Q&A with Rob McElhenney of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
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Q&A with Rob McElhenney of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
"I mean for fuck's sake. We're the birthplace of the nation and people are asking me about cheesesteaks? I'm over it."
|McElhenney as Nightman|
City Paper: Where are you right now?
Rob McElhenney: I am on the streets of Beverly Hills [laughs], not far from the Fox lot. And we are just getting some last minute things together for the tour, and the premiere. I think we're like a week and a half out now. So, everything's coming to a head.
CP: Those two Philly shows sold out so quickly.
RM: Yeah, in fact I'm spending a lot of my time kind of dealing with that, interestingly enough. We knew it was going to be a little bit of a clusterfuck but we weren't sure how much so. Specifically in Philadelphia, which is why we added a second show. And we thought well, a second show, at the Tower ' regardless of how quickly the first one sold out ' can't sell out as quickly and it wound up doing so. So, that's a good sign. But I have all my family and friends there so I wanna make sure that they're all taken care of. It wasn't like they had a long time and then got lazy and didn't do it. They really were trying to get tickets and kinda got pushed out.
CP: So you're trying to score them some tickets.
RM: I basically have, I think, 96 requests, so far. And that's just my immediate family and some close friends. But I know the barrage is going to come any day now.
CP: Right now you're one of the few faces people think of when they think of Philadelphia. How do you feel about representing Philly?
RM: [laughs] That blows my mind to even hear that. I never even thought about it like that. I don't know. I definitely enjoy the fact that maybe now when people talk about the city that this is maybe some sort of frame of reference as well. I'll tell you what I'm sick of. People hearing that I'm from Philly and asking me about cheesesteaks, pretzels or Rocky. I mean for fuck's sake. We're the birthplace of the nation and people are asking me about cheesesteaks? I'm over it. I'm hoping that maybe we can create one more, at least, talking point, for people when they reference the city of Philadelphia.
CP: Tell me about the live show.
RM: It's going to be pretty wild. What we decided to do very early on was is that if we were going to do this show, that we really had to go all out. The actual performance of the musical itself, even with a few new songs that we added, let's see the, I think, the running time of The Nightman Cometh production within the episode was maybe 12 minutes, 12 or 13 minutes. So we realized there's no way we can put on a live show, a 12 minute live show. So we obviously had to enhance that, so we wrote three new songs and put that in, and actually we're going to perform the entire episode leading up to it.
My guess is that everybody who's seeing the show has already seen the episode, so I think to see it performed live, with that fourth wall up and then once we begin the Nightman performance itself, you know, it's the characters performing in front of a live audience so that wall's gone and now we can interact with the audience because they're supposed to be a part of the show.
So we have a lot of stuff in store in terms of that. And we're definitely going to build this up in terms of not necessarily what we as writers or actors or even citizens think is cool, but what the characters might think is cool. Whatever the characters think is gonna be badass is what we're going to wind up putting in the show.
We're also screening a episode from this season, prior to. We're also showing an exclusive scene from a DVD, a Christmas special that we're doing, which is direct to DVD episode that we're releasing. And plus an opening band [Don McCloskey], so we're really excited.
CP: Do you have any stage experience?
RM: Yes, however minimal. Not really as a professional. Very little as a professional. Some off-Broadway stuff in New York but that's not even worth mentioning. But in terms of amateur work when I was a kid, certainly I was involved in musical theater when I was really young. And then I kinda stopped doing it in high school simply cause I wanted to drink beer and hangout for four years, which is what I did in high school.
CP: Tell me about Boldly Going Nowhere.
RM: Ah. Boldly is now in the hands of Larry Charles, who, I don't know if you're familiar with Larry, but he's a show-runner extraordinaire executive producer, he directed Borat and Bruno and he's the executive producer of Entourage and Seinfeld. And he saw the pilot that we shot that we all liked, but we didn't love, and he really liked it and said he would make a couple of tweaks and maybe he would kinda take it over because we're obviously busy with Sunny. And we agreed that this was a good idea.
So right now we're at script phase just making some tweaks and hopefully we're gonna go into production for the pilot in a few weeks, right after the tour.
CP: And Sunny just got re-upped, right?
RM: Yeah, after this year, it's gonna be an additional 25 episodes. We're gonna span those out over two years. and that's just a start, that's what we're contracted for, but you know if the audience keeps watching and still wants us to make episodes, we'll keep making them.
CP: Here's what I like about the show: The sorta outlandish things the cast does, they don't seem to be for shock value because they come from the kinds of conversations people actually have. People do think as stupidly or cruelly as these characters. The difference is that the characters actually do the horrible things somebody else only thinks about.
RM: I'm constantly getting people asking are you deliberately trying to push boundaries, are you trying to push buttons, are you trying to shock people, are you trying to upset people ' and it couldn't be further from the truth. In fact that's the opposite of what we are trying to be doing.
Ideally, our best episodes come from us sitting in the writers room, and saying what are we not seeing anywhere else and what are the conversations that we'd like to see on television that we're not seeing. Anywhere else, on CBS, or ABC, or HBO for that matter? Where are things that we'd be interested in thematically and culturally are fodder for entertainment, and at least a part of our genetic and social Americans, and how can we put that to use in terms of making a television show. So that's like the grandiose way of looking at it, but the simple way would be: How can we make ourselves laugh today?
But simply doing something just to shock people, honestly, that's what we sort of find offensive.
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