The guys from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The TV Squad Interview
Starting tonight, everyone's favorite group of misanthropes from the City of Brotherly Love are back to invoke mayhem and generally make the lives of everyone around them miserable. And I can't wait.
Yes, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is back for its fourth season on FX, and they're going to be around awhile, as the network picked them up for 39 additional episodes after this season's run of 13 are over. In addition, series creators Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney will be working on a comedy for FOX called Boldly Going Nowhere, which is described as "Star Trek meets The Office." Imagine that: these guys are building an empire, all on episodes like this season's opener, where Mac and Dennis hunt down Cricket and Charlie and Dee become cannibals. You'll just have to watch it to get what I'm talking about.
I talked with Day, Howerton, and McElhenney about the upcoming season, the popularity of "Day Man / Night Man," their new show, and how co-star (and Rob's fiancee) Kaitlin Olson broke her back. Interview is after the jump.
Joel Keller: Last time I saw you was at the Santa Monica Pier; you were trying to make yourselves throw up.
Glenn Howerton: Oh yes, that's right. You caught us riding that fancy, fun, new ride they've got out there.
Rob McElhenney: That thing's fucking awesome.
JK: Did you succeed...I don't think you'd drank enough at that point?
Glenn: Oh dude. We definitely had, and we definitely continued to. But that kind of a ride... The way that ride moves is basically the way I drive my car. So it didn't really faze me that much.
JK: Did any ride do it for you at all?
Glenn: Oh no, it was fun, it was fun.
Rob: I liked the Sea Dragon.
Glenn: The Dragon's fun. Viking ship, dragon ship thing is a blast, always.
JK: Anything surprising you saw at that at that party?
Glenn: You mean in terms of celebrities and things like that? Oh, God, I get so bored with all of them coming up to us and always wanting to ask us questions about the show. At this point, like, we've got so many celebrity fans that are clamoring to talk to us.
Rob: We're like Kiefer: back off.
Glenn: Kiefer, back off, bro.
Rob: Be cool, bro.
Rob: Stop trying to wrestle me.
JK: Charlie, were you there...I didn't see you there?
Charlie Day: I was not there. I wasn't there. I don't remember. I had a previous engagement.
JK: So you guys are almost done shooting the entire season?
Glenn: We are done. We just wrapped the other day.
JK: Is this like the previous seasons where you shot in a condensed block of time or was this over more of an extended period?
Glenn: We had to take an extended hiatus in the middle of the 2 blocks. We shoot in blocks. We shot in 2 blocks this year. We had to take an extended hiatus between the 2 because of some injuries that happened, and some scheduling snafus.
Charlie: All in all, I think we shot the season in the same amount of time we usually do.
Glenn: Same number of days.
JK: Kaitlin (Olson, who plays Dee) got hurt...that was one of the injuries, right?
Charlie: Kaitlin hurt her back, yeah.
JK: I saw the the video emails that you have on the site, including Kaitlin's...was what she said on the video true about how she broke her back?
Rob: That happened. I was there, bro.
JK: What happened, what's the story?
Rob: Yeah, it's just like she said. Somebody picked her up over his head, they were doing like a cheerleading move, and she fell off the back of his fingertips onto the cement.
JK: Was this on the set?
Rob: It was at my house.
JK: Kaitlin's been getting hurt a lot lately, I've noticed?
Rob: Yeah. It's kinda her thing.
JK: How do you think the season went?
Glenn: I think this is our best season.
Charlie: Great. It went really well.
JK: Now that you're in your fourth season, have things gotten easier as far as writing, shooting, and the entire process?
Charlie: In some ways things have gotten easier, in terms of, I think, creatively, the 3 of us really feeling like we know what works and we know what we like. And our editors understanding the cuts better, and the writers that we work with getting the tone better. In that respect, things got easier. But because of our compressed schedule, due to the strike, and then mix in Kaitlin's injury, things were actually a lot harder. However, as a result, I think, yeah, it didn't affect things. It was harder for us: we worked longer hours. But the end product is just as good, if not better.
JK: How did the strike affect you guys?
Charlie: Well, last year, we started writing, gosh, what was it, in November or something... In November. And this year, we didn't start writing until after the strike, which was what, February...
