When it first debuted in 2005 on FX, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” wasn’t necessarily considered a smash hit. The show featured topics ranging from abortion, underage drinking, welfare abuse, crack addiction, and Nazi grandparents and somehow always made them into comical scenarios, despite how offensive they may have been. Four years later, the show is about to start its fifth season and through a combination of increased awareness, the internet, and DVD sales, the show has reached new levels of popularity that no one expected. With season 5 debuting this Thursday, September 17 on FX, the cast of the show decided on an interesting and fairly unusual promotional tour. On a 6 date and 5 city run, the cast will act out an entire episode of the show, live on stage, as a theatrical production. The source material? The play “The Nightman Cometh,” taken from one of the most memorable episodes of the show.
The tour kicked off in Boston on September 15 at the House of Blues and tickets sold out within 24 hours for the performance in the 2,400 person capacity venue. While there was most certainly a sense of excitement in the air as fans wore t-shirts from the show, held up signs, and even dressed as the Green Man character, I found myself wondering just how they were going to pull this off. Except for the “Stella” cast (and even then, all those actors were standup comedians long before going on TV), no television show in recent memory has attempted a live theatrical performance of an episode. The night started off by a performance of local rock band Craving Lucy. I only caught the end of their set, but the Eddie Vedder inspired vocals and Nickelback-esque music didn’t leave much of an impression on me, or much of the crowd. Things finally got rolling with a screening of a full length episode from the upcoming “It’s Always Sunny” season on a massive projector. While unexpected, the crowd seemed to love it and enjoy the episode.
After the 25 minute screening, the cast finally took the stage to thunderous applause. What happened next over the 45 minutes was a hilarious, over the top re-inactment of the infamous “Nightman Cometh” episode. While the cast stuck to the basic plot of the show, the live atmosphere enabled them to ad-lib, improvise, and even interact with the audience. Fans were cheering, yelling, and laughing constantly as they saw some of their favorite performers live right in front of them (Danny Devito included!). It was pretty much impossible not to laugh during the performance and the vibe from the crowd made the show feel like a rare event that won’t occur again after the tour is finished. If anything, this brief tour represents a new, interesting business model for the television industry. While a show like “Stella” has a small, cult following, it started out as a standup comedy piece before hitting the small screen. The “Its Always Sunny” cast have found a brilliant new way to not only bring in a ton of previously untapped revenue, but also have a new way to please and interact with their fans on a whole new level. Sure, not every program would work in a live setting like this, but the sense of excitement among the crowd proves that people are willing to fork over a large amount of money in order to see some of their favorite performers try something new and exciting. It’s an interesting concept and one that not only increases awareness and revenue for the show, but also gives fans bragging rights and an experience they won’t soon forget.