Back in March, when EW broke news that FX’s gleefully amoral comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would be returning for a fourth season, we asked readers to submit questions for our interview with series creator Rob McElhenney. That interview treated us to typically outrageous potential plotlines and a promise that Danny DeVito’s character, Frank, would soon degenerate to “a puddle of goo,” but we didn’t actually get to too many of your questions. Well, with the new season starting tonight (Sept. 18) at 10 p.m. — with two hilarious episodes about, among other things, cannibalism, pubic hair, and the gas crisis — McElhenney called EW once more to finally answer the queries of his Sunny fans.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, Rob, how are you feeling?
ROB McELHENNEY: I’m f—ing awesome! We’re in season 4, so it’s still exciting when we premiere, but we have gotten to the point where we know the show’s funny. We have a very big and fanatic fan base, so ultimately we don’t really give a s—. We’ve gotten picked up for three more seasons.
We don’t care what anybody’s opinion is anymore. We just care that our fan base tunes in and they’re happy and they like it and we get to keep doing it. They picked us up for 52 episodes [including the 13 in Season 4].
Well, we got over a 150 reader questions and comments. The biggest thing everyone seemed to want to do — really, really want to do — is pitch script ideas. Tell me which are your favorites and which are terrible and why:
1. Charlie gets a stalker
2. Sweet Dee gets PMS and takes revenge on the gang
3. The gang exploits a kid with Tourette Syndrome
4. Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia throwdown
5. The gang films a porno in the basement
6. The gang films a midget porno in the basement
I don’t think midget porn is going to do it, but we have definitely discussed the world of pornography. Every year we start to do an episode and then we shy away from it. So maybe next season…. I like Philly vs. Pittsburgh. The Eagles play the Steelers in a very big game this weekend. We had [Eagles quarterback Donovan] McNabb on a couple years ago, and this past year we had six or seven different Eagles fans…. I like [Steelers QB Ben] Roethlisberger as a person, and he seems like a really great guy, and he’s a great football player. But f— him.
I get the feeling a lot of your fans are unemployed, because they keep begging for jobs. Dave Del Giudice offered, for some reason, to perform a sexual act on a donkey; Ryan McCain wants to be your unpaid intern; and Kimee claims to be a half-Asian, half-Italian lesbian. Who ya gonna hire?
The unpaid intern sounds not-too-insane. Sounds like someone who actually wants to work, as opposed to someone who wants to come in and mow everybody down! We have lots of unpaid interns. Sure! Send in the resume!
Believe it or not, we actually got some serious questions. This one is from Bruce: “Rob McElhenney is f—ing hilarious. I am trying to write my own comedy s—. I was hoping you had some tips on the writing process.” But then he finishes off with, “I don’t expect you to write back because you’re a Hollywood [expletive].”
First of all, I’m not a Hollywood [expletive]. I’m a South Philadelphia [expletive]! I would say write what you think is funny and don’t listen to anyone else, including me. If I went in and tried to explain to somebody five years ago how a guy lying to friends about how he’s dying of cancer [a plotline in the original Sunny pilot] is an idea for a comedy, people would kick me out of their office…. To this day, everyday we have people telling us no we can’t do something, that it’s not going to work, or there’s logistical issues or whatever. We just don’t take that as an answer. We just feel as though, respectfully and without hurting anybody, we’re going to do whatever we want to do, and we’re continuing to do that in the future.
A lot people seem to have trouble separating your characters from real life. Dt3 wants to know if Charlie is really illiterate, and if so, does that lead to any problems or delays on the set?
Not only is Charlie very, very literate, but he writes a good amount of the episodes and is unbelievably talented and intelligent. People definitely think I’m an aggressive a–hole. Sometimes that works to my advantage and sometimes it doesn’t. I do find that people are often surprised when we wind up having a conversation, and they’re like, “Wow, you’re not really a d—.” And I’m like, “Well, no.” That’s just what I get paid to do.
Music is huge for the fans. Kealeen had what I think is an awesome idea: Do you plan on releasing a soundtrack with “Rock Flag and Eagle,” “Day Man,” even a duet with Dennis [Glenn Howerton] and ‘80s pop star Rick Astley?
We’ve talked about that. We take pride in our musical choices, and we have a lot of it this year as well. In terms of the original songs that we write, we wrote an entire musical episode, a rock opera, this year, and we’ll be airing that late in the season. And there has been some talk about the soundtrack.
Here’s Wayne: “Seriously, why don’t all the guys get more dates, more reasons to have hot chicks involved in the funny, is all I’m asking?”
We asked ourselves the same question at the beginning of this year, and we came up with a good answer, and there’s a lot more attractive women in this season than there have been in the past. Wayne’s going to be very, very happy.
Fans begged for teasers. Go on and give ’em what they want….
We had an episode that was so long— “Mac and Charlie Die” — which is where my father gets out of prison and comes hunting us. It was like 12 minutes over our time limit. And we thought it was really funny, and instead of cutting all this funny stuff, we decided why not shoot a few more scenes and make it two full episodes, with a cliffhanger at the end of the first episode.
Sweet Dee has a heart attack [one episode] and we explore the health care issue. We deal with cannibalism on Thursday night (Sept. 18). And “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” is one of my favorite episodes we’ve ever done. That’s also on Thursday. There’s one episode entitled, “America’s Next Top Paddy’s Billboard Model Contest.” And “The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell,” which is our flashback episode to 1776. We’re not f—ing around, bro!
What can you tell us about your Fox pilot, Boldly Going Nowhere, a comedy focusing on a spaceship captain’s everyday life between missions?
We’re in the casting process now. We’re on the Fox lot and we shoot the pilot Nov. 3. But they’ve ordered six additional scripts, so if all goes well and they’re into it, then we’ll be shooting in January and February, and we’ll be on the air in March, probably following American Idol. It’s our big network show!
What’s the show going to be like?
It has very little to do with sci-fi and much more to do with the mundane-ness of everyday life in the future. You’re used to seeing Star Trek: The Next Generation or Battlestar Galactica — all great shows, but they’ll full of such adventure. We thought how funny it would be — and probably closer to the truth, closer to real life — that just because it’s the future, doesn’t make it cool. It’s still life. So a lot of it’s just downtime, and how do those people fill in the gaps in between missions? Insofar as it takes place on a spaceship, there are sci-fi elements. There’s going to be death and murder and all sorts of adventure. But it’s mostly going to be what happens in between those adventures…. We don’t want it to be slick. We want it to be funny and real, like Sunny is. Even though it can get crazy, you still believe the characters. None of that bulls— sitcom stuff where you know there’s no audience, there’s just laughing because someone pressed a button.