Charles "Charlie" Kelly is a fictional character on the FX television series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," portrayed by Charlie Day. Charlie is co-owner at Paddy's and a childhood friend of Mac and Dennis. He is also Frank's roommate and possibly his biological son.
Charlie is an angry individual unable to cope with daily problems, prone to emotional outbursts and is often confused and flabbergasted by modern day life. He maintains poor personal hygiene, lives in squalor, frequently abuses inhalants such as glue, spray paint and poppers and, like the rest of The Gang, drinks copious amounts of alcohol regularly. In one episode Charlie says he has never left Philadelphia, though in the episode "The Gang Gets Stranded In The Woods," he finally does, after the gang ties him up and puts him in the trunk of a car, although in "The Gang Gets Invincible" he travels to neighboring Bucks County which is outside of the city of Philadelphia but still within the Philadelphia Metro area to watch Dennis, Mac, and Dee try out for the Philadelphia Eagles. He also later returns to New Jersey to visit the Jersey Shore and, unlike the rest of the Gang, has a wonderful time there thanks to his child-like amazement at the seashore. Throughout the show, Charlie exhibits difficulty reading and writing and has generally poor communication skills. Despite this obvious handicap, Charlie has on many occasions fancied himself to be a lawyer of superior skill, leading to disastrous results when he is actually forced to deal with legal matters. The Gang frequently accuses him of being illiterate and calls him retarded. He shows a very poor grasp of grammar and sentence structure. On one occasion, Mac goes so far as to claim that "no one understands the subtleties of Charlie's retardation better than me."
Like the rest of The Gang, Charlie has a poor grasp of history, current events and geography (once describing George Washington as "some old dude who looks like Meryl Streep who chopped down a cherry tree like ten million years ago" and during The Gang's fight with an Israeli businessman Charlie incongruously declared they would send their enemy "on the first train back to Israel"), sometimes avoiding a conversation altogether to maintain his dignity. His anger management issues, substance abuse, lack of common sense, and poor grasp of reality tend to prevent him from ever achieving much success in life. Despite his intellectual shortcomings, Charlie is very capable of devising intricate, Machiavellian plans to manipulate other characters in the show into doing what he wants, which is normally to gain the favor of "the Waitress" (at which he always fails). Charlie is the hardest worker in The Gang, and the only one to display any real work ethic, as shown in the various episodes where he and The Gang get jobs outside the bar. He is also shown to be the least morally bankrupt member of the gang.
Charlie seems to be the most artistically talented member of The Gang, though his talents are rarely utilized by any of them. In "The Nightman Cometh", he demonstrates his abilities as a playwright, musical composer, and director by staging a dramatic musical production. He enjoys most forms of rock (modern and classic) and heavy metal, showing a particular interest in artists like Bob Dylan. When he, Frank and Mac try to start a band in the episode "Sweet Dee's Dating A Retarded Person", Charlie dresses as Bob Dylan. He also plays the piano quite well, exhibiting a natural musical talent; however, he fears rejection of his music or other creative ideas by others. Charlie's musical talents are a reflection of actor Charlie Day's real-life skill as a musician and songwriter. Like Deandra, he suffers from stage fright and becomes nauseated when performing in front of live audiences.
In the sixth season episode "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats,", it is discovered that Charlie writes a dream book (or "Dram Bok," as he spells it) that is filled primarily with pictures and symbols (much like the pictures and symbols he used to write the song, "Night Man"). It is a crude collection of images and characters from his dreams.
In The Gang Gets Held Hostage, it is revealed that he has a "bad room" in the attic of the bar where he goes "to be alone and break bottles". Mac is convinced that anyone who encounters Charlie in his "bad room" is likely to be attacked.
Like the rest of The Gang, Charlie likes to dress in costumes and assume other personae, including the legendary "Green Man." In "The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty McGoo," Charlie shows a remarkable sewing ability, a skill that he claims allows him to maintain his few articles of clothing. Unlike the rest of The Gang, Charlie almost always wears the same few outfits, due to his living in squalor. He is rarely seen without his signature green jacket. At home, he wears a worn black t-shirt depicting a shiny black horse, and an old pair of long thermal underwear (described by Mac as "covered in piss").
