“It’s Always Sunny”: Parody and the Carivalesque

I was a little taken aback about the fact that none of our millions of readings for this week contained any mention of my favorite sitcom, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, which is pretty much the most carivalesque comedy/satire I can imagine. If you haven’t seen the show, it essentially parodies sitcoms like “Friends” and “New Girl” by juxtaposing traditional sitcom tropes (i.e. a bar, a co-ed friend group, romantic entanglements, zany situational comedy) with exaggeratedly crass, immoral, depraved, and socially transgressive characters. The Thompson reading states: “The carnival was a special time and place where normal rules of social decorum didn’t apply”. “It’s Always Sunny” has ran episodes about faking physical disabilities for social gain, staging suicides to evade the mafia, exploiting the mortgage and gas crises, purposefully inducing crack addiction to scam the welfare system (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72zx0gk29m4), abortion, gay rights, racism. They swear, use racial and ableist slurs, constantly drink and use drugs, engage in sexual activities normally alien to large-network sitcoms, even wear blackface. You name it, they’ve done it, and in the most aggressively carnivalesque way possible—with absolutely no adherence to socially acceptable behavior. My question is: what does it mean when parody and the carnivalesque overlap? Is “Sunny” just being extra hyperbolic in its criticism of bland sitcoms or are they actually delving into the realm of social criticism by showing the polar opposites of normal or politically correct social behavior? I think I would lean towards the second option, but I’m curious to see what other people think.

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