Frequently thought of as a modern day Seinfeld, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia frequently takes comedy to the next level. Creators Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton created something completely different in the sitcom world. The show revolves around five narcissistic individuals: Dennis Reynolds (Howerton), Dee Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson), Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day), Frank Reynolds (Danny Devito) and Mac (McElhenney). They are greedy, selfish, and would sell each other out to get what they want, yet they're still best of friends. Most episodes focus on them blackmailing someone or ruining each other’s life in some way. Unlike most sitcoms, these characters never play it safe or think about who is going to be watching. Their humor can be offensive — targeting any race and gender they feel like - but in the end, the joke is always about how terrible they are themselves.
Miraculously, over the course of ten seasons, their quality has barely dipped. There may be some boring episodes here and there, but there has never been a season that was consistently bad. Somehow, the writers are able to consistently come up with great dialogue and ideas that have the audience burst out laughing.
In honor of the eleventh season, which started just a couple weeks ago, these 20 episodes were some of their best and most memorable work. At the end of each one, you’re left wondering, “Should I be offended right now?”
20 Charlie Work (Season 10 Episode 4)
Charlie: "Just do it Dee, just do it you goddamn b***h! Ohhhh, that goddamn b***h!"
In 10 seasons, we’ve witnessed how much of an idiot Charlie can be. He’s a wild card, a stalker, and he may or may not be able to spell. But in this episode, we see how much Charlie cares about the bar and actually acts as a leader for his lazy group. When he gets a tip-off that the health inspector is coming to inspect the bar, he gets into grind mode and struggles to keep everything in tip-top shape much to the laziness of his friends.
This isn’t the funniest episode in the whole, but what it did with the camerawork was so different from anything done in the show thus far. When Charlie is frantically running around, it’s filmed like it was done in one continuous take (much like the film Birdman, which was released around the same time). It was a unique kind of filmmaking for the shoe and showed that despite being on for so long, it still has some tricks up their sleeve.
19 The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore (Season 7 Episode 2)
Frank: "I’m sorry, rum ham!"
One of the only episodes to not be set in Philadelphia provides some of the biggest laughs in the series and takes the gang to the “luxurious” Jersey Shore. Unlike the reality show, it doesn’t have hot people and magical rides like they were expecting. What is meant to be the reliving of a childhood memory turns into a weekend full of homeless men having sex under the pier, drugstore robberies, and getting lost at sea. The good part is that Charlie bumps into the waitress and they have a beautiful date and fall in love until it’s revealed that she was high the whole time and had no idea what she was doing.
These three different perspectives made for an interesting take on the culture of Jersey Shore. Mac and Frank partied with the stereotypical guidos and fist pumped and took steroids; Charlie experienced the ultimate summer love; and Dee and Dennis unwillingly spent it with murderous thieves. It felt like an old-school, wacky sitcom but with all of the “It’s Always Sunny” humor.
18 Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens (Season 5 Episode 8)
Charlie: "Kitten Mittens! You’ll be smitten! So come on down to Paddy’s Pub. We’re the home of the original Kitten Mittens. Meeeeeeeeeeowwwww!"
The merchandise convention is in town, and the gang is trying to cash in with exclusive Paddy’s Pub products. The episode already starts off on the right foot with a commercial that Charlie made for his invention, Kitten Mittens. Charlie and Dee go to their favorite lawyer in town to try to patent their product while Dennis and Mac try to come up with something “cooler.”
Their definition of cool includes dick towels, thongs, and guns that shoot booze right into your mouth (all included in a commercial full of half naked women, naturally). The episode teaches us a very valuable lesson about investing and money: eating a contract doesn’t get you out of the bindings.
17 The Gang Goes Jihad (Season 2 Episode 2)
Mac: “I feel like I should be holding a weapon.”
Dennis: “Fine! Everybody, let’s go get a weapon."
While season 1 was more contained and tame, Season 2 was when antics started to get crazier. “The Gang Goes Jihad” was more or less an introduction to the serious damage these people can cause. When half of their bar gets bought up by an Israeli business developer, the gang seeks revenge. Unfortunately, their ideas aren’t the most well thought out.