He also seems convinced that he is an adept lawyer. This is shown by his interest in seemingly imaginary "bird law," Law & Order, and handling any legal matter that The Gang runs into. His delusion regarding his nonexistent legal skill has caused him to repeatedly confront The Lawyer, a recurring enemy of the Gang in later seasons. He even went as far as to challenge The Lawyer to a duel, which the latter gladly accepted (a possibility that Charlie had not anticipated). Although he is a co-owner of Paddy's, he lives in a disgusting degree of poverty and in many episodes is shown sleeping on the streets, scavenging for garbage (and eating it), and devising schemes to get others (namely Frank) to pay his rent for him. His financial problems are exacerbated by his tendency to make "bad investments," which are rarely explained, although it is clear that the rest of Gang gladly do not allow Charlie to share in the bar's meager profits. However, at the end of the season six episode "The Gang Buys a Boat," Charlie notes at the end that the entire ordeal was in fact, "a terrible investment."
Many of the tedious and disgusting tasks at the pub (taking out the trash, cleaning the bathrooms, exterminating pests) are referred to as "Charlie work," even when Charlie is not performing them. He seems almost inhumanly tough and resistant to injury. Mac and Dennis, who believe him to be nearly indestructible, frequently manipulate him into tests of his fortitude, such as hitting him over the head with beer bottles and chairs or having him tow Dennis' Range Rover through the streets of Philadelphia. After ingesting an amount of cough syrup large enough to "kill a gorilla," as Mac warns in "The Gang Dances Their Asses Off," Charlie simply states "Bro, I can handle my sedatives." He does in fact stay standing for several hours before collapsing, outlasting all but two other contestants. In the season three premiere, Charlie's mother reveals that he was the survivor of a failed abortion. He has on separate occasions been shot in the head and run over by Dennis, yet shows no sign of permanent physical disability, nor exacerbation of his already questionable mental state.
Charlie has little-to-no success in dating and harbors an unrequited love for The Waitress, a recurring secondary character in the show. He goes to great lengths to attempt to win her over, despite her frequent declarations that she will never be interested in him (the actress who plays The Waitress, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, is in fact married to Charlie Day, who portrays Charlie). Charlie's attempts to woo The Waitress invariably end badly for her, as his actions have caused her to lose jobs and sleep with Frank and Dennis.
Charlie consistently shows more empathy than any other member of The Gang and seems to have slightly higher ethical standards. For example, he turned in the McPoyle Brothers when they attempted to profit from accusing a former teacher of molestation. In the episode "The Gang Finds a Dead Guy," he and Mac burn a box of authentic Nazi memorabilia once belonging to Dennis and Dee's grandfather, although they destroyed it only after trying to sell it to a museum for a profit. Despite his often firm sense of right-and-wrong, Charlie has few friends, depending largely on the selfish, unstable bonds formed within The Gang. It is revealed that Charlie never had a high social standing from childhood and, in high school, only gained any attention by engaging in disgusting acts (like eating worms or erasers), which earned him the nickname "dirt-grub". He has repeatedly claimed to have hated high school. He and Dee seem to be true friends, partaking in platonic activities and frequently teaming up in The Gang's misadventures, often against Mac and Dennis. Charlie has even once or twice shown a small romantic interest in Dee but usually agrees with the rest of the gang that she is unattractive. However, their friendship is frequently marred when The Gang gets caught up in controversial issues, or whenever one of the two switches sides in their many battles against Mac and Dennis. Charlie's deeper understanding of right and wrong likely stems from a lifetime of mistreatment by other people. Charlie, unlike the rest of The Gang, also appears to have had a loving, if emotionally-fragile, mother and a stable childhood (although it's revealed in "The Great Recession" that Charlie may have been molested by his uncle Jack.) Despite his morals, however, Charlie is not above selfishly manipulating, deceiving, and harming others for personal gain or vengeance. He enjoys seeing the other members of The Gang embarrassed or degraded, much like they often degrade him. For example, in "Dennis and Dee's Mom Is Dead," he is eager to have someone read to him from Dee's middle school diary, only so he can laugh at her difficulties as a disabled adolescent.
