The Paddy's Pub gang is bringing Christmas home with It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas, available on DVD and Blu-ray today! Why not pop open a coldie and toast these most deviant, offensive and unwholesome bar owners as they celebrate the holiday in the raunchiest way possible? This new Christmas special follows Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Frank (Danny DeVito), and Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson) as they spread their Christmas spirit with inappropriate childhood videos, a bloody encounter with Santa Claus and all the over-the-top, twisted and politically incorrect behavior the city of brotherly love can handle. Not too mention: Frank gets naked! To honor and celebrate this crazy yuletide adventure, we caught up with Rob and Glenn to chat about all things Sunny, including their recent live tour, their merchandising of the dick towel, and that elusive season five cliffhanger that is set to pop-off in December. Here is our conversation:
You guys are at an all-time ratings high in your fifth season. What do you attribute that too?
Glenn Howerton: This is a very guy heavy cast. And these men just continue to get more and more handsome as the years progress. I think it has something to do with that. Certainly I have gotten more handsome. I am looking at Rob, and he's definitely gotten more handsome. I think that might have something to do with it. In all seriousness, Sunny is a show that has a real word-of-mouth quality. Because of that, I think it has grown expediential. There has just been a real explosion of that growth recently. I think people champion this show, because the mass media has never done that. They feel it is their job to do it themselves. You don't see us on the cover of magazines. We're not all over the place. People have taken it upon themselves to spread the word. When people don't think its being shoved down their throats, they really take ownership of it.
The show has gone from cult status to big hit. Did you guys see this coming?
Rob McElhenney: Yes. Personally, I saw it happening at some point. It was just a matter of time. The show is definitely an acquired taste. That is by design. We wanted to do something completely different. Something that you are not seeing everywhere else. Upon first viewing, and I hear this from a lot from people, the audience just doesn't know what to make of it. They think it's a little bit strange. They think its a little bit out there. The characters are not like anything they've ever seen before. That was by design. We knew that it would take some time to catch on. Things have grown at an expediential rate. I definitely expected this to happen at some point.
Glenn Howerton: I never had any expectations, per se. I just wanted to make sure that we were making something I could be proud of. And that we, as a team, were proud of. I really, really hoped that people would catch on. It is an acquired taste in today's world. Where things are laid out pretty clearly for you most of the time. It is very gratifying that people have taken the time to really invest in this, and that they have stayed to figure out what our show is really about.
Do you guys feel like you still have a nice roster of topics to kick around? Can you tell us anything we might expect to see in season six?
Rob McElhenney: We just wrapped up editing season five, and we recently got done with a live tour. We'll figure out season six in January. There are always interesting topics to deal with. As long as American culture continues to thrive, we'll always find something to work on.
Do you guys ever get any slack over some of the subjects you decide to tackle?
Glenn Howerton: Not really. No. That might be more of a question for the guys over at FX in terms of how the advertisers have responded. I think people get it. I think people understand that we aren't doing anything different from what any other good comedy has done throughout the history of time. We touch on hot button topics. That's what good comedies and comedians do.
What is your favorite Danny DeVito scene thus far in the series run?
Glenn Howerton: For me? On the Christmas DVD, which is coming out today, we did a scene that a lot of people already know about. We have Danny popping out of a couch. Nude. I have to say, that was a pretty extraordinary experience. Especially on the first day, when he was wearing a pink Mirkin with a purple codpiece on top of it. Just to fuck with us. It was pretty memorable.
Rob McElhenney: I shot a scene this season with him in Philadelphia. Where it was seven-thirty in the morning. He was drinking all this fake beer. In the scene, he is just supposed to be walking down the street. The scene kept evolving. At one point, it was a two and a half page scene of dialogue. As we continued to run it, and try different things, which we usually do, it evolved into him pouring beer all over himself. He was regurgitating it. Onto his shirt and into the air. That seems to be one of the fans' favorite Danny moments as well. I had a really interesting time shooting that.
Earlier this season, you had an episode entitled "The Great Recession". It started some controversy amongst the fans, because they weren't sure if the prominent product placement of Dave & Buster's and Coors Light was overt and done for over-the-top comedy, or if the show was really trying to weather the recession by increasing its ad revenue through that product placement.
