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It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: A Comedic Take on Psychopathy

Updated on January 13, 2017
Karli McClane profile image

Karli writes as a therapeutic outlet and with the hope that her articles will be useful to others who have suffered psychological abuse.

A Sitcom About Sociopaths

The main characters on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are dysfunctional to the nth degree. They are the most horrible, shallow, selfish group of people you could imagine. But, unlike real life psychopaths, these monsters see their efforts blow up in their faces time and time again. I can't recall a single episode where these freaks won at whatever scam they were working.

Dysfunctional Humor

Personality Disordered Characters

Over and over, I notice the characters' blatant psychopathic behaviors. Using Dr. Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist Revised as a guideline, I'll point some of the dysfunction out in this lens.

Another interesting thing worth noting is that the gang's victims are willing to be taken advantage of. For example, the waitress (if her name has ever been mentioned, I have forgotten it) submits to Dennis's charms without ever establishing personal boundaries or taking any precautions to protect herself. And the priest (Rickety Cricket), winds up homeless, after Dee convinces him (it doesn't take much) that she's in love with him, and he leaves the church.

My point is, even in real life, we are responsible for keeping these monsters out of our lives or letting them in. For those of us who have let them in, it is important to understand how we invited them to take advantage of us. For those who've never let them in, it's important to learn how to stay out of harm's way. Either way, I think it's important to find the humor in any situation.

This is, after all, just a television show, so watch, learn, laugh, and stay off the Psycho Path!

Dr. Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised

This list of twenty characteristics was developed in order to diagnose psychopathy. I should point out that it was designed to be used by trained mental health practitioners. I should probably also point out that I am NOT a trained mental health practitioner, and this article was created for entertainment purposes.

The following link provides information about the list, the list itself, and a bit of useful information about how to protect yourself from falling victim to the type of predators the list was designed to reveal:

The Sociopath Next Door - Martha Stout, PhD

The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us
The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us

When it finally started to become clear to me that I was living with a psychopath, this is one of the many books I found to be interesting and helpful. The book is available in text, but I listened to the audio version in my car, during my daily commute to and from work. My new job, and the freedom that came with it, was my first step toward liberation from an existence that had seemed hopeless for so long.

The content includes information about psychopathy, how to recognize a sociopath/psychopath, and some examples of psychopaths, their behaviors and their relationships with their victims.


The Gang

Five Toxic People

I'm assuming anyone reading this lens is either a fan of the show or has at least watched an episode or two. However, here is a very brief run down of the main characters for anyone who's not at all familiar with them.

The Gang:

Twins, Dennis and Deandra (aka Dee or Sweet Dee) Reynolds

Frank Reynolds (their father - not biologically though)

"Mac" - Ronald MacDonald (Dennis's roommate)

Charlie Kelly (Frank's roommate)

The five of them run Paddy's Pub together.

1. Glibness and Superficial Charm - Smooth-talking, engaging and slick.

Dennis is the best at this.


If you're easily offended, you're already in the wrong place. Here's the obligatory disclaimer that the language is clean enough for FX, but maybe not clean enough for everyone.

2. Grandiose Sense of Self-Worth - Greatly inflated idea of one's abilities and self-esteem, arrogance and a sense of superiority.

Dennis is the most narcissistic of the bunch. The current clip isn't the best example, but it'll have to do, until I can find something more accurate.

3.Need for Stimulation/Proneness to Boredom - An excessive need for new, exciting stimulation and risk-taking.

They frequently do things that are crazy, stupid, and dangerous to themselves or others:

4.Pathological Lying - Shrewd, crafty, sly and clever when moderate; deceptive, deceitful, underhanded and unscrupulous when high.

They are all a bunch of liars. This episode is a great example of Dee coming up with more lies to cover up the fact that she was cheating on her income taxes. Here's a clip:

5.Conning/Manipulative - Uses deceit and deception to cheat others for personal gain.

Here are Dennis and Dee manipulating the system in order to collect welfare:

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6.Lack of Remorse or Guilt - No feelings or concern for losses, pain and suffering of others, coldhearted and unempathic.

The Gang heads out on a road trip. Watch what happens when a bicyclist gets in their way:

No guilt for the cyclist.

7.Shallow Affect - Limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness.

This is the gang's idea of being helpful. They surprise a family with a home makeover.

8.Callous/Lack of Empathy - A lack of feelings toward others; cold, contemptuous and inconsiderate.

Wanting to give Dumpster Baby (they found the baby in a dumpster) a "base tan" in order to exploit him is certainly cold and inconsiderate. Also, if you watched the entire episode, you know that Dee had some contemptuous words for the attendant before she and Mac left the salon:

9.Parasitic Lifestyle

Intentional, manipulative, selfish and exploitative financial dependence on others.

I couldn't find any clips, but the best example of this that came to mind was an episode where Dee was having an affair with a married man. He was pretty gross, but he bought her a convertible sports car, among other things.

Dee and Mac trying to exploit Dumpster Baby for money would fall under this category.

Frank was trying to profit off of Dennis prostituting himself.

Dee and Charlie manipulate Rickety Cricket (a homeless priest) into selling cocaine for them. These are just a few examples.

10.Poor Behavioral Controls - Expressions of negative feelings, verbal abuse and inappropriate expressions of anger.

They're all prone to inappropriate expressions of anger and a flood of verbal abuse, but Charlie frequently has negative outbursts such as this one:

11.Promiscuous Sexual Behavior - Brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs and an indiscriminate choice of sexual partners.

