Whoever you think the best character in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is, you’re wrong: It’s actually Charlie. Yep, glue-sniffing, illiterate Charlie, a man who is at once the most depraved member of the gang and the most adorable.
Throughout the show’s 13-season run, Charlie has had plenty of memorable moments, many of which often see him screaming, singing, or otherwise flying into some kind of confused rage. Sure, the other characters have their parts to play — the show certainly wouldn’t be the same without Dennis’s sadism, Frank’s selfishness, Dee’s anger, or Mac’s self-delusion — but Charlie is the only one who’s almost (almost) likable. His high-pitched voice, consistent uniform of Vans and a green jacket, and inadvisable penchant for singing tend to elevate basically any scene.
Given that Charlie has been responsible for some of Sunny’s most ridiculous and often most endearing moments, we’ve rounded up just 25 of them to revisit ahead of the show’s 14th season.
25. RIP Charlie
“Mac and Charlie Die: Part One” (Season 4, Episode 5)
When Mac’s father is released from prison and they believe he wants revenge on them, they decide that they have to kill themselves. Realizing that that plan is a … little much, they opt to fake their deaths, so they steal Dee’s credit card and car. Some good Mac moments here, too (as he gets high on poppers and insists on wearing a wedding dress), but Charlie is of course the star here: He reveals himself as a coward by, well, faking his death in the first place but also by jumping out of the car as it crashes into the wall, both great gags in their own right. Plus, the way his teeth just slip out of his gums has given us all nightmares ever since. Bonus points for the funeral video that shows the pair on a motorbike wearing cowboy hats with the words “Goodbye Cruel World” on them.
24. Reading Dee’s diary
“Dennis and Dee’s Mom Is Dead” (Season 3, Episode 3)
It’s rare that any of the gang have sympathy for one another, so this Charlie moment is key for that very reason. When the gang have a party at Dennis and Dee’s mom’s house, Charlie invites a stranger called Ernesto to come. After Charlie stumbles upon Dee’s diary, he has Ernesto read it to him (naturally) and finds himself laughing at it. That is, until Ernesto tells him off for being insensitive. He says that Charlie should see himself as Dee’s “soul mate in pain,” so he does just that. Later, as the rest of the party falls apart for the gang, Ernesto and Charlie embrace and weep on the floor in a genuinely touching moment: “I can’t stop crying, Ernesto!” Charlie sobs.
23. Going America
“Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Costumes? Check. Ridiculous song? Check. Great voice? Check! “Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody’s Ass” has all the hallmarks of a great Charlie moment, and it absolutely delivers. After deciding to put on an anti-smoking street performance with Dee, Charlie gets fully into his role, donning a denim jacket and USA flag bandana to sing a version (entirely improvised by Charlie Day) of “Rock, Flag and Eagle”: “I’m gonna rise up, I’m gonna kick a little ass / Gonna kick some ass in the USA!” His cast is genuinely bewildered, but we’re thrilled by the whole thing.
22. White Trash Charlie
“Mac and Charlie: White Trash” (Season 6, Episode 5)
Obviously, the gang aren’t high society. That’s part of their charm. But that comes to a head in “Mac and Charlie: White Trash,” when Mac and Charlie get refused entry to a members’-only pool and are forced to admit that they’re lower class. “You can’t do backflips, you don’t know karate, you’re white trash!” yells Charlie, and when Mac accuses Charlie of being white trash, Charlie opts to showcase the maneuverability of his denim hot pants. Charlie is best when he’s got a bit of a temper, and this episode is no exception.
21. Charlie rules the world
“Charlie Rules the World” (Season 8, Episode 8)
Every time Charlie and Dee get together, chaos is guaranteed, and “Charlie Rules the World” is full of notable instances. The pair join up to play an online game called “TechPocalypse,” wherein they’re married. He goes all megalomaniac with power, “psychologically annihilating” Dee and buying her furs to keep her on his side — until she cheats on him in the game, leading him to scream at an entire party of people until Dennis unplugs the entire thing. This episode also sees Charlie meeting a woman in real life just to scream at her while he ruins her life in the game: “I’m doing good in the game so I’m doing good in life!” he shrieks, covered in dirt and juice after days of subsisting on “energy balls.”
