The illiteracy of Charlie Kelly has been one of the better and most documented running jokes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, along with Mac’s latent homosexuality and Dennis being a sexual predator. But of course, Charlie didn’t start out the series illiterate, as the cast were for the most part semi-functioning human beings when the series started — only to devolve further and further into depraved caricatures of themselves. (Not a bad thing, here.) So in honor of Charlie’s illiteracy, I thought I’d take a stroll back to see exactly how it started and progressed, and how he became the uneducated berserker he is today.
Season Two: “The Gang Goes Jihad”
Season two is the first season where Charlie’s illiteracy is introduced. When the gang tries to make a “Jihad” tape to scare off an Israeli businessman who has claimed ownership of Paddy’s Pub, Dennis and Charlie argue when he refuses to read Charlie’s script, which he claims is “riddled with spelling errors.” Instead he and Mac speak fake Arabic.
Season Two: “The Gang Runs For Office”
Again, Dennis at first refuses to read another script Charlie writes for a speech for his comptroller campaign, but eventually gives in and of course it’s broken English which barely makes sense. The beauty of this scene is the cut to Charlie, who apparently has the speech memorized and mouths the words as Dennis is reading them:
I’ll read the words you wrote. “Hello fellow American. This you should vote me. I leave power. Good. Thank you, thank you. If you vote me, I’m hot. What? Taxes, they’ll be lower… son. The Democratic vote is the right thing to do Philadelphia, so do.” This doesn’t make any sense!
Season Three: “The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation”
In an attempt to spy on the competition for a pub crawl, Charlie thinks a door marked “PRIVATE” reads “PIRATE.” I think this is almost to the point where Always Sunny hits peak Charlie illiteracy.
Season Three: Bums: “Making a Mess All Over the City”
In an effort to clean up the bum problem in the city, Dennis and Mac pose as cops while Charlie goes “undercover” as a Serpico-type character. When everyone starts fighting with each other, of course, Charlie tapes a conversation of Dennis and Mac have about trying to frame Frank over a Spin Doctor’s cassette, which he leaves at City Hall in a package marked “4 THE MARE.”
“OK Mr. Mayor, feast your eyes on THAT Spin Doctor’s mix!”
Season Three: “The Gang Dances Their Asses Off”
Charlie’s illiteracy nearly causes the gang to lose Paddy’s Pub, when he signs the bar up for a dance marathon and offers Paddy’s as the grand prize, thinking he was listing it under the “pride” section.
Mac: “Your illiteracy has screwed us again!”
Charlie: “YOUR illiteracy has screwed us –”
Mac: “THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.”
Season Four: “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis”
The gang decides to capitalize on high gas prices by selling gasoline on their own. At one point, they set up a stand at a local gas station to compete, and Charlie helpfully makes a sign that advertises “UNLED’D” (with the “N” backwards), “PREMEM,” and “DEASEL.”
Season Three: “Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person” / Season Four: “The Nightman Cometh”
In the epic season four finale, Charlie writes an entire musical to try to finally win over the heart of The Waitress. His script for “The Nightman Cometh,” which was based on the song he wrote for season three’s “Sweet Dee is Dating a Retarded Person,” was helpfully translated by Artemis into “a form which you might consider to be a little more legible.” So basically, she added “words” to it.
Season Five: “Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens”
KITTEN MITTONS, people. Enough said:
Season Six: “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats”
The Gang throws Charlie a surprise party by deciphering his dream journal after they start to feel guilty that rat duty is driving him insane. Two words: Denim Chicken.
Season Seven: “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games”
In this fan favorite episode, for the trivia portion of the game, Charlie is unable to answer his own question which reads: “Dennis is assh*le. Why Charlie hate?” When he claims not to have written it, Mac asks “how many other illiterates” there are in the game. The answer, which Dennis steals from him, is of course “Because Dennis is a bastard man!”
Season Eight: “Charlie and Dee Find Love”
In an effort to keep The Waitress away from Charlie, who has a new girlfriend, Dennis and Frank pick up the list of things (above) that Charlie normally does for The Waitress — including make sure her bike doesn’t get stolen, putting vitamins in her shampoo, and test her food for poisoning — because without Charlie around doing those things for her, her life is falling apart. Of course, since the list is barely legible, Frank screws up all of his tasks, which makes The Waitress seek out Charlie even more.