From homemade jihad videos to flaming bags of poop, their “revenge” only seems to land them in trouble with the police. What was so great about this episode was that it went in head first with the offensive content. The first season only had six episodes so for McElhenney and Howerton to dive in so quickly was a huge risk, but ten seasons later, it seems to have paid off.
16 Chardee Macdennis: The Game of Games (Season 7 Episode 7)
Charlie: "It's not just a game. It's a war."
On the one day that they couldn’t come up with any mischief, the gang decides to play a game they invented many years ago. What is supposed to be a fun idea to pass time turns into pure chaos. "Chardee MacDennis" is pure insanity, consisting of ridiculous tests of mind, body, and spirit — all of which include drinking. It brings the best and worst out of everyone, resulting in major backstabbing and suffering from both sides. It starts to get intense as the tasks start to get more obscene, such as Frank needing to eat cake ingredients in a dog kennel.
All of that leads to the daunting final challenge: a flip of a coin. One of the biggest accomplishments of this episode is how it solely took place in the bar. It was a great example of how you don’t need any background or side characters for help; the comedy can come from the four main characters just being themselves.
15 Charlie Rules the World (Season 8 Episode 8)
Charlie: "You treat me like a dumb-dumb and a grunt, and I have potential, you know? I can go places, I can do things. Who knows? I might even rule the world one day."
We usually see Charlie get the short end of the stick in most episodes. However, in season 8, that finally changes and we see him take charge and rule — in a video game. Once the gang becomes addicted to a video games, Charlie quickly becomes obsessed with keeping his best player status. He even goes as far as making Dee his servant to keep his energy up.
When Frank starts to get involved, it starts to play like a The Real Housewives episode. He plays as a catty woman who sleeps around for profit, garnering the envy of Dee. She starts turning into the kept housewife that wants virtual mink coats and face lifts. To provide for her luxurious lifestyle, Charlie goes as far as luring players to the bar as a sign of friendship, but then steals their land and leaves them a box of spiders as a parting gift.
Dennis’ decision to erase all of their games at the end symbolizes the harsh reality that some gamers don’t want to see: there is a world outside of virtual reality.
14 The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre (Season 8 Episode 3)
Liam: "Legions of us, thousands sturdy, once ruled this fine land. Our bloodline was as pure as the driven snow."
Dee: "Then what happened?"
Liam: "Syphilis killed about half of us."
One of the most popular set of side characters is the inbred McPoyle family. From drinking milk to wearing uncomfortably thin robes, you can’t help but get a shiver down your spine whenever they come on screen. That discomfort is taken to a whole new level when the gang crashes Dennis’ ex-wife’s—Maureen Ponderosa— wedding. It turns out that she is marrying Liam McPoyle and the whole clan is invited. The wedding is exactly how you picture it: full of relatives with numerous genetic mutations that speak with grunts instead of words.
Instead of a warm welcome, the gang is treated to crazed violence and nearly getting their face chewed off like a zombie apocalypse. Apparently Maureen’s brother, Bill, thought he could satisfy his alcohol addiction by spiking the milk bowl with bath salts. This is one of the best side character focused episodes because it gives a disturbing glimpse into the McPoyle family. Their 1000 year tradition of breeding inside the bloodline gives a lot of insight on why the way they are. Oh and, fun fact: Guillermo Del Toro guest stars as Papa McPoyle and brags about eating one of his babies that tried to eat him first.
13 Mac Fights Gay Marriage (Season 6 Episode 1)
Frank: "Who gives a s*** if gays want to be miserable like everyone else and get married. Let em do it. No skin off my ass."
One of the many running gags on the show is that Mac may or may not be gay. Despite him being very religious and seemingly against it, the series has little jabs here and there but they’re usually too small to catch right away. “Mac Fights Gay Marriage” is one of the episodes contributing to the theory. In this episode, Mac sees a transgender woman (Carmen) who he used to secretly hook up with. She’s married t0 her husband and Mac declares it disgusting because he considers it a gay marriage. He tries confronting them with a Bible, spouting off verses about homosexuality being sinful and how they’re going to hell. Carmen accurately points out that Mac had sex with her when she actually had a penis making him the gay one in this scenario.
