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‘It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia’'s Rob McElhenny Talks Dumpster Babies, Crack-Smoking

Photo: Getty Images

For the past two years, in-the-know viewers have been tuning in each week for FX's darkly funny, surprise-hit comedy It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, in which the show's main foursome (Charlie, Dee, Dennis, and Mack) charge bullishly through subject matter (baby-dumping, child molestation, etc.) that lesser sitcom writers wisely pretend doesn't exist. Creator, writer, and star Rob McElhenny chatted with Vulture on the eve of the season premiere, an episode titled "The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby."

What can you tell us about tonight's premiere, which sounds hilarious?
Well, you've seen the title of the episode, which is funny to you and to many fans of our show, but anybody who has never seen our show might not necessarily find it so funny. They've got another thing coming. Also, Donovan McNabb, the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, is making a guest appearance tonight in the second episode, "The Gang Gets Invincible," in which we try out for the Eagles.

Any other good special guests coming up?
Well, Steven Collins is making his trip back as Dennis and Dee’s father, which we're really excited about, because Seventh Heaven is literally the complete opposite of our show.

What's Steven Collins like in real life? I imagine him just like his Reverend Camden character.
He is! He's like the sweetest, nicest man on the planet, and absolutely up for anything.

Is it weird having someone like that on such a wild show?
Nah, we figure, fuck it. If you do a show like this you kind of have to not worry about what other people are thinking. We get lots of criticism, both positive and negative, and we feel like if we're not pissing some people off we're not doing our jobs correctly. There are a lot of people out there that are looking for the same old show that they've been watching for 40 years, and they're happy with the status quo, and we just had to turn off that gauge. We learned that really quickly.

Your characters smoke crack, go "jihad," crash abortion rallies… Was there ever a subject you wanted to tackle but decided was just too much?
Our feeling is that there's a lighter side to everything. Looking at a baby being thrown in the trash is tragic and very, very sad, and yet when you read those newspaper reports or see it on the news, it's so sad and so tragic that it becomes almost ludicrous. It's almost to the point where it's so unbelievable that this is the point that our culture has come to, there needs to be some sort of comic take on it. If you don't look at the lighter side of it, it's going to fucking kill you. So as far as we're concerned, nothing's out of bounds. It might upset some people, but what are you gonna do?

You're actually pretty well-spoken in real life. Are you like your character at all?
(Laughs) I'm well-spoken! You sound like you're surprised. Am I like my character? Yes, definitely. I feel as though some of my worst traits are just amplified by ten or a hundred and blown up on the screen. My character is one of the most angry people on television, and it's a really a fun thing for me to be able to express that and not get punched in the face.

In the promotional short you guys put up online, Danny DeVito demands contractual man-love from you and Charlie. Is there anything we should… know?
Are you asking me if I spit or swallow? That is so crass! I can't believe it! You're a part of the New York press! I can't believe what you're asking me. (Line goes dead)

Oh good, we're back. I thought maybe you'd hung up in anger.
A likely time for the signal to fade! A likely time! No, but really — Fred Savage, who directed five of the episodes this season, which we're really excited about, and Rhea Perlman were both in the video, and they were both just really good sports about the whole thing. You know, I didn't even know we were disconnected before. I kept going and when I was done there was silence and I was like Oh, shit — now I'm the one that's going to get sued. —Sara Cardace