Interview with Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton of "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia" - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

McElhenney and Howerton

Interview with Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton of "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia" on FX 10/11/12

The transcribers had a hard time, I guess, so they put "M" when they weren't sure if it was McElhenney or Howerton speaking!

Final Transcript
FX NETWORK: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
October 11, 2012/10:30 a.m. PDT

Jennifer Reed, BWR Public Relations
Rob McElhenney, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Creator/Executive Producer/Writer/”Mac”
Glenn Howerton, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Executive Producer/Writer/”Dennis”

Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we’ll conduct a question and answer session; instructions will be given at that time.
I’d like to turn the conference over to our host, Jennifer Reed. Please go ahead.

J. Reed Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today for the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia conference call, with executive producers and stars of the show, Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton. As a reminder, this show premieres tonight at 10:00 p.m. on FX. At this time, I’m going to turn the call back over to Karen and she can begin with the first question. Karen?

Moderator Yes. Are you there?

J. Reed We’re here. Go ahead and start with the first question, please.

Moderator Okay. We have a question from Earl Dittman, Wireless Digital. Please go ahead.

E. Dittman Hey guys. How are you this morning? I have to say congratulations. Once again, you all have done another great show for another great season.

McElhenney Thank you very much.

HowertonThank you.

E. Dittman I’ve been watching from the beginning. I’ve been a fan quite from the beginning. I watch every show. I think; how do these guys come up with these things? I guess that’s the basic question. How do you all come up with a lot of the material you use? Does is happen in life? Do you watch other people or how does that come about for you?

M 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.

E. Dittman Is any of it autobiographical or biographical in any way?

R. McElhenney 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.

E. Dittman Yes.

R. McElhenney 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?

E. Dittman Rob, anything to add?

R. McElhenney That was Rob.

E. Dittman Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Glenn.

R. McElhenney I don’t think Glenn and Kaitlin are discussing their DNR practices. Oh, you guys are?

G. Howerton We are. Well, in case something happens to you, then we have to ….

R. McElhenney What have you guys decided?

G. Howerton We haven’t decided on anything. We’re definitely going to take you out.

R. McElhenney Oh, well, I see, I see.

G. Howerton I did have that same conversation with my wife. This is Glenn. 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.

E. Dittman You’ll do it with style. Thank you all so much, I appreciate it.

R. McElhenney I want to be kept alive until the machine overlords can upload my soul into a … .

Moderator Our next question comes from Michael Gallagher. Please go ahead.

M. Gallagher Hi guys.

M Hi Michael. I have about five friends named Michael Gallagher.

M. Gallagher First of all, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the promo that you had with the replacement cast and how that came about.

M 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.

M. Gallagher Okay. What are you ultimate goals for the show? Are there any milestones or anything that you’d like the series to achieve?

M We want to go a full quarter century.

M 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.

M For me, I want to break Bonanza’s record.

M What was Bonanza’s record?

M 22 years.

M I want to be longer than the Simpsons. I want to be able to take out our … scenes.

M. Gallagher Alright. Thank you.

M You’re welcome.

Moderator Our next call comes from April MacIntyre, Monsters & Critics. Please go ahead.

A. MacIntyre Yes, Monsters & Critics. Hey, guys. Hey. You know how much love we have for your series and your work. I have two craft questions for you, and I love the premiere episode, “Pop-Pop: The Final Solution.” The painting, the German shepherd painting, did you find that, per chance? Did your art department find that or did someone actually paint that?

M 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.

M We had so many fans and so many comments, asking about it. When we took it down, people were irate.

M 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.

A. MacIntyre That’s great. Do you have any guest stars that you can mention that we’ll be seeing this season?

M 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.

M Guillermo del Toro.

M 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.

A. MacIntyre That’s great. Alright. Thank you so much.

M You’re welcome.

M Thank you.

Moderator Next call comes from Lauren Damon, Media Mikes, please go ahead.

L. Damon Hi guys.

M Hi, Lauren.

M Hi.

L. Damon Hi, I’m a huge fan. I was wondering, when you’re writing your episodes, do you have favorite teams that you guys like to work with? The gang is so often shifting alliances, even within one episode.

