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Friday, September 25, 2009

Last Night: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Live

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 11:41 AM

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Live

click to enlarge PATRICK MCELHENNEY
  • Patrick McElhenney
Thursday, Sept 24, 2009
Better Than: Actually visiting Philadelphia.

When It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia debuted on FX in 2005, it wasn't a runaway success. But the show about four dysfunctional friends trying to run a bar, whose inaugural episode was called "The Gang Gets Racist," quickly amassed a highly devoted fan base. Sunny isn't a program that people are "kind of" into. It's something fans quote incessantly and become emissaries for. So when a live version was announced, followers happily snapped up tickets.

The crowd at the Nob Hill Masonic Center was palpably excited and visibly drunk. Several attendees had decided to pay homage to the show through costume. A foursome were wearing cotton-ball wigs (a nod to a show in which the clan flashes back to colonial times) and two men (we think) were wearing head to toe green spandex, a get-up donned by one of the characters when they become an alter-ego called Green Man.

Local cowboy warbler Toshio Hirano opened the performance with mournful songs of heartbreak and yodeling. Hirano usually plays small, intimate places like The Rite Spot, so it was fun to see him before a big audience. But his baleful tunes and polite, gentlemanly manner wasn't a match for the restless crowd that couldn't help chattering and hollering through his set, which produced the odd effect of being in a rowdy honky-tonk bar.

  Hirano was swiftly followed by two videos, a preview for a Christmas

DVD and a full episode from the new season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Highlight: Danny DeVito's

character (who joined the show in the second season) in skinny hipster

pants doing a spin and declaring, "What? I think they make me look

sexy." We can only hope that some of the boys in the audience saw

themselves in that scene and immediately went out to buy new pants this

morning.

The lights dipped to signify the beginning of the real show, and when they snapped back up, Charlie Day, who plays Sunny's

dim-witted and unhinged Charlie Kelly, was onstage. He kicked off the

show with a frantic, leg flailing song and dance. The reproduced episode

is an audience favorite, but also an obvious choice for a

stage show because it contains a full musical. "The Nightman Cometh" was written by Charlie as an ill-fated declaration of love to a waitress

with whom he is obsessed. Rather than being an effective love letter,

it becomes a meditation on the male characters' obsession with, and

nervous aversion to, sodomy, and Charlie's stunted maturity. All of

this translated easily to the stage, because the setting of the show

has never been the point. Like Seinfeld's apartment, Paddy's Pub is

just a convenient space in which the characters act out their

anti-social tendencies, lubricated with booze.

Lines from the

episode were faithfully reproduced and extra songs padded out the

musical portion, but that wasn't really what the night was about. Rabid

fans want nothing more than to be close to the object of their

adoration, and while musicians are readily available for viewing, the

same can't be said of TV stars. The audience was clearly happy to be in

the same room with The Gang, and the actors accommodated their enthusiasm by interacting

freely with the audience. When Charlie insisted that DeVito's Frank

Reynolds spit out his gum into the palm of his hand, he chucked it into

the crowd, followed by a tail of spit. When Kaitlin Olson's Sweet D

failed to deliver a line with lightening speed, the audience began

chanting it. "I know the line," she snapped. Such abuse was met with

glee. Rob McElhenney (who plays Mac), dressed as the "Night Man" in

black karate garb and eye paint, liberally pointed into the audience

like a lounge singer on crack and a ripple of excitement tracked his

gestures. At one point he smiled conspiratorially to stage left and

flashed a nipple. At the end of the show, the cast enthusiastically

high-fived everyone within high-fiving distance.

Part of

enjoying comedy is wanting, a little desperately, to be in on the joke.

And the live nature of It's Always Sunny granted the audience that right for a

short period of time. At the end of the episode, when Charlie sang a desperate

proposal to the waitress and she callously refused him, she turned to

the audience and said, "I don't know why you're all clapping. That

didn't make any sense." Delivered live, it's doubly funny. It's not

just absurdly cruel, it's a great inside joke.  
        
Personal Bias: I spent much of the day before the show treating uninterested parties to my own rendition of It's Always Sunny's songs.

By the Way: Danny DeVito stole the show. Who knew that the actor from Twins would

one day be clomping around in a raggedy, green robe and prosthetic nose

singing about boys' holes (sorry, souls) and calling people "bitch."

Also, Kaitlin Olson is a really good singer.

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Andy Wright

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