‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’: A Very Classy Oral History of ‘Who Pooped the Bed?’
Even at 4-foot-10, Danny DeVito is a pop-culture colossus. He’s an integral part of the ensemble of two of the most beloved comedy television series of all time. He’s a brother to Homer Simpson, and a friend to Nicholson, Douglas and Clooney. And he’s an underrated auteur whose dark comedies showed that his pursuit of laughs was actually a quest for meaning and purpose. In honor of his turning 78 — in his native New Jersey, his birthday, November 17th, is now an official state holiday — we pay tribute to this short king of (short) kings with a week dedicated to his most indelible work and the cultural footprint he continues to blaze.
Frank Reynolds, the depraved, psychotic, trigger-happy patriarch of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, joined the FX sitcom for the show’s second season after the network demanded that Danny DeVito be added to the cast. While creator Rob McElhenney has admitted to being against it at first, he complied because the series would have been canceled otherwise.
Coming on as the father of Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson’s characters in 2006, DeVito quickly established himself as the craziest member of the gang, which is really saying something with the likes of Mac, Charlie, Dennis and Dee in the mix. Since then, he has been a part of geriatric orgies, pimped out his son, waterboarded his daughter and emerged from a leather couch buck naked.
One of his earliest standout moments, though, came in Season Four’s “Who Pooped the Bed?.” The episode begins with Frank and Charlie — who sleep on the same foldout couch in Charlie’s apartment — arguing over who was responsible for a turd found in their bed. Since Charlie has holes in his pajamas and Frank only sleeps in a big T-shirt, “Who Pooped the Bed?” presented a genuine mystery for Mac and Dennis to solve.
Over the course of the episode, more and more poop appears — both in Frank and Charlie’s bed as well as in Paddy’s Pub. Although all five members of the gang end up as suspects, at the end of the episode, Frank comes clean by calmly admitting, “I did ‘em all. I did all the poops.” When the gang demands to know why, Frank simply replies, “Because poop is funny!”
He’s right: Poop is funny, and so is Danny DeVito. Below, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia writers (and writing partners) Scott Marder and Rob Rosell explain how DeVito became a part of this shitshow — and the lengths DeVito, as Frank, is always willing to sink for a good laugh.
Scott Marder, co-writer of “Who Pooped the Bed?”: The idea for “Who Pooped the Bed?” came from Charlie Day. Charlie came in really giddy, saying, “What if Frank and Charlie came in fighting about a turd they found between them?”
There was another idea hanging around for awhile where Dee would get some girlfriends like in Sex and the City. So it ended up being a natural contrast with Dee wanting to have this highbrow outing as the guys are preoccupied with the most lowbrow thing to ever come through the show.
Rob Rosell, co-writer of “Who Pooped the Bed?”: The idea was a whodunit, and it came together pretty easily. Our favorite scene was the one where the kid in the lab was breaking down what would be in the poop. We ended up with wolf hair, newspapers, pieces of credit card and lots of blood. I’m sure there were hundreds of things that were in that poop at one point or another.
Marder: It definitely made us laugh to have the college kid picking through the turd with no medical background or anything; he just wanted to dissect a turd.
We also got very excited about establishing what the arrangement is with Charlie and Frank, because this was the episode that established that Frank and Charlie share a bed in a hardcore way. And anybody from the show would tell you that Charlie’s apartment is this magical comedy place. It’s so teeny and crazy, and you could put anything in there. It has really funny vibes, so getting to spend that scene there where Mac and Dennis observe Frank and Charlie sleep, and then they just all end up in the bed sleeping together, was a lot of fun for everybody.
Rosell: When it got to the end of the episode, we wanted all five members of the gang to be suspects, but we needed someone else to do the big wrap-up explaining who did all the poops. Artemis is so grandiose in the way that she speaks that she was the perfect person to deliver it.
Marder: We wanted to do a big Clue-type wrap-up at the end, and Artemis ended up being perfect for that. The more wild and confusing the explanation was, the more we felt like we were doing our jobs right.
We didn’t always know it was going to be Frank who did the poops. We seriously entertained versions where it ended up being everybody for different poops, but we soon settled on it all being done by Frank because it was just so funny for it to be him. This was such a flag-planting episode for him where it really established that he was more deranged than all the rest of them.
Rosell: Danny couldn’t be more down to try stuff. He has no ego, he just wants to make something funny and he never lets his celebrity or accomplishments stand in the way of doing something humiliating, like crawling out of a couch naked.
Marder: The couch idea came from McElhenney. He’d seen an article about how some Mexicans were getting sewn into car seats to get across the border, and he said, “We’ve got to figure out how to do that.” Eventually, it evolved into getting DeVito into a couch, covered in jelly. I remember, after they shot it, Kaitlin came upstairs and said, “I just looked directly down the eye of DeVito’s butthole.”
We’ve all been impressed by how this guy seemed to have no line. He’s this big Hollywood celebrity, but nothing makes him blush. One season, the guys had these two writers, John and Dave Chernin, pull an April Fools joke on him. They cooked up a joke script where DeVito goes to prison, and he’s so afraid of being raped in prison that he joins a gang. But he gets raped into the gang, and he hates being in the gang so he gets raped out of the gang, too. Long story short, over the course of this script, he gets raped five or six times, and some of these rapes were very graphic.
Danny got the script, and on the last page it just said, “April Fools!” But the joke was on the writers because he totally would have done this episode. He was fine with it!
Rosell: He just wants it to be funny. DeVito is one of the most amazing performers of all time. In anything he does, no matter how despicable, depraved or bizarre, there’s an element of sweetness and innocence to it because of Danny. You can’t not like Danny DeVito.