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The Tragic True Life Story Of Deadpool 2's Rob Delaney

If you know Rob Delaney, it's probably from his scene-stealing role as the non-powered superhero Peter in 2016's "Deadpool 2," the 2018 Marvel sequel that earned him an obsessive cult following. It's a movie that changed Delaney's life forever, but it's hardly his only claim to fame. For four years he starred in the U.K.'s Channel 4 series "Catastrophe," which found a home in his native United States on Prime Video. Earlier in his career he'd also gained notoriety for his hilarious Twitter account and a 2014 memoir, "Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage."

When he wasn't making audiences cackle with laughter, however, Delaney was all too often at the center of a tragedy. From his early days as a dead-end stand-up comic to the death of his infant son, it may seem that Rob Delaney's life has been one devastating experience after another. No matter what life throws at him, though, Delaney has persevered, a testament to his personal strength and inner fortitude — not to mention a healthy and loving support system of family and friends. 

With "Deadpool and Wolverine" bringing Delaney back in the role of Peter, fans are getting to know the actor all over again. But you may be surprised by some of the tragic details in the life of Rob Delaney.

A difficult childhood set the stage for later troubles

Rob Delaney's difficulties didn't start in adulthood. In fact, his childhood was marred with issues big and small, one of the most notable being the divorce of his parents when he was 14 years old. As he described in his memoir, "Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage," his parents' split was an eye-opening experience that for the first time made him realize that his mother and father were "flawed human beings." It also led to him taking on the role of caregiver, as he was forced to become an increasingly parent-like figure to his younger sister.

Even before his parents' divorce, though,  Delaney had also suffered from a medical ailment that made his youth extremely uncomfortable. He spoke about the issue in a 2011 op-ed for Vice. "When I was nine, my pediatrician suggested that my bedwetting persisted because I was a deep sleeper and that the condition would ultimately resolve itself," he wrote. Unfortunately that didn't happen, and according to the surprisingly frank Delaney, he continued wetting the bed until he was 25 years old.

"I probably would have stopped at around 12," Delaney admitted in the piece, "but that's when I was introduced to alcohol. This tacked on another 13 years of waking up wrapped in the [urine]-soaked sheets of beds across the United States, Canada, and France."

Years of failure sent him around the country

The life of a stand-up comic may seem fun and at times even glamorous, but for many it can often be a brutal gauntlet of challenges — a trial by fire that may never lead to a bigger career. And for a while you might have thought that Rob Delaney was going to wind up another stand-up artist swallowed by the rigors of the comedy circuit.

Delaney first began his career behind a mic back in 2002, but he'd tried his hand on the stage even earlier. He got his start in musical theater, appearing in a national production of "Camelot" before heading to New York for "The Sound of Music." In 2001, he headed west to pursue acting on TV and in film, but it wasn't the meteoric rise to stardom he might have hoped for. "I was doing odd jobs –- working in a warehouse, in catering -– because I wasn't making a living acting," he told The Independent in a 2013 interview.

Eventually, Delaney went for stand-up comedy, where his penchant for low-brow laughs and taboo subjects could make audiences cringe as much as laugh. But where similarly edgy comics like Richard Pryor, Sarah Silverman, and George Carlin all became popular thanks to their provocative humor, Delaney floundered. It wasn't until the late 2000s that he earned widespread notice, and it was for — of all things — his Twitter account, which earned him the title of Funniest Man on the Internet in 2012. 

He fought a battle with alcoholism for years

Picking up his first drink when he was just 12 years old, Rob Delaney found himself consumed by alcohol for a large portion of his young adult life. To his credit, he's always been open about his struggles, and even wrote extensively about his battle with alcohol abuse. 

"The feeling alcohol gave me was so magical that it outweighed the night's lousier aspects and I really looked forward to doing it again," the comedian wrote in his memoir. As he described it, drinking made him feel whole: "Sort of like it elegantly completed a chemical equation of some kind." Despite the fact that his alcohol consumption was causing myriad problems, from persistent bedwetting to periodic blackouts, Delaney said that it became nearly impossible not to partake. "I kept on drinking," he said. "Through high school, through college, and then for a few more years after that ... Suffice to say that alcohol and I never mixed well."

Sadly, as he got older, his drinking not only continued, but got worse. He'd drink to the point of getting sick, and he found himself doing so more and more. He felt it helped him be confident, particularly with members of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, it also led to serious problems — including with the women in his life. 