Besides it being consistently funny throughout, this episode provides an interesting analysis on Mac’s character. Him claiming that Carmen’s marriage is sinful despite him having sex with her shows that there’s definitely something more to him than what meets the eye. His defeated face after seems to suggest that he could possibly be gay, but we’ll probably never know.
12 The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover Edition (Season 4 Episode 1)
Charlie: "What does a Mexican girl love more than anything else in the world?"
This episode is a perfect example of a hard lesson learned for Dennis, Mac, Charlie, and Dee. Even if they were trying to feel good about themselves and give back to someone in need, there are things that should only stay on reality television. That includes making over someone’s house from scratch. When the gang chooses their lucky winner to get a brand new house, the language barrier has the poor Hispanic family thinking they’re getting kidnapped. Hilarity ensues when the gang tries to decorate their house full of stereotypical Mexican items while Dee tries to convert them into real Americans. Sadly, Dee’s two years of high school Spanish doesn’t help the family understand what’s going on. They simply think they’re sadistic freaks who are torturing them for no reason.
One of the best scenes is when Mac and Dennis are trying to figure out what the daughter would like for her room. The only answer they could come up with tacos, and thus made a cheaply put together room full of tacos. The large amount of stereotypes in this episode is a big indicator of how ignorant Mac and Dennis are when it comes to different cultures, and how they shouldn’t be hosting their own TV show anytime soon.
11 A Very Sunny Christmas (Season 6 Episode 13)
Charlie: "Did you f**k my mom, Santa?"
Christmas specials are usually fun and jolly, but Christmas at Paddy’s Pub is full of backstabbing and disappointment. Dennis and Dee are tired of Frank always buying gifts that they want for himself, and Mac and Charlie realize that their childhood holidays might not have been as fun as they thought. What Mac remembers as a fun Christmas tradition was really his family breaking into houses every year to steal their presents. And Santa’s visits to Charlie were actually clients in a “jolly mood” to see his mother.
Meanwhile, Dennis and Dee reenact The Christmas Story to show Frank how horrible he is to people (even having him go inside a couch to hear them talk about him). This was such a great watch because it showed the gang actually trying to be kind to others for the holidays. Mac tries to return the toys that his parents stole, and Frank tries to be nice to his kids after having a near death experience (in the form of a claymation cartoon). Unfortunately, that kindness is displayed in this episode only.
10 Mac and Charlie Die Part 1 & 2 (Season 4 Episode 5 & 6)
Judge: "Then he [Mac’s Dad] was going to, quote, 'eat your butt, and his son's butt, in the stink, until his stomach was full of your butt.'"
One of the show’s finest hours, “Mac and Charlie Die” is one of the only two-parters in the series. After they claim that Mac’s paroled father said that he would eat their butts, Mac and Charlie fake their own deaths to escape his wrath. It features a grenade, Bon Jovi’s "Blaze of Glory," and a wedding dress. Dennis and Frank are broken up about it, but Dee is convinced that they’re still alive somewhere. The side story revolves around Dennis and Frank wanting to explore anonymous sex after discovering a glory hole in their bar bathroom.
After being disgusted at a secret orgy, Dennis makes the bathroom unisex to try his hand at the glory hole. The episode has a lot going on but manages to balance both stories extremely well (that probably explains why they had to two episodes to do this). The big showdown between Mac and his dad explains, in a nutshell, the lengths people will go to get away from the gang.
9 Who Got Dee Pregnant? (Season 6 Episode 7)
Frank: “We gotta get you and the monster that's in your gut down to Mexico, ASAP."
Because of Kaitlin Olson's pregnancy, McElhenney and Day needed to come up with a way to explain Dee’s newly enlarged belly. Instead of giving her a hiatus, they decided to write a “who’s the daddy” mystery. And the story is told mainly through different characters’ recollections.