M That’s a great question.

M 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.

M No, I think she means in terms of storylines.

M Oh, in terms of storylines. I’m sorry. I misunderstood your question. 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.

M 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.

M Yes.

L. Damon From the last season finale, did you always know that ‘Mac’ was going to be Ronald McDonald, or is that something that just occurred to you? Will you have a similar revelation with the waitress?

M We’ve been talking about that for a while.

M 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.

L. Damon That was my next question. Thank you.

M You’re welcome. Thanks.

Moderator Next question comes from Nathan Smith, Blogomatic3000.

N. Smith Are there a certain set of criteria that do go in to breaking a story, that you find that you have to have a certain set of criteria?

M 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.

N. Smith Okay.

M 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.

N. Smith As a sub-question, have you ever written a scene or story where you thought you had gone too far? I know that’s a—

G. Howerton 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.

N. Smith Okay. Thank you.

Moderator Next question is from Earl Dittman, Wireless Digital.

E. Dittman Hi guys, it’s me again. I’m kind of jumping on his question. We were talking to the guys in The League yesterday and he said that FX gives the standards and practices gal a lot of headaches. I imagine that you all might do that as well. Do you pretty much handle yourselves—do you test—he said everybody likes to test the standards and practices. Do you mind doing that?

R. McElhenney 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.

G. Howerton 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.

E. Dittman Yes.

G. Howerton 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.

E. Dittman You mentioned that Charlie was in a film and Glenn, you also have film coming out, or come out, Coffee Town?

G. Howerton 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.

E. Dittman I guess the other big question is for both of you; the show obviously allows you enough time to go ahead and to venture into feature films, correct?

M 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.

E. Dittman Right.

M 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.

E. Dittman Great. Do you have anything else coming up; anything film-wise or you didn’t do anything this year?

M We’re all—

M So early again this year—

G. Howerton Yes, this year is a little bit different—we had to start a lot later this season. We want to get back on our earlier schedule. We’re really only going to have one month off between seasons.

E. Dittman Yikes.

R. McElhenney We all have babies. Multiple—we have two babies. Glenn has one and Charlie has one; so we want to spend as much time with our families as we can.

E. Dittman Congratulations, guys. Thanks very much, I appreciate it.

M Thanks, Earl.

M Thanks, Earl.

Moderator Our next question comes from, Dan Calvisi, Act Four. Please go ahead.

M Hi Dan.

D. Calvisi Hey, guys. Earl asked you about features. Do have any plans or wishes to write feature comedies in the future? If so, what do you think are the challenges of writing for film versus TV?

G. Howerton 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.

D. Calvisi What are you favorite TV shows?

G. Howerton Good question. I really think that new show, Girls, on HBO is really terrific. I’m a fan of that. I really, really enjoyed Enlightened, also on HBO. I think it’s terrific. I think Louie is a really interesting show.

R. McElhenney My favorite show—this is Rob—I love Mad Men, Game of Thrones, 60 Minutes—

G. Howerton Oh yes, 60 Minutes continues to kill us.

R. McElhenney Breaking Bad—

G. Howerton Yes, Breaking Bad is just, I think—

R. McElhenney I try to watch as little of comedy as I possibly can.

G. Howerton Yes, yes, same here, same here. It’s just hard, when you’re working on comedy all the time. Seriously, the last thing I want to do is go home and watch a bunch of comedies. No offense to any comedies, it’s just, you can’t help but overanalyze it and it just becomes not fun anymore.

D. Calvisi Okay, thanks.

M Thank you.

Moderator Next call comes from Rachel Cericola, Big Picture. Please go ahead.

M Hi, Rachel.

R. Cericola Hi, guys. Hi. I just finished watching the Season 7, Blu-Ray; I was surprised that there were no deleted scenes or outtakes, or anything like that. How much of what you do doesn’t make it to air?

G. Howerton We started to—this is Glenn—we’ve 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.

R. Cericola Back to some of the weird storylines. I want to know what gets rejected. Do you have any favorite rejected topics?