Rob Delaney's drinking problems damaged relationships

As Rob Delaney described it, he went to great lengths to shield his partners from the worst parts of his disease. There was at least one occasion, though, when he couldn't shield his girlfriend from the worst it brought out in him, and he talked about it in his book, "Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage." 

"One time I yelled at her in the street when she tried to get me to come home with her after a lovely date," Delaney wrote. But it wasn't just angry outbursts — Delaney said that the alcohol also turned him into a liar, in his search for more booze. "I said I had friends waiting for me,'" he wrote, but it was all a fabrication to avoid leaving the bar. "There were no friends there; I'd lied, and then went there and drank alone until I was garbage." 

Though he'd tried to apologize and make amends, it quickly became clear that everyone around him was well aware of his bad behavior — and not everyone was so forgiving: "I very clearly remember her roommate glaring at me with the wholly warranted disgust you focus on a textbook s******." Regrettably, the experience that night didn't serve as the kind of wake-up call it might have been for most of us. It would take a much worse incident before he'd turn his life around.

A devastating car wreck changed his life forever

In 2021, Rob Delaney celebrated nearly 20 years of sobriety after a long fight to control his alcoholism. To mark the occasion, the comedian posted on his Instagram page about just how far he'd come from his lowest moment. "Today marks 19 years that I've been sober," Delaney began, before describing the moment when he knew he needed to change. That moment was the result of a devastating car crash that left him in a wheelchair.

"I'd been trying to quit drinking for years," Delaney wrote, explaining that the car accident was the nearly fatal message he needed to get sober for good. "19 years ago today I was in jail in a wheelchair with two badly broken arms," the "Catastrophe" star wrote. The crash happened back in 2002, and as Delaney described it, he'd been under the influence when he drove his car into the side of a building while he was blacked out.

In the crash, Delaney broke both arms and suffered lacerations to his hands and knees that went down to the bone, requiring multiple extensive surgeries and lots of physical rehab. Thankfully, Delaney was the only one injured, but it was a close call that could have ended much worse. For his part, Delaney was well aware of how lucky he truly was: "It took that accident to make me realize my drinking was deadly to the world at large."

Delaney lost his uncle to alcoholism

He's long been open about his battle with alcoholism, but Rob Delaney's own devastating car crash wasn't the first time that he'd come face to face with the deadly potential of the disease. Some years earlier, Delaney was forced to confront the harsh realities of alcohol abuse through the loss of his uncle — his father's brother. It happened not long after Delaney had taken a trip overseas, where he was robbed at gunpoint after going on a bender.

"When I got back from Paris, my uncle Burt died," Delaney said in his memoir. According to Delaney, his uncle had been on a train en route to New Jersey to meet another member of the family when he'd suffered a fatal heart attack. He was just 50 years old at the time of his death. "He was the youngest of four, the other three of whom are still alive today," Delaney wrote. "[They] grew up poor in Boston and I know that they shared a bed as kids and took care of each other in foster homes and orphanages." Delaney suspected that Burt's alcohol abuse was the result of that traumatic childhood, but his death wasn't the wake-up call for him that it might have been.

"My uncle Burt drank and died young; My dad didn't and he's pushing 70," Delaney added. But it wouldn't be long before all that changed.

Depression has been a persistent foe for Delaney

Rob Delaney is one of many celebrities who have publicly struggled with mental illness. Following the car crash, Delaney knew he needed to shape up, and the incident sent him to a psychiatric hospital, rehab, and eventually a halfway house to get healthy. But getting better wasn't easy, and the depression and anxiety became a very real foe — sometimes worse than the alcoholism itself. 

Thankfully, he got the help he needed — help he still needs today. And he's more than happy to talk about his depression, particularly his initial reluctance to get on medication to treat it, especially when it can help others going through it. "I deal with suicidal, unipolar depression and I take medication daily to treat it," Delaney began in a 2010 Tumblr post. While he didn't like the idea of medicating for depression at first, feeling it would mean he was weak, he eventually came around, and things have been better ever since.

Though it wasn't easy, a combination of therapy and anti-depressants has allowed Delaney to reclaim his life and build something better. His message to those struggling was also crystal clear: "I will say that as hard as it is, IT CAN BE SURVIVED. ...  a HAPPY PRODUCTIVE LIFE is possible and statistically likely. Get help. Don't think. Get help."