When she says that one of them is the father, the boys try to piece together their drunken Halloween night and figure out who slept with her. We got to see a lot of famous side characters in action, such as Artemis and the McPoyles, and got to hear their versions of the mystery. The highlight of those stories was Dee becoming more “birdlike” in each memory. She went from having feathers and a beak to becoming a full ostrich. It was a perfect set-up of “he said, she said” with the McPoyles having the most accurate retelling of the story. It may not have had the most satisfying ending, but it set Dee up for future punchlines throughout the season.
8 The D.E.N.N.I.S. System (Season 5 Episode 1)
Frank: "Whoops! I dropped my monster condom that I use for my magnum dong."
One recurring joke on the show is about Dennis’ incredibly high libido. Somehow, he’s able to get phone numbers and women all over him. In this season 5 episode, we finally find out the science behind his “charm”: The D.E.N.N.I.S System. It starts with “demonstrating value” to the woman and ends with “separating entirely” — all while orchestrating as much passionate sex as possible. This episode really showcases Dennis’ sociopathic tendencies and how inflated his ego really is.
The synopsis is him trying to “reDENNIS” a pharmacist after Dee bet him that he couldn’t win her back. The episode not only shows Dennis’ desperation to show up his sister, but also the hierarchy of the group. After Dennis is finished with a woman, Mac swoops in with his system, MAC (Move in After Completion), and even Frank is waiting in line with his SCRAPS system (not an acronym). It’s complete chaos, but it’s hilarious to watch all systems crumble down.
7 Dennis and Dee go on Welfare (Season 2 Episode 3)
Dennis: “Hi. I'm a recovering crackhead. This is my retarded sister that I take care of. I'd like some welfare, please.”
Feeling super unaccomplished with their lives, Dennis and Dee decide to quit working at the bar to pursue their dreams. To get the money to do so, they attempt to apply for welfare, only to find out that they’re not eligible. That obstacle leads them down the path of becoming addicted to crack in order to qualify for welfare. In order to replace them, Frank decides to exploit labor by hiring two “slaves” under the “Work for Welfare” program. While he’s busy managing them, Mac and Charlie sneak out and spend Frank’s money on prostitutes and limos.
By the end of the episode, both parties are in such a horrible situation that they need Frank to help them out—something that they had been avoiding all this time. Watching the siblings’ gradual downfall is both hilarious and a little sad. They start off with so much pride and motivation and, by the end, they’re crack addicts who sleep for a day straight.
6 6.The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award (Season 9 Episode 3)
Mac: "I'VE HAD ORGASMS! I'VE HAD TONS OF ORGASMS! I'VE HAD ONE WITH YOUR MOM, DUDE! I WILL STRANGLE YOU! I'LL STICK MY GODDAMn THUMB THROUGH YOUR EYE!"
With ten seasons under its belt, it’s become very noticeable that IASIP hasn’t garnered that much award attention. It got one Emmy nomination in 2013 and a People’s Choice award just this year, but it hasn’t exactly been the Mad Men of comedy television. “The Gang Tries to Win an Award" is a fantastic response to that. After they notice that they haven’t ever won an award for Best Bar, the gang wants to desperately win it.
They go check out Suds—the glitzy, Carly Rae Jepsen blasting bar with fish bowl sized drinks and overly friendly waiters. When they try to copy that style, the gang realized that they don’t need to impress anyone and they just want to continue what they’re doing because they love it. Dennis’ final line “We don’t need an award” is such a perfect response to Emmy voters and showcases their indifference to golden statues.
5 Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person (Season 3 Episode 9)
Dennis: "That's funny, because people who aren't retarded usually drive. Retarded - one, Normal - zero."
The main plot is funny enough, but the background story takes the cake in this episode. When Dee brings her rapper boyfriend over, Dennis bursts her bubble by mentioned that he’s mentally challenged. She refuses to believe it until she seems to find proof varying from his not being able to drive to the fact that he lives with his mother. The real highlight is when Mac, Charlie, and Frank try to make a band of their own (because if a mentally challenged person can get big, they can too). This introduces Charlie’s famous hit: "Nightman." With memorable lyrics such as “With your strong arms you pin me down/And I try to fight you." Of course, Charlie sees nothing wrong with his song. He simply thinks it’s about “having a passionate night and becoming the Nightman.”
