11 Sunny Charlie Day Facts

With his unmistakable voice and oddball mannerisms, we can't imagine anyone other than Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's" resident janitor and eternal man-child. As one of the original trio who masterminded the fledgling FX sitcom, Day has spawned an unforgettably eccentric misfit, whose love for the local waitress is matched only by his love of, um, magnets and little green ghouls. In a sitcom comprised of thoroughly odious characters, it's an impressive feat — and a testament to Day's immense talent — that he has managed to make his onscreen namesake sympathetic: Charlie's sense of whimsy and naïve view of the world is almost endearing (almost — when he's not trying to torture "leprechauns" for gold, anyway).

While Charlie Kelly may be a slacker, Charlie Day is more of a savant. A theater kid with musical chops and pipes to match, Day is, much like his "Sunny" alter ego, a multifaceted character who never fails to surprise us with his hidden knacks. Having exhibited his sensitive side in romcom "I Want You Back" and soon to be seen as Luigi in the hotly anticipated "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" in 2023, Day has also ventured into filmmaking, with the completion of his directorial debut imminent, as of this writing.

Just as he wondered who the real Pepe Silvia is, let's find out who the real Charlie Day is. Don your favorite kitten mittens and grab a milk steak with a side of jellybeans as we uncover 11 sunny facts about Charlie Day.

Charlie Day had an arty childhood

Charlie Day was raised in a middle-class family in Middletown, Rhode Island, per the Los Angeles Times. His parents, both music teachers, are intellectuals who instilled a love of the arts into their son. "My parents are more likely to know who Franz Liszt is than Snooki," he explained. "We didn't have a car radio when I was a kid, which I always thought was weird for two music teachers. They opted for the cheaper model." As Day revealed to Interview magazine, his parents both have PhDs, as does his sister, so the same was expected from him. Subsequently, he grew increasingly insecure about being unable to live up to his parents' lofty expectations. Although this fear of disappointing his mom and dad induced anxiety in the youngster, he said it ultimately helped shape his comedy writing.

Day attended the private Merrimack College in Massachusetts, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts in 1998. "A college degree does nothing," he joked when receiving an honorary doctorate from the institution in 2014, per Boston magazine. "It collects dust. It does however mean something. It tells something to your community. It says, 'I have expanded my mind, and destroyed my liver, but I didn't give up.'"

Indeed, Day's degree didn't help him secure a lucrative job at first. Despite his comfortable background, he worked odd jobs, including a stint as a janitor, much like his "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" namesake, according to Vanity Fair.

The actor's famous voice was a barrier to his career

Charlie Day's voice, which manages to be at once erratically exasperated and slackerly subdued, is part of what makes him a star who stands out from the crowd. But showbiz often favors convention over eccentricity, and Day thus struggled to be taken seriously with such a unique cadence. "Starting out, I bet I didn't get a lot of parts because of my strange voice," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm not consciously thinking, 'Hey, sound like a squeaky dog toy mixed with a bagful of rusty nails.' It's just what my voice has done." As the star explained, among his early roles were "uncredited stoner," "mailroom kid," and "inbred twin," which were, essentially, parts that didn't require him to open his mouth much.

Having that unusual voice did help him secure work behind the cameras, however. For three years, Day did voiceovers for the Independent Film Channel. "For some reason they decided that was a good [voice]," he joked during an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in January 2022. "My agent called me ... and he said, 'No, I don't think you understand. You could buy a house with this job,'" he continued. "I'm like, 'What do you mean because I thought I was gonna make like $70?' 'No, you might make $70,000.' So I went, I did the job. ... I bought a house." Unfortunately, the day he bought the house, he turned up for work only to be informed that he was fired.

This is how Charlie Day met his Sunny collaborators

By the early 2000s, Charlie Day was living in New York, but he relocated to Los Angeles in the hope of securing acting work, per The New York Times. As Day explained to Televisionary, he soon found a mutual ally in Philadelphia native Rob McElhenney, who had also traveled to sunny California for career opportunities. As for Glenn Howerton, who went on to play the malevolent Dennis, Day admitted that there was a gentle rivalry from the outset. "I had seen him pretty much the same way, around New York in various auditions and I would say there is a young handsome guy that I can't compete with," he revealed. "We were both actually testing for a FOX sitcom called 'That 80's Show' for different characters this time." While Howerton received a call notifying him that he'd scored the part, Day was not so lucky.

