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As FX turns 20, fifteen of TV’s top scribes — from Rescue Me’s Denis Leary to Louie’s Louis C.K. — reveal what it’s like to write for a network that encourages smart TV (almost) without rules as part of a series that The Hollywood Reporter is rolling out this week. This story first appeared in the May 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Ten years later, I still can’t describe what our show is about. Friends hanging out in a bar? Not really. Comedies about specific things end up being very limiting. Four episodes in, you’re going, “OK, now what?” I couldn’t describe our show as a pitch. For me, the basis of its premise boiled down to one scene I’d written: A guy goes to a friend’s house to borrow sugar for his coffee. The friend says he has cancer, but all the guy wants to do is get the f– out of his house. Disturbing? Yes. But I knew there was comedy there I’d never seen on TV. I was still a waiter when we had our meeting with FX, but I knew that scene was too dark for a pitch meeting; we needed to show the joke instead. So I put in the DVD of the two episodes we’d shot and said: “We made this. Check it out!” If FX worried about letting us do a show, they didn’t let on. That they gave a waiter and his two buddies their own series is still pretty shocking to me.
Rob McElhenney is the creator and star of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, which returns this fall on FXX for season 10.
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