‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Star Rob McElhenney Once Spent 6 Months Preparing for 1 Joke

14 years is a long time for any job. The FX comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has made it that long with many more on the way. Creators and stars Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton have evolved a lot. So have their co-stars Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito. The characters haven’t changed much, but McEhenney went to extremes for just one joke on the show. 

Rob McElhenney holding a Glenn Howerton doll
Rob McElhenney | Evans Vestal Ward/FXX

Rob McElhenney had an issue with buff guys on sitcoms

In season 13 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, McElhenney worked out to gain a movie star physique. He did this to make a comment on how the male characters in most stories really shouldn’t be that buff. 

“It feels like the last eight years, every time a man takes his shirt off in a scene, he tends to be insanely ripped, like a Greek God,” McElhenney said at a Television Critics Association panel in 2018. “Obviously, unless you’re Chris Hemsworth and you’re playing Thor or Superman, which in that case it makes sense, I don’t understand why guys that are playing teachers and engineers and food delivery guys, all of a sudden they take their shirt off and they’re just f*cking ripped.”

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ wouldn’t engage in body worship

McElhenney put in the work to get ripped like a Hemsworth. Of course, when he took his shirt off in Paddy’s pub, the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang weren’t impressed.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Mac performs an interpretive dance
Rob McElhenney and Kylie Shea | Patrick McElhenney/FXX

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“There’s something really funny about playing with the vanity of that,” McElhenney said. “I just thought it would be funny if an actor put that much time, effort, and energy into looking a certain way. To me it’s funny that I put in or somebody would put in six months’ worth of hardcore working out and diet and then only get, like, 30 seconds of glory out of it.”

Rob McElhenney went to the opposite extreme in an earlier season of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

In season 7, McElhenney went the other way. He gained 50 pounds to play Mac that season. That, too, was a comment on how glamorous people look on television.

“When I was watching a very popular sitcom, I noticed that the people were getting better-looking as the years were going on,” McElhenney said at a 2011 TCA panel. “I think mostly because they were more famous, and they had a lot more money. They got new hair and new teeth and a new trainer.”

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Mac, Dee and Dennis walk down the street
L-R: Rob McElhenney, Kaitlin Olson and Glenn Howerton | Patrick McElhenney/FXX

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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was a hit, and maybe McElhenney had trainer money by then. But, he preferred to make a statement about what a guy like Mac should really look like. 

“I’m being realistic in terms of the way that the character would look based on the way he eats and drinks and doesn’t work out,” McElhenney said.  “So it wasn’t just about the weight gain. It’s also the beard, and my hair was really greasy. I tried to look as ugly as possible, basically.”