Back for another season on FX it’s the beloved series IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. Yes, I said beloved and if you don’t believe me ask the thousands who consistently show up at Comic Con to see the panel in person. Its actually mind boggling to experience!
The new season executive producers Rob McElhenney, Creator/Executive Producer/Writer/”Mac” and Glenn Howerton, Executive Producer/Writer/”Dennis” chat about the show and their crazy ideas bringing fans to their happy place.
Thanks for chatting today guys!
Rob and Glenn: You’re welcome, glad to be here.
So can you tell us how you come up with the ideas for the show?
Rob: Some of it is, probably, to whatever degree, taken from the headlines. I think it’s really just the way our brains work, I guess, you could say. It’s the way that—it’s the filter to which we see the world. I think we’re all observing what’s going on around us. Taking down ideas as the years go on and putting them on screen in the only way we know how.
Do you take from real life experiences?
Rob: In our premiere episode, we deal with euthanasia and that was sparked somewhat by a conversion that I was having with Kaitlin where we were fast-forwarding in our lives, and trying to figure out if one of us was on life-support—those are conversations that we have to have. What do we want? Do we want to be DNR? Do we want to be hooked up forever? We were having that conversation and I brought it up in the writer’s room and then that’s what sparked the conversation and we started thinking; okay, now, how can we do an episode about this?
What do you think Glenn?
Glenn: I did have that same conversation with my wife. It was actually funny because we both had a totally different view on it. She was like, well I don’t know, I mean, what if something happens and—I was like, look, if something happens to me and I’m in a coma for a certain amount of time and the doctors are all saying even if I do wake up I’ll be brain dead, just pull the plug. I don’t want to live that way, you know what I mean? Take me out. Send me off into the next—release my soul from this crushed body. Something.
How did you come up with the promo idea which by the way is hysterical.
Rob: We had discussed doing something along those lines for a while just virally, just for fun. I actually don’t know if that was ever expressed to the marketing department. We have to give the marketing department a lot of credit for that. A lot of that was their idea. We assisted them in terms of how we wanted to present it. A lot of that was really just them, quite frankly.
Do you have a higher goal for the show?
Rob: We want to go a full quarter century.
Glenn: God, no, no, no. God forbid. We’d like a nice round number of ten. We’ll probably go ten seasons. I think our goal for the show is always to surprise people because we think that that’s really the best way to achieve comedy; comedic result is to always be surprising people. That’s our overall goal. I think the idea of knowing when our last season is is exciting because we can actually write towards an end. But that won’t be for a couple years.
Rob: For me, I want to break Bonanza’s record
Glenn: What was Bonanza’s record?
Rob: Twenty-two years.
Rob: I want to be longer than the Simpsons.
Where did you get the painting of the German shepherd, is that purposely done or did you find it?
Rob: That painting was actually in Charlie’s apartment during the second season of the show. That was basically just set decoration in the second season. Interestingly enough, we actually were the ones that when we got into editing and we were watching the show—all the episodes of Season 2, that painting stood out to us so much, too much, it was too distracting. We actually said we never want to see that painting again. Take it down. Get rid of it because it’s just a shining, white, weird painting in the background of every Charlie’s apartment scene.
Glenn: We had so many fans and so many comments, asking about it. When we took it down, people were irate.
Rob: Yes. They were like, what happened to that dog painting? We loved that dog painting. We kept thinking, the scenes aren’t supposed to be about a painting of a dog in the background. We just felt like it was too distracting, but we always wanted to bring it back in some way.
What guests do you have coming in this season?
Rob: We’ve got a really fun guest star role for Sean Combs this year; P. Diddy. I’m excited for people to see it. I think it’s very, very different from anything that, at least I’ve ever seen him do, on anything. We’re excited about that.
Glenn: Guillermo del Toro.
Rob: Yes, Guillermo del Toro, the director, writer, producer is also, we found out, a big fan of the show. Charlie just did a movie with him so he really wanted to do a guest star so we wrote him in this year, too. It’s really funny.
Do you have favorite guys, teams that you guys like to work with?
Glenn: That is a good question. Everybody brings something unique and different to the table. The three of us only ever write with each other. Sometimes we write in pairs, sometimes we write all three of us. We did a lot of writing this year, though, the three of us. We do try to keep tabs of that, actually, to a certain degree. We try to mix it up as much as possible, so that the same pairing isn’t happening all season long.