He was once accused of antisemitism

A longtime resident of the U.K., Rob Delaney has used his voice in support of the nation's Labour Party. But that support riled up rivals who accused him of antisemitism in an attempt to smear both him and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In 2021, the Jewish Chronicle called Delaney antisemitic after digging up decades-old tweets that seemed to mock Jewish people using stereotypes. 

What Delaney's rivals didn't realize at the time is that he has a lengthy history with Jewish people going back to his childhood in Marblehead, Massachusetts. In fact, he published an op-ed in Vice a decade earlier that detailed his unique experience living in the predominately Jewish region, and the deep respect he had for the religious community. "I went to the Jewish community center for nursery school, so I witnessed much Jewish activity from an early age," Delaney wrote in 2011. "I blew the shofar, ate challah regularly, spun dreidels." Unfortunately, the Chronicle lifted only specific, short phrases from that 2011 op-ed, twisting it to seem like his words were insulting to Jewish people. 

In 2023, Delaney drew ire after his swift criticism of Israel's attack on Gaza, which he said amounted to genocide, was detailed in a Guardian guest column. He made it clear, however, that it was his empathy for Palestinians — and the treatment they faced at the hands of the Israeli government — and not a dislike of Jewish people that drew his condemnation.

Delaney and his wife faced every parent's worst nightmare

His life already full of challenges — from the loss of family to struggles with alcoholism and depression — Rob Delaney was dealt perhaps the most tragic hand possible when in 2016 his infant son Henry was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Something no parent should ever have to face, the diagnosis — which came just months before Delaney's breakout role in "Deadpool 2" — made Delaney and his wife take stock of their lives as they endeavored to enjoy the remainder of their young son's days as best they could.

Henry passed away in 2018 at the age of 2-and-a-half, but Delaney hasn't let the tragedy define him or his son's life. He's used social media to keep Henry's memory alive, and in 2022 he released a second memoir, "A Heart That Works," which explored grief and trauma through his son's life and death. "I speak publicly about Henry in an effort to destigmatize grief," he said on Twitter (now called X). "My family is sad and in pain because our beautiful 2 yr old boy died after a long illness. Why wouldn't we be sad? Why wouldn't we be angry and confused?"

While nobody can ever truly heal from such a devastating loss, Delaney has used Henry's passing to help others, writing, "I just want other bereaved parents and siblings to feel seen/heard/respected/loved."

Delaney's father died of cancer after his son's death

Not long after Rob Delaney's son Henry was diagnosed with cancer, the "Deadpool 2" star was handed another devastating blow. It was 2020 and while the world was gripped by COVID-19, Rob Delaney received word that his father Bob — who had been by his son's side during little Henry's illness — was stricken with cancer. Two years later, Robert Delaney Sr. passed away at the age of 74.

"Today would've been my dad Bob's 75th birthday," Rob wrote on his Instagram a year later. "I love him and I miss him and I still talk to him from time to time." Delaney went on to speak about the close relationship he'd had with his dad, and how he'd cared for him in the final days of his life. He shared an emotional photo of his father cradling his son Henry before they both passed, remarking, "Look at the love in this photo. See you around, guys."

A suicide close to home devastated the Delaney family

Rob Delaney dealt with unimaginable grief following the death of his son Henry and the loss of his father to cancer four years later. But in between, the Delaney family was dealt another tragedy when a close family member died by suicide. "When Henry was in the hospital getting chemo, my sister's wonderful husband [Tobias] died by suicide," Delaney told NPR in a wide-ranging interview in 2022.

"He was such a, just gorgeous soul," he said. "I was so happy when they got married." But behind the scenes, Tobias was suffering from depression, something Delaney was intimately familiar with. "He had a wonderful wife — one of the best wives around, my sister," he added. "You know, a beautiful daughter. And he [still ended his life]. That's where his pain took him." 

Even though Delaney empathized with his brother-in-law, that didn't make the loss any easier, as he still saw the unfairness in losing such a bright, vibrant member of the family. "It really felt like watching one of the horsemen of the apocalypse gallop up to someone at speed and cut them down," he said.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, is dealing with domestic abuse, needs help with mental health, or is struggling or in crisis, contact the relevant resources below: