Charlie Kelly (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
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|Charlie Rutherford Kelly|
|It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia character|
|First appearance||"The Gang Gets Racist" (2005)|
|Created by||Rob McElhenney|
|Portrayed by||Charlie Day|
|Aliases||Green Man, Chrundle the Great, Hoss Bonaventure, Serpico, Wildcard, Dirt-grub, Rat King|
|Occupation||Co-owner and janitor of Paddy's Pub|
|Family||Bonnie Kelly (mother)|
Frank Reynolds (possible biological father)
Unnamed twin sisters
|Relatives||Jack Kelly (maternal uncle)|
Gino Reynolds (possible uncle)
Charles Rutherford Kelly is a fictional character on the FX series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, portrayed by Charlie Day. Charlie is co-owner at Paddy's (although he later sells his shares) and a childhood friend of Mac and Dennis. He is also Frank's roommate and possible biological son ("Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad"). He is addicted to various harmful substances (such as glue and alcohol), and is called illiterate by his peers ("The Gang Gives Back").
Charlie is an easily excitable man-child who is prone to emotional outbursts and is often confused and flabbergasted by modern-day life. His anger management issues, substance abuse, poor hygiene, lack of common sense, illiteracy, and poor grasp of reality prevent him from achieving much success in life. He frequently abuses inhalants such as glue, spray paint and poppers and, like the rest of the Gang, is a heavy drinker. He also frequently eats cat food before bed, to induce a feeling of sickness and drowsiness that allows him to fall asleep rapidly, which his roommate Frank also does.
Charlie's difficulty reading and writing, generally poor communication skills, and poor grasp of grammar and syntax result in constant berating by the rest of the Gang. He is unable to read or write correctly, and keeps a personal journal consisting predominantly of childlike pictures in place of actual sentences. In one instance it was revealed that Charlie wrote his name as "Chrundle," unable to even spell his own name. It is quite possible that Charlie has a lifelong case of severe, untreated dyslexia. Mac claims that "no one understands the subtleties of Charlie's retardation better than [Mac]." Like the rest of the Gang, Charlie has a poor grasp of history, current events, and geography, sometimes avoiding conversations on these subjects altogether to salvage some sense of dignity. He once described George Washington as "some old dude who looks like Meryl Streep who chopped down a cherry tree like ten million years ago." During the Gang's fight with an Israeli businessman, Charlie incongruously declared they would send their rival "on the first train back to Israel", unaware that Israel is an entire ocean away from Philadelphia.
Despite his other difficulties, Charlie is something of a savant, displaying natural talent as a pianist (as well as harmonica and saxophone), music composer, playwright, choreographer, tailor, and hockey player. He is also very capable of devising intricate, Machiavellian schemes, manipulating other characters to his own ends. He particularly displays this when he seduces and manipulates a beautiful and wealthy girl named Ruby before insulting, rejecting, and humiliating her in front of a packed mansion of guests, merely because the Waitress finally acknowledged his presence in her life. He has also orchestrated elaborate schemes when given authority in the bar by Frank in the episode "Mac Bangs Dennis's Mom", where he successfully convinces Dennis to humiliate himself sexually and get in a fight with Mac and convinces Dee to give him favors and assistance in seducing the waitress. Charlie's obsession with the Waitress fuels a surprising capacity for cruelty and manipulation.
Charlie is the only one of the Gang who displays any real work ethic, being the only one taking on less-desirable work around the bar, work referred to as "Charlie work" by the rest of the Gang. Also, in the various episodes where he and the Gang get jobs outside the bar, he tends to have the most hustle. Overall, he seems to be the least morally bankrupt member of the Gang.
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Charlie seems to be the most artistically talented member of The Gang, though his talents are rarely utilized by any of them. In "Pop-Pop: The Final Solution", he is depicted as having a moderate prowess as an artist by painting a German Shepherd Dog over an "original Hitler" painting. In "The Nightman Cometh", he demonstrates his abilities as a playwright, musical composer, and director by staging a dramatic musical production. He enjoys most forms of rock (modern and classic) and heavy metal, showing a particular interest in artists like Bob Dylan. When he, Frank and Mac try to start a band in the episode "Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person", Charlie dresses as Bob Dylan. He plays the piano quite well, and he demonstrates he has perfect pitch in "Charlie Work", exhibiting a natural musical talent; however, he fears rejection of his music or other creative ideas by others. Charlie's musical talents are a reflection of actor Charlie Day's real-life skill as a musician and songwriter. Like Dee, he suffers from stage fright and becomes nauseated when performing in front of live audiences, as in "Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life".
Early in the series, Charlie had a fear of leaving the city, claiming that he has never left Philadelphia in the episode "The Gang Hits the Road". He finally leaves town (for Atlantic City, New Jersey) in the episode "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods", after he convinces the gang to tie him up and puts him in the trunk of a car. In "The Gang Gets Invincible", he travels to neighboring Bucks County, which is outside of the city of Philadelphia but still within the Philadelphia Metro area, where he dresses as Green Man and trips on acid while Dennis, Mac, and Dee try out for the Philadelphia Eagles. He also later returns to New Jersey to visit the Jersey Shore and, unlike Dee and Dennis, has a wonderful time there. In the episode "The Gang Beats Boggs", the gang takes a plane to Los Angeles purely so they could try to beat a drinking record set by Wade Boggs. Charlie's fear of leaving Philadelphia is never brought up again until "The Gang Goes to Hell", where he mentions how he used to only feel safe staying in Philadelphia but that he had been coerced by the rest of the Gang to visit different places, which is one of the reasons he and everyone else were on a sinking ship. Charlie and the Gang go skiing in season 11 and hit a waterpark in season 12.
In the sixth-season episode "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats", it is discovered that Charlie writes a dream book (or "Dram Bok", as he spells it) that is filled primarily with pictures and symbols (much like the ones he used to write the song "Night Man"). It is a crude collection of images and characters from his dreams. In "The Gang Gets Held Hostage", it is revealed that he has a "bad room" in the attic of the bar where he goes "to be alone and break bottles". Mac is convinced that anyone who encounters Charlie in his "bad room" is likely to be attacked.
Charlie is also known for his bizarre thoughts, ideas, and aspirations. These include his favorite food being "milk steak" (steak boiled in milk and honey) boiled over hard with a side of "raw jellybeans", his fear of people's knees, his interest in ghouls and magnets, and his aforementioned dream book, which depicts surreal illustrations of what he sees in his dreams such as a "werm hat" (actually a German pilot named Hans Wermhatt), "denim chicken", and a "bird with teeth". He also tends to entirely miss the point of films; in "Mac and Charlie Write a Movie", it is revealed that he considers the "twist" at the end of The Sixth Sense to be that "the guy in the hairpiece was Bruce Willis the whole time." In the same episode, he and Mac agree that their film should star Dolph Lundgren, but Charlie believes that the character should be called "Dr. Dolph Lundgren" because he does not want to "confuse the audience" by giving the character a different name.
Like the rest of the Gang, Charlie likes to dress in costumes and assume other personae, including the legendary "Green Man". In "The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty McGoo", he shows a remarkable sewing ability, a skill that he claims allows him to maintain his few articles of clothing. Unlike the rest of the Gang, Charlie almost always wears the same few outfits, due to living in squalor. He is rarely seen without his signature green jacket, black track jacket with red stripes, or gray MacGregor-brand hoodie. At home, he wears a worn black T-shirt depicting a shiny black horse and an old pair of long thermal underwear (described by Mac as being "covered in piss").
Legal and monetary issues
Charlie seems convinced that he is an adept lawyer. This is shown by his interest in "bird law", Law & Order, and handling any legal matter that The Gang runs into. His delusion regarding his legal skill has caused him to repeatedly confront The Lawyer, a recurring enemy of the Gang in later seasons. He even went as far as to challenge The Lawyer to a duel. However, this belief is not entirely off-base; in the season 11 episode "McPoyle vs. Ponderosa: The Trial of the Century," Charlie's knowledge of bird law successfully solves the case, defeating the Lawyer.
Although he is a co-owner of Paddy's, he lives in poverty and in many episodes is shown sleeping on the streets, scavenging for garbage (and eating it), and devising schemes to get others (namely Frank) to pay his rent for him. His financial problems are exacerbated by his tendency to make "bad investments."
Employment and physical durability
Many of the tedious and disgusting tasks at the pub (taking out the trash, cleaning the bathrooms, exterminating pests) are referred to as "Charlie work", even when Charlie is not performing them. The pub's basement has a massive rat problem, and combating it is a nearly full-time job. Charlie has remarked that at times he has killed over 200 rats in a single night, but more always come back. Compared to the rest of the Gang, Charlie is ironically the only one with a more or less reliable work ethic who takes pride in his job, though his methods range from well meaning but incompetent (addressing high electricity prices by purchasing an even more expensive portable generator) to actually quite skilled (successfully managing to trick the health inspectors into giving the pub a passing grade). In contrast, the other members of the Gang either hate their jobs and scheme to get better ones (Dee and Dennis), are incompetent (Mac, a terrible bouncer who puts no effort into training), or are simply using the pub as a front for illegal activities (Frank).