Rob: Sometimes we’ll find that, too. Where we’ll break three or four episodes in a row and realize that we have ‘Dee’ and ‘Frank’ together for those three or four episodes and we’ll realize that we’ve got to break them up a little bit.
Did you know Mac was going to be Ronald McDonald?
Rob: We’ve been talking about that for a whileGlenn: We’ve been talking about what ‘Mac’s’ name is for a long time. I think we came up with the idea that his real name was Ronald MacDonald a while ago; like a couple years ago. We also thought it was so ridiculous we weren’t sure if we ever really wanted to reveal it or if we did that it would ever actually be that. So, we finally decided to do it. As far as the waitress goes, we don’t have any plans as of now to ever tell anyone what her name is. Although she does have a name and we do know what it is.
Do you go in with a plan for the episodes?
Rob: Most importantly, what we’re always talking about is, for as unbelievable as some of the storylines may seem, we have to believe that the characters believe that what they’re doing gets them what they want. That’s the most important aspect of breaking a story, so it doesn’t just feel like a series of funny events. That we really justify why these characters are acting the way that they do.
Glenn: That’s the major criteria that I follow. Of course, we like to tie things up and tie things together. That’s good story writing.
Have you ever done a story that you later thought you’d gone to far?
Glenn: The gauge for too far is always just—we never set out to—we never want to offend anyone; not for the sake of offending anyone. People will always be offended by things. That’s just the way it is. Usually the people who get insulted the most over the course of the episode are the characters themselves, which is why I think we can get away with so much. There are certain things—it’s just a matter of taste. We had some things actually in the season opener with some very touchy subject matter. I won’t go into it, but there were some things that we decided to extract from the episode because we felt like it took the joke a little bit too far—it’s when it goes into territory where it’s not funny anymore.
Do you monitor yourselves then?
Rob: No, I think after eight years we’ve figured out what we can get away with and what we can’t. I think at this point everybody understands what the show is and what we’re trying to do with the show. I think that that helps a lot. That allows the audience to be along for the ride as opposed to, like Glenn said, offending people.
Glenn: Yes. A lot of it is just about context. Certain things done in a certain context when they’re justifiable and they’re not just cruel or offensive, we can get away with. It’s never our intention to try—I also have to say, it does cause you to be a little bit more creative when you can’t just do anything. Having certain boundaries and restrictions can actually be helpful, to a certain degree. We have some good ones with FX. I think it makes it more challenging; it forces you to be a little bit more creative.
You both have films – Glenn you have COFFEE TOWN?
Glenn: I do. I’m not sure exactly sure when it’s going to come out. We might be taking it to festivals and doing some other things like that. It was more of an independent film. It was not a studio film. Yes, I’m excited about it. I’ve seen the movie; I think it’s really good. Again, I don’t know when it’s coming out but I’m excited for people to see it.
Rob: It’s been tough in the past because we do write, produce, and star in the show. In previous seasons, it’s been almost a year-round gig and then we’re so exhausted coming off of it that we don’t really want to do much else, which is why you haven’t seen us do much else, quite frankly. But we are—as the show goes on, we have a lot of talented people surrounding us that we’ve worked with for many, many years. The process has become a little bit more streamlined, which is why hopefully you’ll be seeing us pop up in things more and more in the next couple years.
Can you talk about the challenges of writing for film versus television?
Glenn: For me, this is Glenn, the biggest challenge for me is that we are so used to writing in that format, that television format. It is a different structure entirely. Certainly, long term we have plans to write, produce, direct features and things like that. Right now, our focus really is on Sunny, though, because it’s something—it’s a job that we take very, very seriously; we don’t take it for granted. We don’t ever want to take it for granted. We have a high standard for ourselves. I think the fans have a high standard for us. In order to achieve what we’d like to achieve on the show, it takes up most of our year.
How much of what you guys tape never makes it to the show do you think?
Glenn: We started to streamline things a little bit better in the writing process so that we don’t end up with a lot of scenes on the cutting room floor. I think, actually, earlier on we probably had more things that we cut because the scripts were longer and we just hadn’t—we would try to edit ourselves as much as possible in the writing because we don’t want to shoot a bunch of things aren’t going to make it. Most of the stuff that just doesn’t make it on the air is just either probably extensions of scenes or little things that were cut out more than whole scenes themselves.
Fans have a chance to catch up if they missed anything in Season 7 as ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA is now available on DVD. It’s a great addition to the FX family of shows that are so worth owning.
ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA is on FX at 10:00 p.m. so fasten your seat belts as Season 8 is here!