he know better, Horgan or his wife? He laughs. My wife. Hahahah! By a long way. Oh God, yeah. I mean Jeez, Louise. Delaney has a laid-back, singsong voice, so it comes as a surprise when he laughs, the ferocious ratatat of a Gatling gun.

He met his wife when they were in their 20s, doing voluntary work with children who had cerebral palsy. Its a great way to meet people, he says, because at least you know they spend some of their time being selfless. Did she know him through the bad years? You mean before I got sober? No. Ive been sober for 14 years, and when I met my wife Id been sober for a couple of years. So she didnt see any of that. What would she have made of the old Delaney? She would have thought, no thanks! She would have seen shades of how I am now, but then she would have seen me drunk and said, Oh! He has a very serious problem. I think the red flag would have waved itself pretty visibly, and she would have backed off because she is smart and has self-preservation skills.

Rob
Grooming by Sara Bowden. Photograph: David Vintiner for the Guardian

He says there is no profound psychological cause to explain his drinking. He thinks it is probably genetic: his paternal grandfather was an alcoholic, and there have been numerous family members with drink problems: half with, half without, he reckons.

Delaney grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a picturesque coastal town with a tiny population. It was a happy childhood, he says. He loved to read, listen to music, and had a good relationship with his parents, both of whom worked in insurance. Delaneys father was brought up by a working-class single dad who could not cope and had to hand him over to the care system for long periods of time. His mother, meanwhile, enjoyed a privileged, middle-class childhood.

Young Rob was clever, precocious and sociable. Yes, he wet his bed until he was 12, and yes, he found it humiliating, but even that didnt make him unhappy. He was bigger than everybody else at school, reached puberty earlier, could look after himself. When he first got drunk, he thought nothing could beat it: the camaraderie, the freedom, the reckless kids who would drink with him, everything. He briefly stopped wetting the bed, but not for long. Delaney says he spent longer wetting the bed as a drunk than he did as an incontinent little boy.

Drinking felt so physically and mentally and emotionally good, I just wanted to do it, and then it became more of a compulsion. And then the idea of interacting with people without some sort of lubricant became harder. So yes, I started wanting to do it, and then it got to where I didnt know how to stop, and that was very scary.

He would take risks, jumping from Manhattan Bridge on one occasion, climbing telephone poles and then tightrope walking the wires on another (on the verge of losing his balance, he jumped and fell headfirst). But for all his maverick behaviour, he didnt feel miserable. He decided he wanted to act, and graduated from New York Universitys Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in musical theatre in 1999. By then, he says, he had become embarrassed about his acting ambitions. Why? My default is to think that its stupid. He cracks his ankle loudly. Ive never heard anybody crack a body part so loudly. And if you do it or want to do it, youre a silly person. My feeling that acting was for silly people came from going to university and being around a lot of very silly people. He pauses. Im not saying I wasnt one of them. In what way did he consider it silly? I thought, Who are you? You should be working in a factory or a bank, or a pizza shop. Books and music I got: wed all die if there was no music. But acting just seemed so silly.

In his final year at university he went to a standup gig, and had an epiphany. I was like Oh! This is it! Why did he find comedy more acceptable? Comedians write their own stuff, generally, so that felt more honest. Also it felt more craftsmany to me, and a more honest career path because as an actor theres an element of playing the lottery: I hope I get cast. Which makes me sick with anxiety. If youre funny, people are going to laugh involuntarily, and if you practise, youre going to get better, so it didnt seem as much of a lottery.

He continued to drink himself into oblivion. He moved to Los Angeles, drank, dossed, did standup, drank. Around 9/11, he was travelling in Paris. He knew the Americans would take a terrible revenge, and briefly considered joining the French Foreign Legion, which he thought preferable to the prospect of being cannon fodder for George W Bush. But then he just drank some more and returned to LA. After that came the car crash that should by rights have killed him.

Did he have a death wish? I was always quite a daredevil when I drank. But did I have a conscious death wish? No, certainly not.

When he wrote in his memoir that he would have taken his own life if he had killed someone, did he mean it? Yes, I believed that. There was massive relief and then further relief because it was now impossible for me to hide my drinking any more.

Delaney was ordered to go to rehab: a dry halfway house. The depression that followed was far worse than anything alcohol had done to him. Working through that was scarier. The first bout lasted a couple of months. It was so bad it couldnt have lasted longer.

By now, he says, he did have a death wish, and contemplated taking his life. I thought it would be a good idea, but I was able to recognise that as crazy. He speaks calmly, unemotionally, as if trying to solve a puzzle. Why did he want to do it? I felt shit and useless and of no value to the world, but I knew my friends and family wouldnt sign off on that. And by that time Id been sober for a year, and Id learned enough about impulse control and acknowledging theres a problem. I thought, you know what, Im just going to put my own decision-making process on the shelf for a minute and get the help that people are suggesting I should. That was very freeing and helpful.

Was there a positive side? Did part of him think: there are so many great things in life, I want to stay alive? He shakes his head. Not at the time, no. At that time I enjoyed nothing. It was pretty bleak.