Glenn: Yeah, last year, the 3rd season, we started writing...right, that's right, in November. And then the 4th season we started writing in March.
Charlie: But you know, but we're premiering the show at the same time. So we had much less time to do what we did last year.
Glenn: We had months less to do the work, yeah.
Charlie: So we're working 7 days a week.
JK: A lot of writers said the strike let them reset and see what viewers wanted or rethought what worked creatively... did that happen in your case?
Charlie: No, because I don't think we like to look back too much and overanalyze too much. I mean, we do, we look back at what we've done, and we had a lot of opinions. More so from a production standpoint: a lighting thing, or a way a set looks, than the creative content of the show, which we like to just keep moving forward and see what we find funny. And what we find funny in the 4th season doesn't always, isn't always predicated by what we found funny the 3rd season.
JK: What do you guys have in store...is the manhunters episode the first one coming out?
Rob: Actually, I think it's gonna be our 2nd episode (Note: FX confirmed that "Manhunters" will air first tonight).
Charlie: The first one deals with the gas crisis.
JK: What's the plot of that?
Charlie: The premise being that the guys decide, because of the energy crisis going on, and the gas crisis, that they can make a lot of money by buying a bunch of gasoline and storing it in the basement of the bar, waiting for the price to go up.
JK: And obviously, mayhem ensues, right?
Charlie: Yeah. And mayhem ensues because patience isn't exactly a virtue these characters possess.
JK: From the beginning you've always taken a small notion and let it spiral out of control. Like in the manhunters episode, it goes from Frank not wanting Dee and Charlie to invade his fridge, and it ends up with the two of them wanting to kill and eat a person. How do you go about spinning these little notions into these huge endings?
Charlie: You know, that might have something to do with how we write the show. I think because we don't write it in that traditional 3 act format that a lot of TV is in, and because we do just start from a place and finish in a completely spiraled, out of control-type place, like you're saying, that might sort of happen organically with our writing process. That we start with an idea, and then we just see where it takes these characters, based on what we know of these people, and then oftentimes, it just winds up there.
JK: Do you just say in the writer's room, like oh, now they want to go kill and eat a human?
Glenn: No, no, no, no. Actually not at all, not at all. We're very careful not to do that. That's something that all 3 of us sort of despise. I think you can't get to that place unless you've earned it, to some degree. And we're very careful to write it so that if you watch carefully, in the episodes, and hopefully what makes our show work, and the reason we are able to take it to those ridiculous places in such a short period of time, part of the comedy, I think, comes from watching the characters justify their actions every step of the way.
Charlie: Right. Oftentimes, we will have a thing like, ok, what if the characters wanted to eat human meat...how do we get to that place. And then we go back and we say...and we try and...
Glenn: Yeah, how could somebody actually get to that place in a way that you actually believe that the characters believe that what they're doing is going to get them what they want. What's frustrating to me about a lot of other comedies is that they don't do that. Characters just do ridiculous things and there's no fucking reason behind it.
JK: What would be an example of that?
Glenn: Well, I mean, it happens on a joke-by-joke basis on almost television show on television. And every movie that comes out. I mean, not every one. There certainly are some good ones out there. But I think, you know, I mean look, I don't want to name any names...
Charlie: That's true. Sometimes, shows and movies are doing everything just to service the joke, as opposed to the idea or the scene. But it's tough, because it's specific and comedy, it is subjective. So you don't want to bash someone just because they have a different style.
JK: What are some plots you have coming up this year?
Rob: Well, the...we have a flashback to 1776, which we're really, really proud of. We have an episode in which we try to figure out who shit the bed: a little murder mystery. BD has a heart attack.
Charlie: We deal with healthcare in America.
Rob: Mac and Charlie die.
JK: I saw something in the blog where Mac and Charlie have to go to work for health insurance reasons?
Rob: Yeah, we wind up getting some side jobs to get some health insurance.
JK: That'll be interesting, because a lot of people are looking for health insurance...?
Charlie: We make ourselves sicker in our effort to get healthy.
JK: I notice that every season you try to get more ambitious with some of the episodes, like the hostage episode. What have you done that's ambitious this time...is it the 1776 flashback?
