My favourite show: Rob McElhenney on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Everyone seems to love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s a quirky, biting, cynical look at the idiotic foibles of the people, places and things we follow around in our daily lives. Many of the actors have credits at television and the big screen but Mac and Dennis are the new stars in town. Rob McElhenney is the creator, writer and star and he has a wonderfully dry, oddly appealing voice. I followed every episode and we have a slightly different take on it – one shared by many an It’s Always Sunny fan.

Rob’s personal feeling about the show is that It’s Always Sunny is “a white good-time comedy for white folk” and he freely admits that he has some trepidation about expanding on the themes and traits that make the show work. What’s always delighted me about It’s Always Sunny is its ability to poke fun at everything that exists in our world, from our own fucked-up fantasies of how people really look, dress and act, to the universal embarrassment of out loud laughter at a partner’s jokes.

The only way to really understand It’s Always Sunny is by experiencing it. You can’t have any expectations because the absurd, surreal, unfunny things McElhenney writes and the actors improvised were born out of his personal pain and desire to ridicule our own foibles. We laugh as people push everyone else off balance, or get stuck with Debbie’s group of older lesbian friends. Or as a one-handed man (played by Mac) is somehow able to learn to drive with a machine that pushes the button on the brake.

The show is so funny, so broad in its humor, that if you wait to find it, or simply seek it out on your own, it’s impossible to judge the audience in this way. The show feels so personal and so perfectly crafted to bring us to laugh at our own faults and weaknesses.

It takes less than a minute to see that their humour is built off Rob’s unbridled love of stupid, derivative bad humour – the kind of thing we all want to laugh at in movies, on cable television and on the internet. The problems and frustrations and problems of other people are the comedic targets on which McElhenney gleefully throws everything at them. It’s Always Sunny is an amazing comedy because even if you find the stuff in the episodes you are laughing at hilariously obnoxious, there is still so much joy to be found in it all, from Robb’s earnest delivery to the tone of the show and from the truly vile behavior of the entire gang. The show works by creating a world of things that make you laugh in such an innocent, dopey way that you really believe them when they’re describing things that your own brain isn’t even thinking about.

McElhenney’s smart, fast and hilarious webcomic No Return Journey was so popular it got picked up by the comic book publisher Devil’s Due and he partnered with them to spin out a new book called It’s Always Sunny with Rob McElhenney. It’s the perfect addition to their already burgeoning comedy line. Originally illustrated by the impeccable Brendan McCarthy, the book shows the craziest, funniest moments of the show and then closes with McElhenney explaining why the ridiculous things that happen in the show are funny in the first place. There’s humor there but it’s the kind that celebrates humanity and makes people feel better about themselves, rather than making people look at themselves as idiots. No Return Journey made them both famous and I couldn’t be happier to know that they are now able to embrace that side of themselves even further through It’s Always Sunny.

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