Rob
Delaney with screen wife and Catastrophe co-writer Sharon Horgan in the new series. Photograph: Ed Miller/Channel 4

It could have been much worse. Three friends who were in the halfway house with him died in quick succession. Delaney gradually clawed his way out; he was put on medication, which he still takes today. Would he ever come off antidepressants? I like the idea of not being on pills, but more than that I like the idea of being a contributing dad and husband and worker and friend. I think of the brain as a crazy organ with all sorts of stuff going on in it, right? Well, so is the liver, so is the pancreas. I wouldnt tell a diabetic, Dont take insulin. If my serotonin receptors dont work the right way, then why shouldnt I take a pill that can address that?

He doesnt pretend that life is now a bowl of roses, but he does talk about the joy he gets from his family. Thats the main difference between him and Rob in Catastrophe, he says: while Rob finds his children a bind, Delaney wants to be with his all the time. If I could put my children in a belt and wear them all the time on my body, I totally would. The most important things to me are being a dad and being a husband, so I dont want to screw those up. And I have to provide for my family, so I have to maintain a career. No wonder he guards their privacy so ferociously. There is something unusual and touching about Delaneys seriousness: a comedian who doesnt like to make jokes, and doesnt even try to most of the time.

It wasnt until 2012 that his career took off. For a decade after the accident he gigged with little success. He was in debt, trying to write for comedy shows, getting nowhere. Then he read that the comedian Louis CK had opened a Twitter account, and thought, why shouldnt he? If nobody was going to buy his jokes, he might as well give them away for free on Twitter. They were lewd, puerile and surprisingly popular (Linger by the Cranberries is probably my favourite song about Prince Charles farting at the 1988 British Open).

Sometimes he saw famous comedians stealing them, and resented it. Then he thought a) they must have something going for them, and b) if he couldnt knock out new ones, he wasnt much of a pro. So out they came endless jokes, or perverse observations, of 140 characters or fewer. Before long, he had 1 million followers. In 2012, he won The Funniest Person on Twitter award (the only time it has been awarded). He was asked to write his memoir and began working with Horgan.

Ironically, Delaneys Twitter feed isnt funny any more. Trumps election has turned him into an obsessive political tweeter, dedicated to attacking the president and promoting activist group the Democratic Socialists of America. Former fans often tweet him and complain: You used to be funny. But he has new fans who think hes great. He thinks that, as the level of political discourse has become more abject, so has Twitter. Certainly for me, its much less fun, so I really try to think of it as a tool. The road gets narrower the longer you are on Twitter. What do they call it, confirmation bias?

Why doesnt he make jokes about Trump? I dont feel a compulsion to be funny about it, he says. Im OK with that. If Im not feeling funny about something, thats fine. Im much more interested in the demonstrable historic bigot Jeff Sessions not becoming attorney general than I am in having people laugh at my next joke. [Sessions was confirmed as Trumps attorney general soon after we met.] I have to use the mouthpiece I have.

His political activism goes way back, though, and he credits the car crash with igniting it. My passion for healthcare came from my accident, and having medical bills denied, and having my insurance company drop me, and having to pay for surgery with credit cards. Thats when I became really clued in to the injustices in the American healthcare system. He smiles. But my political disease has just got worse as time has gone on.

Is the politics part of an addictive personality? I dont know. I dont care. Some people will have to be addicts to get rid of Trump, because they will be working round the clock to the detriment of their health. And then therell be people who do it in a more measured manner. But its going to take everybody, with every positive and negative character attribute, to smash him.

Catastrophe 3 trailer.

These days Delaney lives in London. What has Trumps election victory made him think of his home country? Its put up or shut up time. People have to get involved. Sorry, America, you have to be engaged civically. Ill speak for myself. I wasnt doing enough, so now Im doing more. It will take work and sacrifice. Some of it wont be fun, some of it will be. But its going to take regular engagement, and that doesnt just mean you vote every four years. Thats ridiculous. If thats all youre engaged in politically, then we are fucked. He describes himself as a card-carrying organiser for the Democratic Socialists. Would he consider going into politics full-time? No, because I would rather tell a small story that rippled outwards and made people want to be kind to each other. I dont want to write policy.

As he talks, Im looking at Delaney. His is an astonishing story: from the gutter to successful author, standup, actor, TV star and political pundit. Did he ever write himself off? Oh no, he says, in spite of everything, I had a congenital feeling that everything would work out. You were always an optimist? Yes, and I still am! You are such a weird mix, I say. He grins, suddenly animated. Its so weird, right? He cracks his ankle again, even louder than last time. The noise makes me jump.

Im so sorry about that. One of my heroes is the cockroach because of the endurance it has. It doesnt survive beautifully. Its a disgusting thing that crawls around ruins, you blow stuff up around it, and the cockroach is like, Its cool man, Ill be here. So I aspire to be the cockroach. The cockroach is definitely my spirit animal.

Catastrophe 3 starts on Channel 4 on Tuesday 28 February.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/feb/25/rob-delaney-catastrophe-twitter-feeling-funny