The possibility that Frank Reynolds is his real father has been heavily hinted at throughout the series. In the season 2 finale and season 3 premiere, Charlie finds out that Frank had a one-night stand with his mother, Bonnie, thirty years ago, roughly at the same time as Charlie's conception. Charlie tries to persuade Frank to take a paternity test, but Frank adamantly refuses. Later, when his mother informs Charlie that he survived an abortion, she tells him that Frank is his father and pushed her to get the abortion, although Frank insists that Bonnie was known for being a "giant whore" and therefore maintains that he is not Charlie's father. The promiscuity of Charlie's mother is suggested more visibly in the episode "A Very Sunny Christmas," where Charlie reminisces about numerous men dressed in Santa suits visiting his mother's bedroom on Christmas morning each year.
Despite their unknown genetic bond, Frank and Charlie are very close, sharing an apartment and even the same bed. They partner in many schemes and were even briefly domestic partners in Season Six. Frank's attachment to Charlie is shown to reach bizarre lengths in the episode "Mac and Charlie Die," where Frank seems to be the most affected by Charlie's death and carries around a mannequin that resembles Charlie. Frank is later witnessed "banging" the mannequin. However, Frank has readily betrayed Charlie on several occasions, manipulating him to gain access to women, including Charlie's beloved Waitress, and using Charlie's name and identity while engaged in illegal financial situations. When Charlie knew the hidden location of Frank's will (from which Charlie was to be the main benefactor), Frank tried to have Charlie killed by the McPoyle Brothers in "The Gang Gets Held Hostage". Despite these many offenses against him, Charlie has remained largely devoted to Frank. In another episode, when Frank abandons Charlie and moves in with Bonnie, Charlie cooks an inedible dinner for The Gang and their parents and causes a string of violent arguments and hurt feelings just to get Frank to leave Bonnie and return to the apartment with him.
Charlie and Frank's bizarre relationship is often mocked by the rest of The Gang, particularly the pair's shared embrace of filthy living conditions. Their apartment (referred to by anyone who dares set foot in it as a "shit-hole") appears to be a single room in which they sleep ("ass-to-ass" on an old sofa bed), cook meals on the radiator or a hot plate and urinate in old coffee cans. The alley outside the apartment is crowded with dozens of meowing stray cats after dark, likely the result of Frank and Charlie's nightly consumption of canned cat food (followed by a can of beer and a huff of glue fumes) to get to sleep. They claim this ritual allows them to sleep through the noise of so many stray cats, while everyone else blames the noise on the piles of empty cat-food cans and an open window. The apartment is littered with garbage, dirty dishes and a layer of filth. In one episode, Frank is seen using a steak knife to cut his toenails. He cuts himself almost immediately and Charlie attempts to cover the wound with garbage off the floor. Frank stayed with Charlie originally as a temporary means to hide both himself and his assets from his gold-digging wife. However, he quickly came to love Charlie's life of squalid misery and the two now share virtually everything - from a rusty coffee can used as a toilet to cardboard boxes full of pennies, which millionaire Frank keeps for unspecified purposes.
Charlie is also known for bizarre thoughts, ideas, and aspirations. These include his favorite food being milk steak (steak boiled in milk and honey) boiled over hard with a side of jellybeans, raw, his interest in ghouls and magnets, and also his dream book which depicts surreal illustrations of what Charlie sees in his dreams such as a "werm hat" (actually a German pilot named Hans Wermhatt), "denim chicken", and a "bird with teeth".
Charlie mentions that he has a sister in episode seven of season one, however, no further reference is made to her in any following episodes.
Green Man is a persona assumed by Charlie wearing a green Lycra suit (morphsuit) in several episodes of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The persona has spawned imitators, most notably at sporting events.
Rob McElhenney, creator of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia came up with the idea after watching the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Without warning, in the parking lot after the game, a friend of McElhenney's stripped off his clothes and donned a full-body green lycra suit. McElhenney said: "Everyone started chanting, 'Green Man! Green Man!' It went on for several hours, and all I could think was, 'My God, there has to be a way I can take advantage of this on the show.'"
When McElhenney returned to Los Angeles, he ordered a suit from Japan that was identical to the outfit that McElhenney's friend had worn. The character made his debut the next season in an episode entitled "The Gang Gets Invincible," which centered on three of the show's central characters trying out for the Eagles, just as they had seen in the film Invincible.