‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’: How ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘The Office’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Inspired the Show

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia began as a homegrown DIY show by Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton. They cast Kaitlin Olson and in season 2 brought in Danny DeVito. Now they’re approaching season 15, so something about Sunny is still working. It may be that they harnessed the best parts of Seinfeld, The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Dee, Dennis and Charlie in Paddy's
L-R: Kaitlin Olson, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day | Byron Cohen/FXX

Day, McElhenney, Howerton and Olson welcomed reporters to the set in season 4 when they were filming “The Nightman Cometh.” Addressing comparisons to other sitcoms, Howerton explained how Seinfeld, Curb and The Office inspired their show. 

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ has been called ‘Seinfeld on crack.’

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is about four friends who run a bar in Philadelphia, PA. Friends is also a loose term because they treat each other terribly. However, Dennis (Howerton), Charlie (Day), Mac (McElhenney) and Dee (Olson) are the co-owners. Frank (DeVito) is Dee and Dennis’s father. 

Seinfeld: George, Kramer and Jerry smoke cigars
L-R: Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Jerry Seinfeld |Joesph Delvalle/NBCU Photo Bank

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The gang always gets into politically incorrect misadventures. The comparison to Seinfeld may come from that classic show’s legacy as a show about nothing. Some have called Sunny Seinfeld on crack.” There’s even a Wikipedia page for Seinfeld on crack that redirects to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

‘Seinfeld’ isn’t the only show that inspired ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’

Howerton agreed Seinfeld was an influence on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. When they first made the show in 2005, the idea of a gang of losers having mundane misadventures was Seinfeld reminiscent. Sunny just amped them up to borderline criminal.

The Office U.K. cast wins Golden Globes
L-R: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ash Atalla, Lucy Davis, and Martin Freeman | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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“I think initially we were pretty influenced by certainly Seinfeld,” Howerton said. “But, at the specific time we made the original show, we were pretty influenced by the British Office and by Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

What they got from ‘The Office’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia still films with low-res cameras. They allow improvisation and shoot quickly.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Larry David leans on the counter while Jeff Garlin sits in a chair
L-R: Larry David and Jeff Garlin | HBO

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“In terms specifically of Curb, we liked that it seemed like they were shooting it with multiple cameras and because it was improvisational,” Howerton continued. “Even though we didn’t intend for our show to be improvisational, we felt like it gave the actors an opportunity to. It made it seem like things were happening for the first time. I would say that probably the British Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm specifically [contributed] to the style of our show.”

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ heard from the creator of ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Curb’ 

During a 2019 Television Critics Association set visit, McElhenney said he met Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and creator of Curb Your Enthusiasm at an industry event. David told McElhenney to never quit It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and he hasn’t yet.