20. Charlie’s illiteracy screws the Gang
“The Gang Dances Their Asses Off” (Season 3, Episode 15)
Charlie’s illiteracy is a recurring problem for the gang, and something that makes him seem less dangerous than the others. Notable examples include his picture-filled dream book, the illiterate script of “The Nightman Cometh,” his misreadings of the law, leaving cryptic messages for Frank in the vents, nonsensical scriptwriting, and attempting to leave mysterious hostage notes. Still, it reaches hilarious heights when he accidentally puts down the bar itself as the prize in a dance-off contest because he thought the word was actually “pride” — as in, he’s proud of the bar. Cue some truly remarkable dance moves and Mac crying, “Your illiteracy has screwed us again!”
19. Ryan Gossshling
“Pop-Pop: The Final Solution” (Season 8, Episode 3)
Charlie has a … uh … questionable relationship to Nazism, as seen in “The Gang Finds a Dead Guy,” wherein he wears Pop-Pop’s old Nazi uniform. In “Pop-Pop: The Final Solution,” Charlie reveals that when the gang burned all of Pop-Pop’s Nazi memorabilia, he kept a painting of a German shepherd that he believes could be “Nazi treasure” … but Frank threw it out. After visiting a dentist to track it down, Charlie gets high on laughing gas and decides that the original painting must be destroyed as it “causes madness.” Dribbling through braces, Charlie also mocks Mac for believing Ryan Gosling would play him in a movie while slurring. It’s really something to see.
18. Genius Charlie
“Flowers for Charlie” (Season 9, Episode 8)
Charlie is a lot of things, but a genius is maybe … not one of them. In “Flowers for Charlie,” a “Flowers for Algernon” homage, Charlie is given an intelligence pill (well, a placebo) and suddenly becomes a “genius,” leaving the rest of the gang to complete his “Charlie work.” Charlie gets paraded in front of a class to show off the effects of the placebo and his invention, which allows “spiders to talk with cats.” It turns out that his intelligence was not increased, but his arrogance was, leading him to believe he had learned Mandarin in two days. When all of this is revealed, Charlie seems genuinely surprised.
17. Get a job!
“The Gang Sells Out” (Season 3, Episode 7)
In “The Gang Sells Out,” the gang blames Charlie for a chain-restaurant deal falling through for Paddy’s. When they try to convince him to get a job, he goes off on an eternally relatable rant for all millennial job hunters: “Oh, get a job? Just get a job? Why don’t I strap on my job helmet and squeeze down into a job cannon and fire off into job land, where jobs grow on jobbies?!” he yells, in a hilarious rant-speech with the physical comedy of him miming strapping himself into a job cannon, ready to blast all over the job market.
16. Charlie Kelly, cat expert
“Mac and Dennis Break Up” (Season 5, Episode 9)
Charlie loves cats, despite being perpetually harassed by them, as he insists on eating cat food and gluing cat hair to his body. In this episode, he goes to hang out with Dee after Mac moves in with him and makes things too clean. Dee has a cat stuck in her wall and Charlie breaks out that perfectly high-pitched voice to help her out with it, revealing himself as not just a cat enthusiast but an expert. “Cat in the wall, huh? Now you’re talking my language!” His solution? To put a “shit ton” more cats in the wall, of course.
15. The glue dance
“How Mac Got Fat” (Season 7, Episode 10)
Same deal as the one below, but with more David Lynch vibes, and a great deal more glue huffed. Eerie rather than adorable, but still very easily watchable on an endless loop again … and again … and again …
14. Butt dance
“The Gang Gets a New Member” (Season 6, Episode 8)
Let’s all hear it for Charlie’s butt dance. Sure, this episode doesn’t go so well for Charlie. But it still ranks up there as one of TV’s greatest dance moves of all time, right after Elaine’s “little kicks” on Seinfeld. After wowing the gang with it his “butt dance,” Charlie tries to impress them again after someone new threatens to replace him in the group. They aren’t watching, but are impressed by Jason Sudeikis’s poor, try-hard imitation. Poor Charlie. Still, this infinite loop is a great antidote.
