‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ Comes Under Fire for ‘Racist Satire’

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 10:47 pm, January 5, 2017
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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has always been an irreverent show, never afraid to cross boundaries and express politically incorrect jokes. It’s what all great humor’s made of, and the latest season is no different. The show’s 12th season kicks off with a musical episode that turns the entire cast black—as in, they replaced the actors with African Americans.

Naturally, progressives are ready to be outraged.

It’s fair to say that the show always manages to deliver good, if often shocking and transgressive comedy. They’ve made fun of obesity (one of the actors gained weight for the sake of humor), mental illness, pedophilia (the Nightman song), incest, homophobia, racism, AIDS, drug addiction, stalkers, rapists, conspiracy theorists, pick up artists, religion, and of course, themselves.

No topic is out of bounds for It’s Always Sunny, and all the characters on the show are damaged people with whom you’re not really supposed to sympathize.

But, “has the gang gone too far?” asked an author on Slate.

Some people think it has. On Twitter, film critic Cinemacked weighed in on the episode by posting a point-by-point rebuttal to an interview the show’s cast held with TV Guide.

He called the interview “infuriating and disgusting” and accused its author, Macolm Venable, who is black, of being a tool of a “white supremacist society that impacts shapes/media.” He referred to the episode—which had not aired at the time of his rant—as “racist satire.”

Speaking to the Guardian, one of the show’s producers and lead actors, Glenn Howerton, said that nothing is “going too far unless it doesn’t make us laugh.” He explained that the writers don’t just make things funny or transgressive for the sake of being gross.

“It’s just stuff where it doesn’t make any sense or it’s gross because, ‘Oh, that would be gross. A condom falls in someone’s mouth!’ That’s just not funny to me. What’s funny to me is when a character wants something and the audience can relate to that desire, whatever it is,” he said.

Howerton said that the episode where the gang turns black was something they came up with because they wanted to tackle the idea of what it’s like to be black in America. The episode, he said, was written in mind that its creators are all white whose opinions on blackness may be sketchy, so they came up with an angle to make it funny and accessible to a broad audience.

“Although we do have black writers, the show is still ultimately our show, and the characters are all white,” said Howerton. “So we knew there had to be some kind of an angle – this would be a lot more fun, and a lot more digestible, if we turned it into a musical.”

“I don’t think the show would work if it were truly hateful. It’s one thing for the characters to be misinformed, ignorant or bigoted. It’s another thing for the show to be misinformed, ignorant or bigoted,” he said. “We try not to shy away from jokes that might make people uncomfortable, but never at the expense of being [in]sensitive to people’s real life experience.”

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken game critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.