After being kicked out of their respective bands, Dennis and Charlie collaborate on a song of their own, called Dayman. While “Nightman” is full of sexual and disturbing content, “Dayman” is light, funny, and reminiscent of 80’s glam rock. Of course, they both get interrupted by Lil’ Kevin who blasts Dee in a freestyle rap, solving the mystery that he’s not mentally challenged.
The episode was a top contender for having the most offensive material. By the end, it had us feeling like horrible people for laughing so hard at such a sensitive subject.
4 The Waitress is Getting Married (Season 5 Episode 5)
Mac: “What’s your favorite food?”
A horrible tragedy arises that has Charlie feeling awful: the waitress, his long time crush (and the victim of his constant harassment) is getting married. To combat that depression, Mac and Dennis try to help him out by setting up an online dating profile. Seeing Charlie on an actual date is like a bad car accident that you can’t look away from. You can smell the gallons of sweat that are on him, and feel the repulsion that his date must feel when he says that he’s a full on rapist instead of philanthropist.
Jealous that she’s not getting married first, Dee tries to break up the waitress and her fiance by throwing a disastrous bachelorette party, complete with disgusting guests and humiliation. It worked, but only because the engagement was out of spite in the first place. The fact that Dee achieved something without trying too hard is an accomplishment in itself. It was also a big reminder that the poor waitress is constantly a victim and will never have nice things while she still surrounds herself with the gang. But somehow, it’s still funny to watch this poor girl suffer.
3 Frank Reynolds’ Little Beauties (Season 7 Episode 3)
Frank: “I got a question about you morticians. Do you bang the bodies?”
Dark, awkward, and perhaps a little uncomfortable, “Frank Reynolds’ Little Beauties” is beautiful commentary on children's beauty pageants. Afraid that the parents will see him as a child molester, Frank enlists the help of the gang to come up with a good show after he accidentally invests in a kid’s beauty pageant. Besides the parents, he also has a social worker breathing down his back for the safety of the kids.
Of course, the gang take it upon themselves and unintentionally make suggestive dance numbers and act like helicopter parents. Dee pits two sisters against each other and Charlie berates all of the children for being out of tune. It’s like watching an intense episode of Toddlers in Tiaras.
2 The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis (Season 4 Episode 2)
Charlie: “I Cut the Brakes! Wild Card, Bitches! Yee-haw!"
After wasting their money for gas to fuel their generator, Mac, Dennis, and Charlie attempt to invest in gasoline so they can store in their basement and sell it when the prices are high. On the other hand, Dee and Frank inadvertently torture a guy they believe to be Bruce Mathis (their real father) so that they can get all of their inheritance money back.
What’s so special about this episode is that it truly shows the power dynamic of Dennis, Charlie, and Mac. They firmly establish their place in their relationship: Mac is the brains; Dennis is the looks; and Charlie is the wild card that ultimately screws everything up. Once you have that proper knowledge, the episode plays out like a funnier version of Ghostbusters or Scooby Doo.
1 The Nightman Cometh (Season 4 Episode 13)
Frank: "You gotta pay the troll toll to get into this boy’s hole.”
People have many different opinions about IASIP, but they can agree that season 4 was one of the best. Some of the funniest episodes happened that year including one of the most popular: "The Nightman Cometh." It’s centered around the production of The Nightman Cometh, a rock opera and love story written by Charlie. Of course, it’s not as Tony-worthy as he thinks it is. He’s oblivious to the fact that his songs are very sexual with lyrics heavily suggesting child abuse.
It features wonderfully inappropriate lyrics such as “you gotta pay the troll toll to get into this boy’s hole” and “tiny boy, little boy, I want to touch you, boy.” Such lines have made this episode one of the most quotable of the series. And it doesn’t get much better when Dee and Dennis have to play the romantic pairing of the story (even their “sexual embrace” is awkward to watch). Regardless, It’s become one of the most quotable episodes in the series and launched Charlie Day into mainstream comedies.
Can you think of any other episodes that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!
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