All of them are promiscuous, with the possible exception of Charlie who just isn't very appealing.

This is creepy (as is The D.E.N.N.I.S. System):

12. No Realistic Long-Term Goals - Inability or constant failure to develop and accomplish long-term plans.

Between the five of them, they are constantly coming up with schemes which they quickly give up on. (They've done everything from starting a band to trying to get into politics). Here, Dennis and Dee can't even start a workout, much less stick with a fitness plan:

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13.Impulsiveness - Behaviors lacking reflection or planning and done without considering consequences.

This definitely fits that description:

14.Irresponsible - Repeated failure to fulfill or honor commitments and obligations.

Dennis and Dee no longer work at Paddy's and are supposed to be out exploring other options. Instead, they're sitting on the steps getting drunk in the middle of the day. This is where they hatch their welfare plan, and this video clip covers several different points on the PCL-R:

15.Fails to Accept Responsibility for Own Behavior

Denial of responsibility and an attempt to manipulate others through this.

The first thing that comes to mind here is Mac refusing to take responsibility for his own eating habits (currently, he's fat), instead blaming the rest of The Gang for his condition.

In the episode where the waitress gets engaged, Dee is driving along and spots the waitress and her new fiancé on the sidewalk. She stops the vehicle right in the middle of the road, gets out, walks up to the couple and engages them in conversation. Traffic cannot get around the Range Rover Dee has parked in the street, so there is a lot of honking and shouting going on. Dee invites the waitress and her fiancé over for a party. When the waitress balks, Dee tells the couple she needs an answer, because they are holding up traffic.

16.Many Short-Term Marital Relationships - Lack of commitment to a long-term relationship.

Frank and Dennis are the only two who have been married (and divorced). Typically, they are each involved in fleeting, short-term relationships which are too numerous to list. Dennis was married very, very briefly:

17 and 18

Juvenile Delinquency

17.Early Behavior Problems - A variety of dysfunctional and unacceptable behaviors before age thirteen.

18.Juvenile Delinquency - Criminal behavioral problems between the ages of 13-18.

We don't get much background on this. There is a flashback to Mac and Charlie throwing rocks at trains, as boys, and I seem to recall Charlie saying that he threw rocks at cats (as a child). Other than that, Mac's parents (with Mac in tow) broke into people's houses during xmas season, in order to steal gifts. Also, one of them (Dennis, I think) sold drugs in high school, and Charlie was already huffing chemicals back then.

As dysfunctional as they are, it's probably a safe bet that these behaviors started early. If more of their childhood is ever revealed, I'm sure we'll see some disturbing patterns.

19.Revocation of Conditional Release - Violating probation or other conditional release because of technicalities.

They've never been in prison or on parole. However, the gang blew up a building and got community service. (One of them stated he'd rather pay a huge fine than give back to the community). They don't do such a great job giving back, anyway. Here they are coaching a youth basketball team:

20.Criminal Versatility - Diversity of criminal offenses, whether or not the individual has been arrested or convicted.

Breaking and entering, prostitution (Dennis), torture (Frank waterboarded Dee in the men's room), selling drugs, doing drugs, assault, kidnapping, grand theft auto, arson, Mac and Charlie faked their own deaths, fraud (Dennis and Dee on welfare, Dee cheating on her income taxes) Frank ran a sweatshop in Viet Nam, the list goes on and on.

© 2011 Psycho Free Zone

Do you know people like these characters? - If so, how do you deal with them?

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    • rebecca-mathews1 profile image


      5 years ago

      I caught a couple of episodes it is not a bad show :) nice lens

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have not watched the show but I just give people like these space. If I know them well, I just sit with them.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I was wondering what was wrong with the people on this show. hahaha Now I can understand what is going on in "It's Always...."

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I haven't watch the show, but I have met few strange people. I try to avoid them, but they find me.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I'm not sure I've met any true psychopaths, sociopaths perhaps. The show looks ok, not on my top 10 list. I enjoyed your lens though. Great information.

    • davenjilli lm profile image

      davenjilli lm 

      6 years ago

      Interesting look at psychopaths, probably not going to be watching that show :)

    • Karli McClane profile imageAUTHOR

      Psycho Free Zone 

      6 years ago from USA

      @julieannbrady: Perhaps I should have phrased that: "I've seen psychopaths come out on top far too often." I prefer peace and quiet, too. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Gosh, I'd like to see the scientific evidence that states: "In the real world, psychopaths seem to come out on top far too often." All in all, I'd rather not be a psychopath. I've been around a few, and I prefer some peace and quiet. You know?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Have had plenty of experience with psychopaths; they have low consiousness levels yet are 'smart' enough to seem to blend in. Glad you're no longer living with one.

    • Karli McClane profile imageAUTHOR

      Psycho Free Zone 

      6 years ago from USA

      @makeupbrush: I needed to find some humor in it somewhere. My own experiences with this can really make me feel angry and depressed, if I let it

    • makeupbrush profile image


      6 years ago

      Never would have thought approaching this topic in a comical way. It is a good thing you actually set up a blog to raise awareness about the wide spread of psychopathy. I hope more people can speak up and not be ashamed of their experiences.

    • sousababy profile image


      6 years ago

      Well, this is a memorable way to show each of the characteristics of a psychopath, indeed. Thanks for the laughs. Admittedly, I have never seen this show (I'm Canadian, sorry). Hope you enjoy your Squidoo journey!


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