Charlie seems almost inhumanly tough and resistant to injury. Mac and Dennis, who believe him to be nearly indestructible, frequently manipulate him into tests of his fortitude, such as hitting him over the head with beer bottles and chairs or having him tow Dennis' Range Rover through the streets of Philadelphia. After ingesting an amount of cough syrup large enough to "kill a gorilla", as Mac warns in "The Gang Dances Their Asses Off", Charlie simply states "Bro, I can handle my sedatives." He does in fact stay standing for several hours before collapsing, outlasting all but two other contestants. In the season three premiere, Charlie's mother reveals that he was the survivor of a failed abortion. He has on separate occasions been run over and grazed by a bullet fired by Dennis, yet shows no sign of permanent physical disability, nor exacerbation of his already questionable mental state. In "The World Series Defense", Charlie claims that he has thrown himself too many times in front of vehicles for the purpose of extorting their seat tickets and he has not suffered much damage after being run over by the car.
Charlie has little to no success in dating (because the only person he wants is The Waitress) and harbors an unrequited love for The Waitress, a recurring secondary character in the show. He goes to great lengths to attempt to win her over, despite her frequent declarations that she will never be interested in him (the actress who plays The Waitress, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, is in fact married to Charlie Day, who portrays Charlie). Charlie's attempts to woo The Waitress invariably end badly for her, as his actions have caused her to lose jobs and sleep with Frank and Dennis. Despite this, he seems to have had luck with other women, such as in the pilot episode "The Gang Gets Racist", where he begins dating a girl he meets at a community center, only to be dumped when trying to use her to get a date with The Waitress. Another instance of Charlie having a stable girlfriend is in the season eight episode "Charlie and Dee Find Love", where he begins dating Ruby Taft, an attractive and wealthy young woman played by Alexandra Daddario, who appreciates him for who he is. Unfortunately, Charlie ruins this relationship by revealing he only was using this kind young woman to get closer to The Waitress. In the season ten episode "The Gang Misses the Boat", Charlie and Sweet Dee share an intimate night after an intense slam poetry session together, but by the following day refuse to even comment on the previous night's incident. In the season 12 episode The Gang Tends Bar, Dee makes Charlie a valentine and gets angry with him when he doesn't give one back. After threatening him with a bag of Anthrax (actually just powdered sugar) he writes a song for her, which she calls pathetic. Other instances throughout the series suggest that there may be unadmitted feelings between the two. Charlie's genuine affection for The Waitress, twisted and sociopathic as it often is, has been cited by co-creator Glenn Howerton as an element that grounds The Gang's misadventures somewhat. He did however manage to win over the waitress in season 12 "Dennis' Double Life" where they both expressed their feelings together and ended up having sex, only for Charlie to realize she is not what he pictured her to be.
Charlie consistently shows more empathy than any other member of The Gang and seems to have slightly higher ethical standards. For example, he turned in the McPoyle Brothers when they attempted to profit from accusing a former teacher of molestation. In the episode "The Gang Finds a Dead Guy", he and Mac burn a box of authentic Nazi memorabilia once belonging to Dennis and Dee's grandfather, although they destroyed it only after trying to sell it to a museum for a profit, and Charlie keeps a Nazi officer's cap. Despite his often firm sense of right-and-wrong, Charlie has few friends, depending largely on the selfish, unstable bonds formed within The Gang. It is revealed that Charlie never had a high social standing from childhood and, in high school, only gained any attention by engaging in disgusting acts (like eating worms or erasers), which earned him the nickname "dirt-grub". He has repeatedly claimed to have hated high school. He and Dee seem to be true friends, partaking in platonic activities and frequently teaming up in The Gang's misadventures, often against Mac and Dennis. Charlie has even once or twice shown a small romantic interest in Dee but usually agrees with the rest of the gang that she is unattractive. However, their friendship is frequently marred when The Gang gets caught up in controversial issues, or whenever one of the two switches sides in their many battles against Mac and Dennis. Charlie's deeper understanding of right and wrong likely stems from a lifetime of mistreatment by other people. Charlie, unlike the rest of The Gang, also appears to have had a loving, if emotionally fragile, mother and a stable childhood (although it's revealed in "The Great Recession" that Charlie may have been molested by his uncle Jack.) Despite his morals, however, Charlie is not above selfishly manipulating, deceiving, and harming others for personal gain or vengeance. He enjoys seeing the other members of The Gang embarrassed or degraded, much like they often degrade him. For example, in "Dennis and Dee's Mom Is Dead", he is eager to have someone read to him from Dee's middle school diary, only so he can laugh at her difficulties as a disabled adolescent.
The possibility that Frank Reynolds is his real father has been heavily hinted at throughout the series. Charlie finds out that Frank had a one-night stand with his mother, Bonnie, thirty years earlier, roughly at the same time as Charlie's conception. Charlie tries to persuade Frank to take a paternity test, but Frank adamantly refuses. Later, when his mother informs Charlie that he survived an abortion, she tells him that Frank is his father and pushed her to get the abortion, although Frank insists that Bonnie was known for being a "giant whore" and therefore maintains that he is not Charlie's father ("Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad" & "The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby"). The promiscuity of Charlie's mother is suggested more visibly in the episode "A Very Sunny Christmas", where Charlie reminisces about numerous men dressed in Santa suits visiting his mother's bedroom on Christmas morning each year.