13. Gay for God
“The Gang Exploits a Miracle” (Season 2, Episode 7)
Costumes, songs, performance … these are all classic Charlie staples. When he isn’t wearing his uniform of a green jacket and Vans, he prefers to go all out with a real Capital O Outfit, as in this episode, which finds the gang discovering a stain that Mac believes is the Virgin Mary. The rest of the gang, naturally, see the stain as an opportunity to exploit. When visitors come to Paddy’s, Charlie puts on an all-white suit and offers a “confession” that he’s in love with a man, “a man called God” — and adding, for emphasis, that he’s gay for God — all of which annoys Mac, a foreshadowing of his confused Catholic future.
12. Furious Charlie
“Hundred Dollar Baby” (Season 2, Episode 5)
One of the most notable examples of Charlie’s hilarious, terrifying rage is in “Hundred Dollar Baby,” when the gang get Charlie to into boxing matches because of his remarkable ability to take a beating. He and Dee get addicted to steroids in order to improve their fighting abilities and end up going absolutely loco. In one particularly good moment, Charlie furiously eats a sandwich, sobbing as he alternates between devastating mood swings, while his friends look on, perplexed. In another, he and Dee face off, threatening each other viciously. It’s all top-notch Charlie behavior.
11. The Nightman
“The Nightman Cometh” (Season 4, Episode 13)
Of all the Sunny episodes and references that might actually be recognizable to non-fans, “The Nightman Cometh,” in which Charlie writes and puts on a musical to win over the waitress, is definitely up there. “The Nightman Cometh” is a perfect Charlie-centric episode for many reasons. One, he’s a rage-filled director who threatens to smack everyone into little tiny pieces. Two, he’s a surprisingly gifted singer, director, and producer. While his actors leave a lot to be desired, the song in which he, as the dayman, comes down on a giant yellow sun in order to direct his words at the waitress in the front row is peak Charlie, and almost an emotional number compared to “boy’s hole.” Almost.
10. Charlie’s birthday
“Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats” (Season 6, Episode 10)
Nobody in the Paddy’s gang is by any means a “good” person, but Charlie is maybe as deserving of happiness as they come. In “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,” the rest of the group wants to give him a decent birthday to cheer him up, starting with Dee’s attempt to take him to a spa, much to his confusion. He apparently … doesn’t know what a spa is. He’s convinced that she’s talking about spaghetti, so attempts to take a bag of spaghetti into the steam room: “What’s your spaghetti policy here?” he asks. Still, the gang come together in the end to re-create scenes from Charlie’s dream book: denim chicken, worm hat, and bird with teeth, in an actually almost heartwarming scene that has us all cheering for Charlie and his new rat-bashing stick.
9. The sun block
“The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore” (Season 7, Episode 2)
Charlie’s entire trip to the Jersey Shore is pretty adorable, from his fear of traveling to his amazement at the ocean and the joy that Europe is just across it (“Do not try to swim to Europe!”). He ends up having a far more magical time on the Shore than his friends, even meeting up with the waitress for a wonderful night of sea-jewel collecting, but the thing that really epitomizes the entire trip is when he tries to copy Dennis and Dee’s “sunblock drink.” Only he doesn’t swap out sunblock for booze, he just gets messed up on sunblock. All in all, it’s sweet, and probably the perfect “Out of Office” GIF.
8. His online dating profile
“The Waitress Is Getting Married” (Season 5, Episode 5)
Online dating is hard, and it all starts with what to put on that profile. Are you honest? Do you twist the truth just a little in your favor? Well, before Charlie’s disastrous date (see: No. 5) comes his online dating profile, which Mac and Dennis help out with before deciding to just lie. There are so many gems here ready to steal for your own Tinder: Favorite food? Milk steak. Hobby? Magnets. Likes? Little green ghouls. Dislikes? People’s knees. With all that, and the photo to match, this might be one of Charlie’s greatest — and most relatable — moments.
7. Wild card, bitches!
“The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” (Season 4, Episode 2)
Charlie fans might call him the heart of the group, but in “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis,” the gang have other ideas. When they decide to start selling oil door to door, Charlie gives us, and one frightened woman, the first look at his Texas oil-merchant character. The gang figure out what role he plays: He’s the wild card. Ever keen to prove his place in the world, Charlie cuts the brakes on Frank’s van and screams, “Wild card, bitches! Yeehaw!” before throwing himself out of the back of the van. There goes our hero, once again inserting a new quote into our collective vocabulary.
