It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is considered to be a cult hit, but this cult must be massive because pretty much everyone loves the show. For die-hard fans of Always Sunny, hearing someone denounce the show as "silly" or "dumb" is infuriating, as it pushes boundaries and challenges its viewers in nearly every episode.
Few TV shows dare to go as far as Always Sunny did in their first season, and the show continues to shock and delight its fans today. The fact that Always Sunny finished its twelfth season with some of the best content yet is lunacy. Most comedies are limping to their death at this stage, but Sunny keeps on making us laugh harder than they did the year before. A lot of shows want to go out on top, and Always Sunny will do that no matter when they choose to end it (heaven forbid).
Like many comedies, there are a large amount of running-jokes that only true fans of the show will totally appreciate. Unlike other comedies, thougha, Always Sunny has been bringing these themes and jokes to their logical extremes and conclusions. They aren't satisfied just stringing their viewers along, and it makes for even more shocking moments when these jokes are put to rest.
Here are the 15 Most Insanely Long-Running Jokes in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
15 "What's Up, B-----es?"
"What's up, b----es?" is one of the most recognizable Always Sunny quotes in existence. In nearly every episode, someone (almost exclusively Mac or Dee) is bursting in with the phrase. It's so ingrained in the gang's vernacular that even Schmitty, an old member of the gang played by Jason Sudeikis, enters this way in the one episode in which we see him.
The phrase first appeared in the episode "Charlie Gets Crippled", when Mac enters with a sweet skid in a wheelchair. Dee has uttered it a few times, as has Frank and even Cricket. It's said so frequently that it has become the preferred greeting of Always Sunny fans everywhere. At this point, "What's up, b----es" has become the Jeep-wave of the fan base.
14 The Lawyer
The Lawyer is one of the fantastic characters in Always Sunny with no name, save for his job description. We see him in multiple episodes, starting with "Dennis and Dee's Mom is Dead", and his hatred for the gang has festered into a complex since.
While his original role was only to execute the wishes of Barbra Reynolds, it has morphed into destroying the gang at all costs. This obsession seems to have began in "Paddy's Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens" when he outwitted the group into singing over all of their merchandising revenue, but continued as he legally defended the gang's adversaries along the way.
In the latest episode involving The Lawyer, he attempts to beat the gang in the courtroom, revealing his obsessive hatred of them to the judge. In classic Always Sunny fashion, by the end of the episode The Lawyer is maimed and disgraced when Charlie's bird-law theory proves correct.
13 Just Say Waitress
While The Lawyer's true name is never fully revealed, The Waitress' name has become a running joke that spans the entire series. It is eventually revealed that the gang went to high school with her, which makes not knowing her name that much more egregious.
No member of the gang knows the Waitress' real name, despite the fact that she doesn't even seem to be a waitress anymore. Charlie, who is obsessed with her, may not even know her name off the top of his head. Th issue of her name is brought up nearly every time they call her "Waitress" to her face. She can't believe that they don't know what it is, which is a reference to the length of time the viewers have been in the dark about her name.
Always Sunny, unlike other shows, has shown the ability to fully culminate long-running jokes. There are a few examples of this ahead, but don't be surprised if The Waitress' name is revealed in upcoming seasons.
12 Cricket's Downward Spiral
The fact that everything the gang touches turns to garbage is no more evident than in Rickety Cricket. Cricket was a priest when he started getting mixed up with the gang. He eventually left the clergy because Dee professed her love to him, sending him into a downward spiral that is unrivaled on the series.
Cricket is a disgusting mess by the most recent season - which showed him trying to get his life back on track, only to get high on PCP and fall in love with a dog. The years of abuse by the gang has made him into a monster. It seems that each season the gang adds an emotional or physical scar to Cricket.
Much of what the gang does has no real long-lasting effect on them. They get away with some horrible things and keep right on going in the next episode. Cricket serves as a reminder of sorts, with his half-burned head and nasty neck-scar showing the abuse he's been subjected to on behalf of the gang. Cricket is the audience's portal to the past, and a living piece of Always Sunny art that is continuously being added to.
11 Dee's Gagging
Dee's gagging, while it hasn't been the focal point of many recent episodes, is still a hallmark of the Always Sunny brand. Every time Dee is in a stressful situation or faced with a man she finds attractive, Dee gags and it gets a laugh.
