Actor/Writer/Producer discusses making this show, working with Danny DeVito and what is and isn't funny

Imagine that your an actor who wants to get his own show. So you and some other actors pick up your video cameras, you shoot a bunch of footage and after editing it your manager takes it around and gets the show set up on TV?

That's exactly what happened to actor/writer/producer Charlie Day with his sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Playing the role of Charlie Kelly on the show and with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Seasons 1 and 2 coming out on DVD, Day recently sat down to discuss how this all came about.

For the people who don't know could you describe your character of Charlie Kelly on the show?

Charlie Day: For the people who don't know, my character could described, in a nutshell, as the bar dumb-dumb. I guess you could say he's the only alcoholic, illiterate, character on television who shares some time with his father. Or, his second father.

As a writer and producer on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, how did that effect how you worked on the show? Was it easy to wear all those different hats?

Charlie Day: It's so helpful to our roles as actors, I think, because of A) how really well we know every single episode and what we're going for at the end of the day. Also, we know how everything is going to edit together and we don't have to be too precious with dialogue. It's pretty liberating, we always get to sneak in a couple of great improvs and at other times we know when to stick to the script because we've worked on it in the writer's room. It's pretty liberating as an actor, I wish I could do it on every job.

What was it like working with Danny DeVito? I am assuming you'd probably been a fan of his work?

Charlie Day: Of course, yeah. I don't think there's anybody in this country that isn't familiar with Danny DeVito. He's just so recognizable and famous, but it was just an absolute rush. It was great to work with him and it gets better and better every season. I would say that the thing that's most impressive is just how professional he is and how up for anything we throw at him he is. He's just a really good sport and he's got a really good attitude. For Rob (McElhenney) and Glenn (Howerton) and myself, and Kaitlin (Olson), there's a good lesson to be learned in that.

Do think that comedy is instinctual? When you write something, or even when you perform it for the first time, do you know what works?

Charlie Day: No, and even when we act it we don't necessarily know what works and what doesn't. That's why you've got to try it a couple of different ways and I'll tell you what, in the editing room we don't always know what works and what doesn't you know? We'll debate back and forth on what's working and what's not working, but I think at the end of the day it is instinctual. You sort of just have to go with your gut and say, "Hey, I find this funny, hopefully America will, too."

Through this whole experience of acting, writing and producing is there one thing you've learned? Something you didn't know before you started that you realized and you keep coming back to it?

Charlie Day: One thing I learned that I didn't know before was that I can write. (Laughs) Because I think Glenn and myself, when we sold the show, we really didn't have any aspirations to be writers. It was because of our budgetary limitations and the networks request that we start wearing all these hats. At least I can write this show, I don't think I can bring you the next Brokeback Mountain.

I know you guys are going into the third season of the show but are you working on anything else right now?

Charlie Day: Well, we're always talking about a certain movie idea, other television show ideas that we'd love to pitch and get out there... as long as Sunny is going it's pretty much a full time job and we're pretty happy to be working on it. Right now there is no next other than more Sunny, hopefully.

I was talking to Glenn and I found out how this show came about, you guys just shooting stuff with video cameras, and I was wondering if you ever thought, when you were doing that, that it would get you here?

Charlie Day: No, we had absolutely no idea. I think we even sarcastically joked about the "What ifs?" and "Can you imagine if the show went forever?" We really had no idea that it would ever go anywhere. In that regard, every day and every episode is a real gift.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Seasons 1 and 2 come to DVD September 4 from Fox Home Entertainment.

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Evan Jacobs