6. Kitten Mittens
“Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens” (Season 5, Episode 8)
The gang have always been adept at, well, not making money, but at coming up with schemes to at least try to make some money. With Kitten Mittens, Charlie’s almost onto a winner — until a disastrous run-in with the gang’s least-favorite lawyer. Still, the video commercial for the Kitten “Mittons” is comedy gold, cut and edited just so, to make it feel as hectic and unprofessional as possible. Charlie’s acting here is key, as he struggles to get out the lines he’s written for himself and puts his hands over his ears dramatically. “Is your cat constantly stomping around driving you crazy?” Charlie shouts. “Is your cat clawing at your furnitures?” He’s great in it, of course, but it’s the animalistic sound effects that really seal the deal.
5. Charlie’s first date
“The Waitress Is Getting Married” (Season 5, Episode 5)
Charlie doesn’t have the easiest time with the ladies, and typically he only has himself to blame. But when he finds out the waitress is getting married, the boys decide to distract him, so they set him up on a date with a woman from a dating website. Here’s where all that Charlie-ness works against him — while Mac and Dennis have lied for Charlie in order to make a good impression, he’s not so good at pretending. Cue sweating, eating disastrous amounts of cheese, bleeding everywhere, and scaring the woman by calling himself a “full-on rapist” rather than a “philanthropist.” The moral is: Always be yourself.
4. “Did you fuck my mom, Santa Claus?”
“A Very Sunny Christmas” (Season 6, Episode 13)
This Christmas special really sees Charlie at his best, as he and Mac attempt to rekindle the spirit of Christmas past. It’s only with age that we realize our own holiday traditions aren’t quite like anyone else’s, so as they delve into their pasts, they discover that while Mac’s family was robbing other children of their gifts, Charlie’s mom was sleeping with men dressed as Santa Claus to make money. When Charlie comes across a mall Santa, he goes into a full-blown screaming rage and bites chunks out of his neck. It’s truly gory and disgusting, but seeing Charlie Day’s face contorted as he spits, “Did you fuck my mom, Santa Claus?” really showcases his talents for playing someone no one else could.
3. “Go Fuck Yourself”
“The Gang Desperately Tries to Win an Award”(Season 9, Episode 3)
One of the biggest twists in Sunny lore is that Charlie is actually good at something. Despite being unable to read or write and having few interpersonal skills, he can at least write and sing music. While “The Nightman Cometh” is perhaps the most-referenced example, “Go Fuck Yourself” has more than earned a look-in. In a parody of other, cleaner sitcoms (like New Girl), in “The Gang Desperately Tries to Win an Award” Charlie ruins their chances by being gross and crass, just like the show itself, and singing a curse-filled song while high from sniffing paint. There’s a great remix of this song on YouTube, too.
2. The blood capsules
“Frank’s Pretty Woman” (Season 7, episode 1)
“Frank’s Pretty Woman” is already a perfect episode, made so thanks to a stellar group effort and a brilliant (if brief) performance by Frank’s sex-worker girlfriend, Roxy. Unconvinced by Roxy, Charlie wants Frank to date someone who doesn’t want his money, so he pretends he’s a millionaire who works in boiled denim. Charlie plans to skip out on the date so Frank, acting as chauffeur, can sweet talk her himself, but the plan goes horribly wrong. After swallowing a ton of blood capsules, Charlie ends up vomiting blood everywhere and screaming “I’VE BEEN POISONED BY MY CONSTITUENTS!” in his full oil-baron cosplay.
1. Pepe Silvia
“Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack” (Season 4, episode 10)
So good it’s become the subject of widespread memes and theories, Charlie’s conspiratorial Pepe Silvia breakdown is him at his squawky best. He believes he’s cracked a conspiracy at the heart of the company where he and Mac work in the mailroom, convinced that nobody he’s collecting mail for actually exists. “This office is a goddamn ghost town!” he yells, eyes red, a cigarette burning. While it’s likely nobody actually knows what Pepe Silvia really means, most agree that the illiterate Charlie is probably misreading Pennsylvania. Brilliant.