One of the reasons Dee's gag is so great is because Kaitlin Olsen (Dee) has one of the best gags ever. It has become a staple of Sunny lore and fans are known to ask Olsen for a gag when they recognize her in public. Some of the most iconic gags came in the episodes "Charlie and Dee Find Love" and "Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life". Both of these gags came at a time when we were familiar with Dee's gagging, but cemented its place in the running-joke Hall of Fame of Always Sunny.
10 Charlie and The Waitress
The groundwork for Charlie's obsession with The Waitress began in the very first episode of the series, making it the longest-running joke in the show. Charlie begins with some light creepiness - continuously asking her out and such - but a few seasons later he's a full-on stalker.
Everything Charlie does revolves around getting The Waitress to like him. This is on display in its most sinister form in "Charlie and Dee Find Love", when Charlie seduces and breaks the heart of a beautiful woman for the chance to seem like less of a creep to The Waitress. He also wrote, directed, and produced an entire musical just to ask her to marry him, which was obviously doomed from the start.
Charlie's relationship with The Waitress is one example of how Always Sunny is unlike any other comedy. Finally, after seasons of watching him struggle, Charlie convinces The Waitress to have sex with him by berating her about how bad her life has become. After this, Always Sunny flips the whole situation on its head when Charlie runs to Dee's place to hide from The Waitress, who is now stalking him.
9 Uncle Jack's Hands
Charlie's uncle Jack has been a strange side character in the Always Sunny universe since he was first introduced. He's characterized as a creep, and it's even insinuated that he may have molested Charlie as a young boy.
Uncle Jack has a few running-jokes associated with him, as his creepiness leads him to advocate for "tasteful artistic" photos of naked boys on live TV in "Gun Fever Too: Still Hot". His most hilarious complex, though, surrounds the size of his hands.
Jack is incredibly self conscious about his small hands, which is a theme first introduced when he and The Lawyer square-off in "Dennis Gets Divorced". Jack references them nearly every time he's on the show after this, which culminates in the episode "McPoyle vs . Ponderosa: Trial of the Century", where he can be seen wearing fake hands over his own. When he tries to point emphatically, one of his fake hands flies off, sending Jack running after it, screeching "NOBODY LOOK!" and making for one of his finest scenes on the show.
8 Mac Knowing Karate
Out of a group that is in contention for the least self-aware people on television, Mac takes the cake. Mac is blissfully ignorant about many aspects of his own character (more on the obvious ahead). One point that eludes him is his self-taught karate expertise.
Mac perpetually thinks that he has superior athletic ability. There are constant references to his ability to perform stunts and fight, even though all of the evidence points to the fact he can do neither.
Mac's delusions usually manifest themselves in mishaps, though this joke probably reached its peak in the episode "Mac Day". In this episode, Mac is forcibly entered into a karate tournament, where he scores a point before being knocked out. Even though he was clearly beaten in the fight, the point he scored seemed to reinforce his delusions.
It's not clear what will finally prove to Mac that he has no athletic ability, but Always Sunny will hopefully find a way to bring closure to this topic.
7 The McPoyles
The McPoyles are such a fantastic family of side characters that they may deserve their own article. There are multiple running-jokes associated with them, as they're one of the earlier reoccurring characters to which we're introduced.
The McPoyles are the milk-loving, dirty, incestuously creepy family that is first introduced in "Charlie Got Molested". At first we are only introduced to twins Liam and Ryan, but the family soon grows to include a massive lineage of creepy individuals.
The McPoyles have become a staple of Always Sunny, even though Jimmi Simpson (Liam) is on to bigger and better things. Always Sunny fans who watched Westworld cracked up when Simpson's character screamed "Don't touch her!" in the latter show, remembering his iconic "You will call her!" in "Who Got Dee Pregnant".
6 Maurine Ponderosa Transition Into a Cat
Maurine Ponderosa's transition into a cat is something that couldn't have been planned for her character. When she was first introduced, she loved cats but no one could predict the complex that would develop by season twelve. Even during her wedding to Liam, she can be seen with a breast enlargement but no hint of the cat surgery to follow.