Rob McElhenney: That is a great question. It was all done by design. We did everything in that episode on purpose. There is a definite economic reality in television nowadays. The truth is, everybody is looking for different ways to sell ad time. The long and short of it is, every show is being asked to find a way to integrate. We figured, instead of trying to do it on the sly, or winking at the camera like a lot of shows do, that we would do it tongue and cheek. We thought it would be interesting to infuse the episode, and the arcs of the characters, with these ideas. We thought Dave & Buster's was perfect, because we'd been reading about all of these communities that had started to survive on self-contained commodities. We figured out that Dave & Buster's has that exact model. We figured we should fuse that into the episode. That way, the fans can be in on it with us.
Glenn Howerton: The one thing we did not account for, and did not know was going to happen, was that FX was going to run a bunch of Dave & Buster's and Coors Light commercials during the breaks. That was not by our design. That was not our intention. On some levels, I think that might have been the main cause of the controversy.
Rob McElhenney: It was unfortunate. FX felt the same way. We've figured it out, and it will never happen that way again.
Season five has been quite a bit gorier than past seasons. Can you talk about why you've decided to go down that road?
Glenn Howerton: I don't think it was ever discussed. Nobody ever said, "Hey, let's go for gory this season. I think it's just a conquincidence. Honestly. (Laughs)
Rob McElhenney: I don't want to juke your question. The episodes let us go places in a very natural way. It was never intentional that we made the show gorier.
Where did you guys get the idea for the Christmas special? It's not like anything you guys have ever done before.
Glenn Howerton: We were definitely influenced by those great old holiday specials that we all watched as a kid. That was one major aspect of it. We liked the idea of doing our own version of that. With the Mac and Charlie storyline, we liked the idea of doing our own, never-before-done Christmas special. In a way, we liked the idea of doing both. One storyline is basically a call back to one of the greatest Christmas tales of all time. A Christmas Carol. Then we have the Mac and Charlie story, which is really original to us.
Rob McElhenney: Every year, we come up with a lot of stuff that we know we're not going to get past the FCC. Just in terms of the censorship of being on at 10 pm on basic cable. We usually just bank those ideas, and say, "Maybe one day we'll be able to get away with it." We saw an opportunity when the folks at FX asked, "Would you ever want to do a direct-to-DVD episode?" We knew we could put that stuff in there. We thought that was a great idea. We'd been knocking around the idea of putting these characters into a holiday situation, and maybe a special, for a few years now. As we knocked that around, we though it would be a really interesting stocking stuffer for the fans. To put all of that stuff we'd been saving up for years into an episode. We knew we could get away with whatever we wanted.
Kaitlin Olson has really grown as a comedic actress, especially between this season and last season. How easy is it for you guys to find new material for her to work with, that supports what she is bringing to the show right now?
Rob McElhenney: She is brilliant. It is an absolute travesty that she doesn't get more recognition. If you are as big a fan of hers as you claim to be, I implore you to put the word out. We have been trying to spread that word for five seasons. I am not saying this just because she is my wife. I asked her to be my wife partly because I thought she was the funniest person I had ever seen. I certainly believe that she is the funniest comedic actress working on television right now. If not the funniest, she is definitely in the top five. We feel that she doesn't get enough recognition. We try everything we can to insure that she, week to week, really shines. Everything that we write for her, she brings so much to it. So much more than we had originally anticipated.
I'm down with the Ipecac camp. We recently saw a photo from Danny DeVito that had you and Mike Patton enjoying dinner. Are we going to be seeing him on the show anytime soon?
Glenn Howerton: That's so great. I have spoken to him about it. And I know that he would like to do it. We would love to have him do it. We are mutual fans of each other. I am a huge fan of his work. I think he is one of the most amazing musicians ever. He is so daring. We'll see.
Do you guys have a favorite Philly word you like to use in your lexicon? My girlfriend cracks up every time you use the word "pop". Is there any other words you love to pepper into the scripts?
Glenn Howerton: (Laughs) That's a great question. I don't think we've ever been asked that before. We have a great affinity for any action that makes it more violent than it needs to be. Like, to blast into something. Or to fire into something.
Rob McElhenney: The characters are very aggressive. And we love using any word that describes our situation as being much more aggressive than it needs to be. I am not going to walk into a restaurant. I am going to FIRE into that restaurant!. Then I am going to BLAST my words into the faces of everyone there (laughs).
Let me ask you this. Why is Charlie never present when you guys do a press day like this?
Rob McElhenney: That is a very good question (laughs). Unfortunately, right now, he is dealing with a death in the family. You know? I don't know. We usually do these things during our hiatus, which is very short. We are usually spread out quite a bit.
Glenn Howerton: I think it's just a coincidence. It does seem like he is never present. I never really thought about it. But I assure you, its nothing more than a coincidence. I promise.
