Most of us dream of having our own TV show, but Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day actually made it happen. The three shot a pilot for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on a digital camcorder for under $200 and sold the show to FX. In 2005, the show about four self-absorbed slackers running a pub in South Philadelphia debuted on the network. The show exceeded expectations and the following season, Danny DeVito was added to the cast.
The show, which has been described as “Seinfeld on crack,” will soon be back for its fourth season, so we sat down with McElhenney (Mac), Howerton (Denis) and Day (Charlie) to talk about egg salad sandwiches, The Night Man and their dream of one day working with Kurt Russell.
We have a serious question to start – why are you guys so damn funny?
Glenn Howerton: Well, I’m eating an egg salad sandwich right now.
Rob McElhenney: That’s hilarious.
Charlie Day: Eggs are funny.
Howerton: Not only are eggs funny, but they cause you to fart and farts are funny.
What is the writing process like? How do you come up with episodes?
Howerton: Oh boy, how do we come up with the episodes? It’s almost like a work environment, really, more than anything.
Day: It’s a nine-to-five job, man. Come in in the morning and don’t leave until you come up with some funny ideas, and if you haven’t come up with anything funny, just starting eating eggs until you think of something funny.
Howerton: Or you’re going to get raped.
Who does the raping?
McElhenney: That would be me.
Day: That would be Rob.
Howerton: Yeah, he does the raping.
Day: The Night Man.
You were fortunate to end up on FX since the network seems to understand the show and gives you all room to work. Do you ever ponder your fate if the show was picked up by somewhere like NBC or CBS and you had to deal with all of the network censorship?
McElhenney: We would have made one episode.
Howerton: But we would have probably made more money off of that one episode.
So you guys ever plan on selling out? Are there any plans to take the big contract some day?
Howerton: Oh absolutely. Fuck yeah, bro. What do you think we’re doing the show for?
Day: Yeah, we were just having that conversation right now, as to whether or not to cut out a joke that we want because of Standards and Practices or quit the show, so we’ll see. It’s tough. Even with FX, we have to fight battles sometimes, so I don’t know if we are capable of selling out.
What types of battles do you have with FX over content?
McElhenney: We want to say “fuck.”
Howerton: There’s some language issues. It has less to do with FX and more to do with just the standards of the consumer public.
Why aren’t you allowed to say “fuck”? You can say “shit” on the air.
McElhenney: It has something to do with the Christian Coalition.
They don’t like to fuck?
Howerton: No, they like to fuck, but they like to fucking lie about it. And they like to judge other people for fucking because they hate themselves so much.
What can fans expect to see in season four? Can you give a preview of what you guys have planned.
Howerton: Believe it or not, there really are going to be a lot of rape jokes this year.
Day: I think people can expect a great season. I think it’s one of our strongest ever. If it’s not the best, it’s one of the best, so we’re really excited about it.
Howerton: We’ve been editing during the hiatus. We just finished shooting, so we’ve been editing for the last couple days. All the stuff that we’re looking at is great. It’s got us really excited, man.
When the show is all said and done and the fans look back at it, do you think “Day Man” and “Night Man” from the episode “Sweet Dee’s Dating A Retarded Person” will end up being your Freebird?
Howerton: I think when you see this season, we’re doing an entire Day Man and Night Man musical that I think is going to blow the other one out of the water. But yeah, it’s entirely possible.
Do you still enjoy the Day Man and Night Man stuff? Obviously, you are doing the musical this season, but are you happy that fans have really latched on to Day Man and Night Man?
Day: It kind of took us by surprise. We shot it on the first day of shooting season three. We all laughed about it and sung the song for a while. Then, by the time it aired, we were so over it that we forgot that it was very funny.
Howerton: We thought it was kind of funny.
Day: We thought it was funny, we were just really pleased to see people found it as catchy and as funny as they did. So, we’ll see. Hopefully something will click with them this season too.
What is it like working with 80s icons Danny DeVito and Fred Savage?
Day: 80s icons. [Laughs.]
Howerton: We all grew up as kids in the 80s, so we grew up watching Savage and DeVito. It’s like getting to work with your heroes – minus Fred Savage, but certainly with Danny DeVito. Well, it’s hard to call him your hero, he’s like my age. Now I look at him, I just see a fat, old man. But no, Fred’s great. It’s awesome working with those guys. There’s a reason they’ve been around for a while. They’re terrifically talented people.
Who is the biggest diva on the set?