But the trio decided to make their own series instead of working for other people. Accordingly, the buds scrambled together a couple hundred dollars (though Day suggested the figure was actually much lower), borrowed a camera from friends, and started filming scenes that would form the "Sunny" pilot. "We would go back and forth between Glenn's apartment, my apartment, and walking around on the streets of Hollywood," Day recalled. "We just pointed the camera at each other and shot a bunch of scenes. ... It's the same as your cousin Larry taking his Christmas videos and shoving them in your face."

He didn't aspire to be a comedic actor

It may be hard to envision Charlie Day as anyone other than a madcap comedy actor. But as Backstage noted, he initially auditioned for dramatic roles on shows such as "Law & Order" (an impressively somber Day appeared on the series in 2001). "You're nobody until you're somebody, and once you're somebody, it's easier to get the job," he later told Reuters, "but pre-'Sunny' it was just hard to get on a TV show." 

Rather than idolizing the comedy stars of the era, Day admired the works of Sean Penn, per Interview magazine. Subsequently, he attempted to emulate his method actor hero, but soon realized that he was pretending to be someone he's not. "In my theater days I assumed that you had to get rid of yourself to do a character well, and I don't think I was a very good actor when I did that," Day admitted. "I would watch my favorite actors in movies — Sean Penn can really transform from movie to movie, and yet, there's always the Sean Penn that you recognize in those characters."

But fate had something else in mind for Day. With "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" proving to be a sleeper hit, Day became a comedy troubadour — and the arty theater kid was, well, shook. "Maybe in the back of my head I had aspirations, but no immediate goals," he told AV Club back in 2008. "When it started happening, it was a little bit of a shock to the system."

Charlie Day has some pipes

Classically trained, Charlie Day plays multiple musical instruments: the violin (which he learnt at just three years old), piano, accordion, guitar, harmonica, and trombone, per Collider. As "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" fans know, he also has some impressive pipes. Notably, in the Season 9 episode "The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award," Day showcases his versatile singing abilities, alternating between a Randy Newman-esque nasal inflection and a jaw-dropping falsetto before instructing bar patrons to, ahem, vacate the premises.

Day told SlashFilm that, like his zany "Sunny" namesake, his dream is to write a musical (or something musically themed) one day. "I absolutely love just working on music. ... I think the next thing that I write or direct, ideally would have to do with music," he enthused.

Of course, Day's dream materialized to an extent with "The Nightman Cometh," in which his onscreen alter ego pens a musical to impress the (unrequited) love of his life, The Waitress. Though it started out as a Season 4 episode, "The Nightman Cometh" eventually became a stage show that the cast performed, per GQ. Speaking with the outlet, Rob McElhenney disclosed that Day composed most of the music and wrote the majority of the lyrics, too. And while Day admitted that performing the musical in front of a live audience was terrifying, he ultimately had a blast: "It was a glimpse into what it was like to be a rock star for a minute, to have people singing your songs. ... It was an adrenaline rush."

Charlie and The Waitress once played brother and sister

Is there a love story more touching than Charlie Kelly and The Waitress? Okay, yes. While his attempts to woo The Waitress are often questionable at best (testing her food for poison and putting "vitamins" in her shampoo notwithstanding), there's a wholesome earnestness at the heart of his love for the woman who remains nameless. Though The Waitress detests Charlie, the actor who plays her is smitten with him.

Charlie Day first met Mary Elizabeth Ellis in 2001, per the Los Angeles Times. In a story that would not look out of place in an "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" script, legend has it that Day stole Ellis' heart by winning an arm-wrestling duel, as Ellis recounted on "Conan." The couple wed in 2006 and welcomed a son in 2011, per E! News.

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" was not the first time the pair worked together. Back in 2004, the duo played creepy siblings on TV. As Day put it in an interview with NPR, "We did play incestuous twins once on an episode of 'Reno 911!'" During an appearance on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," he also revealed that he and Ellis went to method acting extremes to snag the roles. "They used to do improv auditions," Day explained, "so Mary Elizabeth and I went into the audition and told them that we were brother and sister and then we started making out in the audition, and they were like, 'Oh my god, we have to cast them!'"

Charlie Day insists he's not Charlie Kelly

Considering how odious the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" principal characters are, the cast have made great strides to prove that they're entirely dissimilar from their onscreen counterparts. This is perhaps somewhat more of a challenge for Charlie Day, considering that his "Sunny" character is his namesake. But the actor has insisted that sharing a name with the cheese-loving eccentric was mere happenstance. 