Charlie: That's a big one. You know, I mean, with the hostage episode, it was a stretch in a different direction, and saying let's stay completely in the bar. And let's try a more tense show, and that'll be new. And with 1776, it's let's go to a different...same place, but a different era.
Rob: And we have a musical episode.
Charlie: Not like Drew Carey style, but an episode in which we perform a musical.
JK: A full musical, not like Day Man and Night Man?
Charlie: Oh no, no, it's called "The Night Man Cometh."
JK: Were you surprised how popular that got?
Charlie: Very surprised.
JK: Did people come up to you in airports and the streets?
Charlie: And showing me their ringtone.
JK: Were people repeating lyrics to you, stuff like that?
Charlie: Yeah. It was pretty crazy. I had people burst out into song in a restaurant that I was in, just because they saw I was there. A group of about 3 separate tables who didn't know each other all started singing dayman when they saw me.
JK: Who wrote that song?
Charlie: Ah, I wrote that song...a lot of the lyrics were... (Scott) Marder and (Rob) Rosell, our writing team, Glenn contributed the "aaaahhhhs." Like everything we do, a lot of people's input goes into making the final product.
JK: So nobody can say it was from their personal experiences or anything like that?
Charlie: (laughs) Personal experiences, no.
JK: I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about Boldly Going Nowhere. When's that set to debut?
Charlie: Well, we're just, we're shooting the pilot this November. So when it airs, or when it would go on the air is entirely subjective.
JK: How'd you come up with that idea?
Charlie: Our assistant.
Rob: Our writer's assistant actually came up with it.
Charlie: Our assistant came up to us and said hey, I had this idea for a show. And we were like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, what is it. And then, you know, he was talking about it being set in space, and we were like, you know, that is a really great idea. And then we went and wrote it.
JK: Are you guys going to be on it at all or just doing the writing, producing...?
Charlie: We're going to write it, we're going to produce it, and maybe we'll pop on here and there in a guest role. But certainly, we're committed to Sunny for many future seasons.
Is the show going to be in the style of Sunny? Not the setting, but the conversational, everyone talking over each other kind of style?
Charlie: I mean, that's what we're setting out to do. And then like anything else that you do that's creative, it always becomes a little something different than what you first imagined. But right now, it's probably going to be in a very similar tone.
JK: Kevin Reilly (FOX Entertainment president) seemed very enthusiastic about the prospects of Boldly Going Nowhere. Were you surprised at his enthusiasm?
Charlie: Yeah, it doesn't surprise me. I think they're in the market for a live action comedy that has some of the success of some of their animated shows. And I think they like the success and popularity of Sunny, and they like the newness and the style. So I understand their enthusiasm, and hopefully we'll deliver for them.
JK: Does that put any additional pressure on you?
Charlie: Fuck it. If we fuck it up, we're not the first guys to do that at FOX. (laughs)
Glenn: We're just working hard, and it's going to turn out really well.
JK: What does the new contract for Sunny mean to you guys?
Charlie: It helps us out in terms of...
Charlie: Certainly knowing what you're going to be doing with your life the next couple years. It doesn't help us in terms of having a life outside of Sunny, but it's a good problem to have.
JK: Does that mean you can set up more sane schedules, or will it be insane with 2 shows?
Rob: It definitely helps us just take a look at the year and figure out like, ok we know what we're going to be doing this year, we know what we're going to be doing next year, and the year after that, and how many months is it going to take us. And then we can subtract from that, from that number, we can subtract that many months, and see how much time we have to work on other things.
JK: Was the pick up surprising to you...how many episodes are you contracted for?
Charlie: I don't even know. Like, a million, was it...50...
Glenn: I think it's 39 additional episodes.
Charlie: It surprised us, because it was something that has been in the works for a while. They've been running different scenarios, and seeing which ones made sense for their company.
JK: Finally, do you think that the September launch date has helped you out? Are college students are watching from their dorms?
Charlie: Maybe. It's tough to say. I mean, we're on Thursday night at 10:00, and if college now is anything like it was when I was there, the kids are out drinking. So I don't know from a scheduling standpoint. But...and that's FX's job though. We're just trying to make the funniest show we can make, and then they'll put it on when they can put it on, and we'll see what that does. But it seems like we got a big jump in the ratings last year, and hopefully people are watching their TV at that time.