The first time we see what Dennis' alimony has been used for is during "Mac Kills His Dad", where she can be seen with raised cheek bones and a catlike appearance. It isn't until "McPoyle vs . Ponderosa: Trial of the Century", though, that we see her go full-cat. Unfortunately, it looks as though this joke has run its course, as Maurine Ponderosa's death is the focal point of an episode in the latest season.
5 Bird Law
Charlie Kelly has some of the most aggressive quirks in all of television. Much like Mac's delusions of being a karate master, Charlie has somehow convinced himself he is fluent in a specialty of law he created called "bird law."
The first time Charlie mentions bird law is in the episode "The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis". From there, it devolved into multiple references and an eventual court case. Much like many other elements of the show, the bird law joke made its way to its logical conclusion: Charlie successfully arguing a bird law case in court.
In "McPoyle vs . Ponderosa: Trial of the Century", Charlie's weird specialty actually served a purpose, as he was able to break the case by surmising that a bird took out Liam's eye. This is one of the more improbably running-jokes on the show, and it will be fascinating and hilarious to see where it goes next.
4 Dennis is a Psychopath
The foundation of Dennis' gradual slope into psychopathy can be seen as early as the first two seasons of Always Sunny. While he wasn't always the rage-filled Dennis we know and love today, the ingredients for his current character were certainly present.
Dennis' character progression is one of the best on television. When the show began, Dennis was more of the straight-man to the gang's crazed antics. He wouldn't fly off the handle as easily as he does now, and his obsessions were kept in check. Now, Dennis' anger runs wild and the more we learn about his private life, the more crazy he seems.
The first real insight into Dennis' id can be seen in the D.E.N.N.I.S. system, "the implication," and his admitted lack of feelings. While there are multiple moments when it could have peaked, many people probably see his rant at Wally in "Mac and Dennis Move to the Suburbs" to be the culmination of his hysteria. Unfortunately, Glenn Howerton got himself his own show and likely won't be seen much in Always Sunny from here on out.
3 Dee is a Bird
Dee as a bird is one of the dumbest reoccurring joke in the show, but that's what makes it so great. There's really not much to say about the joke that hasn't already been said by the characters. Simply put, Dee is a bird.
The part that makes this joke work is how genuinely funny all of the characters find it. Dennis cracks up any time someone calls her a bird, as if it is the first time he's ever heard it. Even when Dee interrupts Frank's telling in "The Gang Broke Dee", everyone is genuinely disappointed Frank didn't get the joke off.
This joke just hammers home the fact that everyone hates Dee. Even though Charlie is viewed as the lowest in the pecking order, the gang genuinely doesn't care about Dee, and laughs at her expense any time they get the chance.
2 Charlie's Illiteracy
"Illiteracy, what does that even mean?"
The fact that Charlie can't read is constantly putting the gang at a disadvantage, from putting on the "closed" sign and thinking it says "Coors" to singing the gang up for a dance marathon with the bar as collateral.
Charlie's illiteracy really serves as a starting-point for how dumb he is. The theme is first introduced in Dennis' political speech in "The Gang Runs For Office", but seems to progressively get worse as the show goes on. Charlie is hilariously stupid and gullible, even believing he gained super-intelligence from pills he was taking in "Flowers For Charlie", complete with bizarre side effects.
Some of the best moments in the show are caused by Charlie's inability to read, including a nearly three minute blooper highlight of Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton trying to get through the, "You see that door marked 'Pirate'? You think a pirate lives in there?" scene.
1 Mac is Gay
There was never going to be a number one other than Mac's sexuality. The journey of Mac finding his true sexuality has taken twelve seasons, and has helped to cement Always Sunny as one of the best comedies on TV.
Mac being gay displayed Always Sunny's commitment to character development as well as its willingness to fully realize its themes. Mac's sexuality was first hinted at when he began dating Carmen and developed over subsequent seasons. Still, not many fans expected what would eventually come of it.
In the episode "Hero or Hate Crime", Mac's sexuality is explored to its fullest extent. His "Ass Pounder 4000" being brought into the discussion was probably the height of Mac's obvious homosexuality, and it was presented as such. Finally, after years of denial, Mac comes out of the closet in this episode.
This was a shock for much of the Always Sunny fan base, but it truly displays how great the show is. Instead of dragging this joke out season after season, the gang finally put it to rest as it reached its logical end.
What's your favorite joke from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Let us know in the comments!