Though not explicitly stated, Charlie has teenage twin sisters who only appear in the intervention scene of "Charlie Got Molested". Later in the episode, Charlie mentions one of his sisters while in the car with the McPoyle brothers, however, no further references are made to them in any following episodes.
Relationship with Frank
Despite their unknown genetic bond, Frank and Charlie are very close, sharing an apartment and even the same bed. They partner in many schemes and were even briefly domestic partners in Season Six. Frank's attachment to Charlie is shown to reach bizarre lengths in the episode "Mac and Charlie Die", where Frank seems to be the most affected by Charlie's death and carries around a mannequin that resembles Charlie. Frank is later witnessed "banging" the mannequin. However, Frank has readily betrayed Charlie on several occasions, manipulating him to gain access to women, including Charlie's beloved Waitress, and using Charlie's name and identity while engaged in illegal financial situations. When Charlie knew the hidden location of Frank's will (from which Charlie was to be the main beneficiary), Frank tried to have Charlie killed. Despite these many offenses against him, Charlie has remained largely devoted to Frank. In another episode, when Frank abandons Charlie and moves in with Bonnie, Charlie cooks an inedible dinner for The Gang and their parents and causes a string of violent arguments and hurt feelings just to get Frank to leave Bonnie and return to the apartment with him.
Charlie and Frank's bizarre relationship is often mocked by the rest of The Gang, particularly the pair's shared embrace of filthy living conditions. Their apartment appears to be a single room in which they sleep on an old couch bed, cook meals on the radiator or a hot plate and urinate in coffee cans. The alley outside the apartment is crowded with dozens of meowing stray cats after dark, likely the result of Frank and Charlie's nightly consumption of canned cat food (followed by a can of beer and a huff of glue fumes) to get to sleep. They claim this ritual allows them to sleep through the noise of so many stray cats, while everyone else blames the noise on the piles of empty cat-food cans and an open window. The apartment is littered with garbage, dirty dishes and a layer of filth. In one episode, Frank is seen using a steak knife to cut his toenails. He cuts himself almost immediately and Charlie attempts to cover the wound with garbage off the floor. Frank stayed with Charlie originally as a temporary means to hide both himself and his assets from his gold-digging wife. However, he quickly came to love Charlie's life of squalid misery and the two now share virtually everything - from a rusty coffee can used as a toilet to cardboard boxes full of pennies, which millionaire Frank keeps for unspecified purposes.
Green Man is a persona assumed by Charlie wearing a green spandex suit in several episodes. The persona has spawned imitators, most notably at sporting events. Rob McElhenney adapted the idea after watching the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. Without warning, in the parking lot after the game, a friend of McElhenney's stripped off his clothes and donned a full-body green spandex suit. McElhenney said: "Everyone started chanting, 'Green Man! Green Man!' It went on for several hours, and all I could think was, 'My God, there has to be a way I can take advantage of this on the show.'"
When McElhenney returned to Los Angeles, he ordered a suit from Japan that was identical to the outfit that his friend had worn. The character made his debut in the episode "The Gang Gets Invincible", which centered on Mac, Dennis, and Dee trying out for the Eagles, just as they had seen in the film Invincible.
- List of episodes featuring Green Man
- "The Gang Gets Invincible" (season 3)
- "America's Next Top Paddy's Billboard Model Contest" (season 4)
- "The World Series Defense" (season 5)
Paste ranked him No. 8 in their list of the 20 Best Characters of 2011, explaining: "In a cast full of douchebags, the childlike ball of energy played by Charlie Day comes off as more endearing than despicable. He’s the personification of what makes It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia such a great show: perverse, loud, crude and surprisingly likable." TV Guide listed him in their list of TV's Most Lovable Lunkheads.
- "Apps | FX Networks". fxnetworks.com. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season 6) "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats"
- "Charlie Kelly's Dream Book - YouTube". youtube.com. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- "Milk Steak on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Eat Me Daily". eatmedaily.com. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20081221020628/http://www.nypost.com/seven/10092006/sports/not_the_t_o__show_sports_george_willis.htm. Archived from the original on December 21, 2008. Missing or empty
- "Toby Mergler gets to the bottom of the latest spandex-clad sports fan phenomenon - ESPN". sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- "Rob McElhenney talks about 'Green Man' at UCLA - YouTube". youtube.com. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- Jackson, Josh (December 5, 2011). "The 20 Best TV Characters of 2011". Paste. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
- "TV's Most Lovable Lunkheads - Charlie Kelly". TV Guide. Retrieved September 14, 2012.