G. Howerton If it doesn’t happen—we probably had some stuff earlier on, in earlier seasons—but now that the network understands our sensibility and trusts us a little bit more—they really are great to trust us now. They see that—they get it more. We don’t have to explain to them what we’re going for and they trust it. If we think it’s funny then it probably is. What pops into your head? Anything, Rob?

R. McElhenney Yes. We tried to break this story a couple of times—maybe two or three years—and it’s just never quite worked. We never got it to a place where we wanted continue. That was something involving us and a reality show. We were potentially picked as being the focus—focal point—of a reality show or that we sign-up for a reality show. Maybe like—what’s that show?

G. Howerton Bar Rescue, or something. The Amazing Race or something like that.

R. McElhenney Yes. We’d talked about doing some kind of a reality show thing. Again, it wasn’t rejected because it was too hot or nobody liked it. It was just we haven’t been able to crack it yet in a way that we felt was funny.

R. Cericola Thank you.

Moderator Next question comes from Nathan Smith, Blogomatic3000. Please go ahead.

N. Smith Was it more of a gradual development or was it just planned that you would start adding more supporting characters in the show, and open up what was a little more of an insular world with the three leads?

M As we built out the show and built out the characters, we realized that what we were creating was a bit of an alternate universe. Certainly, the stakes are just as high as real life, but the results are a little bit different. These people—I was counting how many major car accidents my character has been in over the last seven years. I think I’ve had five or six head-on collisions. I don’t seem to have any—maybe some brain damage, but the character doesn’t seem to have any physical scars. Clearly, we’re creating a heightened reality. When we started joking about who else lives in this universe, who else lives in this world, it just made us laugh. That helped broaden our scope, which I think only adds to the comedy.

M Maybe more of a parallel universe that an alternate, a completely alternate one; slightly heightened reality, yes.

N. Smith Whose idea was it to bring on your significant others in real life, only to bring them on the show to loathe the characters that you pair them up with?

R. McElhenney I started to loath Kaitlin only after Season 1. We weren’t dating at all prior to it. We met on the show. The loathing didn’t start until Season 1 and then that’s when it really got exciting for us, sexually.

N. Smith In addition, Glenn, I believe it was your wife and the D.E.N.N.I.S. system? Is that correct?

G. Howerton That’s correct, yes.

N. Smith Her character pretty much loathed you—that’s kind of what I meant in Mary [Elizabeth Ellis] loathing Charlie—to basically bring them on just so that they will just be the worst pairing possible.

M I think that’s just more of the nature of our show than what we were trying to do specifically … . It’s just more funny within the context of our universe to have characters in conflict than the other way around. It’s not a show that you’re really going to see many characters that are in love or having a good relationship or healthy relationship. It’s not the nature of our show.

N. Smith Right. Thank you.

J. Reed Karen, we have time for one more question.

Moderator Okay. The next question goes to Lance Carter, Daily Actor. Please go ahead.

L. Carter Got in in the nick of time. Alright. Is it easier for you guys to act in something you write as opposed to saying someone else’s words on another film or TV show?

M I don’t know if it’s—it’s easier in the sense that because you wrote it you know it works, at least in terms of what your sensibility is. With respect to that, it’s easier.

M Certainly having a lot more control over the entire process, not only writing it, but then having a very heavy hand in the directing, and then knowing very well who it is that you’re acting with. Then, being in the editing room so we can shape the performance is really liberating and it helps build a lot of confidence. That being said, when you’re on somebody else’s set, you don’t have any responsibilities other than saying the words, which is pretty great.

M That’s pretty sweet, too.

L. Carter Just real quick, I love it when you guys pop up in films and TV shows. I’m like, oh, hey, cool, so more of that. That’s awesome, too.

M Thank you, Lance. We will do our best. We’re very … .

L. Carter Thanks guys.

M Thank you.

M Thank you.

J. Reed I want to thank everybody for joining us today. As a reminder, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on FX. All photos can be found on At this time, Karen will give you replay instructions and then you can disconnect. Thanks to Rob and Glenn, as well.

M Thank you, everyone, thank you.

Moderator Ladies and gentleman this conference will be made available for replay after 3 p.m. today until 10/12 at midnight. That does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive TeleConference Service. You may now disconnect.

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