Do you guys plan to release a CD anytime in the near future?
Glenn Howerton: That is a great question. We have been talking a lot about releasing all of the Sunny music. Its something we will be talking about this year. Especially in terms of all the Nightman stuff. And the Birds of War song from this year. There has been a lot of demand from the fans for us to put out a CD. We'll see.
With season three, you guys started to bring in writers from outside the circle of three. What does it take for you guys to find a writer that is in your same mind set? Is that a tough challenge?
Rob McElhenney: We had the luxury of being on the air for a few years before we started doing that. It was difficult in the beginning, because we didn't feel there was a big enough body of work there for people to understand what we were trying to do. We find that, often times, writers, especially out here in Los Angeles, and even some fans, don't understand one hundred percent what we are trying to do. It does take a little bit of research and some looking around to find the right fit.
You guys brought up the live tour you recently did. Are you planning on taking anything else out on the road? Like maybe The Birds of War and their wrestling show?
Rob McElhenney: (Laughs) We haven't thought about that, but that certainly would be interesting.
Glenn Howerton: A lot of it has to do with time. We just don't have a lot of time to do stuff like that. This is a year 'round job. Acting in, writing, and producing this show. For all of us. We don't have a lot of time. If we had more time, we might consider something like that. We like the idea of keeping that sort of thing small, and sort of special.
With last week's episode, Mac and Dennis Break Up, we really delved into Mac's backstory. We saw sides of his personality that we'd never seen before. Do you think you are going to continue to do that? Are we going to learn more about these guys on a more human, personal level?
Glenn Howerton: Yeah, absolutely. We love doing that. It's funny. We plan, and we say, "I loved doing this. Maybe we should explore it a little bit more." Then we get into the writers' room, and we start breaking stories. We either end up doing it, or we don't. We go with our gut, and whatever is making us laugh at that time. Certainly, we all like to strike that balance of picking on some bigger hot topic issues, and going to some wilder places. We also like to do episodes that are smaller, and more character based. Like the Dennis and Mac break up episode that just aired. It is always fun for us to explore those different things. We love delving into the characters' personalities. That is always in the back of our minds as we break stories.
It seems that with each new episode, another new T-shirt goes up for sale. Is there any cool stuff that we, as fans can look forward to? Do you have a hand in that, or is it all coming from FX?
Rob McElhenney:Dicktowel.com, bro! We recently put the Dick Towel out there. And they seem to be selling pretty well. People are very interested in them. We found that our fans like to dress as our characters at Halloween. It was never our intention to create these episodes to create a whole arsenal of costumes for people to wear at a Halloween party. It sure did happen this year. We found out about it because we're on Twitter. People have been sending a lot of pictures. We do have a hand in the merchandising. We have a say in all of that stuff. It is a great way for the fans to show their love and appreciation for something they genuinely care about and enjoy.
Glenn Howerton: It spreads word about the show to other people. And its fun for us to create things that allow for that sort of advertisement. There is no better advertisement than guys and girls going out with the actual gear on, telling people about it. One of the items that came out after the Kitten Mittens episode was the Dennis Heat-Sensitive mug. Which I find to be both hysterical and kind of terrifying. There is a coffee mug out there that, when you pour hot water into it, my shirt comes off.
It pops off, actually.
Glenn Howerton: Yes, thank you.
I watched the special features on the recent season four DVD that came out in September, and you have footage of the live show on there. We see Mac walking up to the front of the Troubadour, and there are folks dressed like you, waiting outside. Is that ever disturbing to see fans dressing like you in their everyday lives, removed from Halloween?
Rob McElhenney: I don't know if disturbing is the word. Especially at events like that. It's really encouraging and flattering. It shows that people are really into it. It has that Rocky Horror feel to it. It also shows how much people enjoy and love the show. If I saw people going to work every day in Omaha, Nebraska, dressed as Nightman, that would give me pause. At special events, I think it's all right. It certainly wouldn't give me any pause about what we are doing. Just about what that particular person may be doing. Maybe that guy shouldn't be showing up at the office dressed like Nightman.
I think you guys only have three more episodes left for this season. Can you talk about the season five finale? Are we going to be seeing a cliffhanger?
Rob McElhenney: Will we see a cliffhanger? Um...Yes! We are not at liberty to say anymore though.
Does it have anything to do with getting Danny out of those tight, skinny jeans?
Rob McElhenney: Yeah, that might have a little something to do with it. You'll have to tune in to see.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas arrives in stores today. The season five finale airs December 10th, only on FX.