Day: Fred Savage.
Howerton: We don’t have any divas on the set, honestly.
Day: With our time constraints and our budget, no one can afford to be a diva.
Howerton: The way we run things, dude, trust me, man, if anybody was a diva, they’d be fucking gone. We just don’t put up with that kind of shit, man. That’s stupid. I only wish that one day I work with somebody who locks themselves in their fucking trailer because what I’m going to do is I’m going to go to transpo and I’m going to say, “Drive the fucking trailer as far away from here as you possibly can with that motherfucker in it.” I don’t give a shit who it is. Fuck that, that’s stupid baby shit, man.
You guys are beloved in Philadelphia, but Philly is not necessarily the most forgiving city. They booed Santa Claus, they booed Donavan McNabb. Do you ever worry about a Philly backlash?
Day: That’s like worrying about the South uprising again.
[All three laugh.]
Day: We can handle it. It’s all talk.
What is it like when you guys go to Philly? Are you big celebrities there?
McElhenney: Philly has definitely embraced the show. Every time I go home, it certainly seems like the show is growing. So I think people get the joke.
You have another project in the works called Boldly Going Nowhere. What can you tell us about that show?
Day: We’re really excited about that. It’s another comedy and it’s set in outer space. And we’re able to bring a lot of our sense of humor and our style of comedy to a setting that is ripe for comedy. So we’re really excited. We’re just starting to write some of the future episodes and we’re shooting a pilot this fall. Hopefully Fox puts it on the air and the audience watches it. I think it’s going to be great.
What would you guys be doing for a living if you never got into show business?
Howerton: Aeronautical engineering. For sure, for me. I love airplanes.
Day: He’s smiling.
McElhenney: That would be a good job.
Day: I wouldn’t do much because I wouldn’t be capable of doing very much. I’d probably – God, what would I do?
Howerton: You’d be an alcoholic, for sure.
Day: Well, I already am an alcoholic. I’d probably be like a greenskeeper at a golf course or something, you know what I mean? I’d probably be a greenskeeper.
So is that your fallback plan?
Day: Too late, buddy, I’ve made it. I don’t have to fall back on shit, unless I pick up a serious coke habit.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you guys.
Day: I’m 6’1″. And a lot of people think I’m really short. I squat a lot on the show because it’s right for my character. It’s actually a method thing that before we went into shooting, so I could squat, I had my legs compressed. They went in, they bashed my knees with like some shorter ones.
Howerton: Now the amazing thing about Charlie is that he’s actually the tallest and most handsome of the three of us. He’s a good actor. He acts shorter.
How do you act less handsome?
Day: Well, you don’t. I think Glenn’s a little confused on that point. But, what do you not know about us? The truth is that people might think we’re guys who are always joking around and goofing around, but we’re probably the hardest working, three most serious people you’ve ever met. We’ve spent many, many, many tireless hours working on this show and now the other show as well and in real life, we’re sort of boring and driven.
What plans do you guys have for the future?
Day: Private jets.
Howerton: Trips to private islands.
Day: World peace. I don’t know, run for governor, maybe.
Howerton: I want to meet Kurt Russell.
Day: That’s it; we’re just trying to meet Kurt Russell, man. We’re just trying to do it.
You guys can make that happen. Maybe write an episode for him.
Howerton: Hey listen man, that guy won’t do TV. We’re all big Kurt Russell fans and we’re trying to get him for our new show. We think he’s the most talented guy in Hollywood.
McElhenney: He won’t do it.
Now that you mentioned it on this website though, it’s going to happen.
Howerton: That would be amazing, man. If you have something to do with making that happen, we’d probably fly you out here, coach, and take you to -
Day: Well, there’s a bus. There’s probably a bus.
So if Kurt Russell ends up on the show, can we take credit for it?
Howerton: Yeah, absolutely.
So for any one who hasn’t seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, here is your chance to promote the hell out of it and tell people why they should check out the new season.
Day: For anyone who hasn’t seen the show, they -
McElhenney: They’re missing out on the funniest show on television and if they miss out again this year, they’re just straight dicks.
Interviewed by Joel Murphy. The fourth season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia begins Thursday, Sept. 18 at 10 p.m. Season three is available now on DVD. To read our interview with Kaitlin Olson, click here.
- One on One with Kaitlin Olson
- Bacon and Legs – It’s Always Yummy in Philadelphia: Pretzel and Cheesesteak Strata