In an interview with Televisionary, he noted that he named the character "Charlie" in a spur of the moment decision, since he didn't think the show would have lasted as long as it has. "I'd like to think I am not like him at all," Day said, "but I think, sadly, I'm more like him than I care to be. ... The one good thing about keeping the character name is when people recognize me on the street, they are not yelling, 'Hey, Ugly Betty!' They're saying my name, which is nicer."

In 2022, Day exhibited a different side to himself when he starred in the romcom "I Want You Back" alongside Jenny Slate. Chatting to Men's Health that February, the actor explained that he sought to change people's perception of him with the role. "I feel like, OK, if you give me the hour and a half, by the end of the movie you'll be seeing a different character," Day divulged. "You might, for the first 15 minutes, only be seeing Charlie Kelly, and that's fair — I get it."

He has an affinity with this acclaimed director

Of all the random "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" guest stars, Guillermo del Toro has got to be one of the most bizarre (he played the wacky McPoyle patriarch in Seasons 8 and 11). "He was a big 'Sunny' fan and asked if he could be on," Charlie Day told The Hollywood Reporter. "So I said, 'Of course. I'll write you something.'" It turns out that Day has formed an unlikely bond with the acclaimed director. 

In 2013, he worked with del Toro on his sci-fi blockbuster "Pacific Rim," a dream come true for the fanboy. "Getting to work with someone like Del Toro was truly life-changing for me," he later told SlashFilm. Now that Day himself is venturing into directing himself, the "Pan's Labyrinth" filmmaker has taken on a mentor role, urging Day to make some important changes to his directorial debut, per THR. "I owe a massive debt of gratitude to Guillermo Del Toro. ... I was just stuck creatively on some aspects of the movie. There were less directing problems and more writing problems," Day admitted, revealing that del Toro advised him to do an entire rewrite. 

Day may have been referring to the fact that the film's initial premise, under the title "El Tonto," was heavily criticized in 2019 over its alleged problematic depiction of a deaf-mute character, per Yahoo! Life. At the time, Day disputed these claims in a since-deleted Instagram post, and now that he has changed the title and reshot the film, he can hopefully showcase his directorial chops.

Charlie Day is a meme — and he has mixed feelings about it

We've all seen the popular meme of Charlie Kelly in full conspiracy mode, standing in front of a paper trail board, asking the all-important question, "Who is the elusive Pepe Silvia?" The Season 4 episode "Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack," which has been pinpointed as a sharp commentary on the necessity of universal healthcare, sees Mac and Charlie get jobs in an office mailroom, sharing a singular minimum wage so they can get health insurance. In true Charlie fashion, he sabotages his goal by claiming that he has uncovered "a major company conspiracy," hence the mantra, "Pepe Silvia! Pepe Silvia!"

In an interview with NPR, Day shed some light on what the infamous rant really meant (according to fan theories, anyway). "Some fans, very astutely, have put together that because my character can't read, Pepe Sylvia might be Pennsylvania on the mail," he explained. "... I think for us, it was just a funny name for a guy to go crazy about. But I like their theory better." Subsequently, the interviewers suggested that they had uncovered their own conspiracy theory, that Day himself started circulating the meme to draw attention to himself.

While that theory seems a little unlikely, Day doesn't mind the meme's popularity. The only potential drawback? Its ubiquity hasn't exactly translated into becoming lucrative for the star. "If I had a nickel a meme, we wouldn't even be talking right now," he quipped to The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm just joking. I'd still talk to you."

How he really felt about those Jennifer Aniston scenes

One of Charlie Day's most successful ventures outside of Paddy's Pub was his role in the 2011 comedy "Horrible Bosses" and its sequel. Day plays Dale, who is essentially a more literate version of his "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" character (as Time noted, he even namedrops his "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" co-star, Danny DeVito, in the film).

Much has been made of Dale's dilemma in the crime comedy; he is being relentlessly sexually harassed by his boss, a sultry dentist played by Jennifer Aniston. Subsequently, the film puts the two actors in all manner of uncomfortable situations, with Aniston climbing atop a drugged-out Day and using a banana in an obscene manner, as The Washington Post detailed. Considering that Day plays a largely sexless character in "Sunny" (okay, that ski scene aside), how exactly did he feel about being put into increasingly cringeworthy situations with the "Friends" star?

In an interview with Collider, Day admitted that the experience was rather awkward since he and Aniston had just met each other minutes before they were required to film risqué scenes. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, however, he conceded that it was all part and parcel of being an actor: "Actors put ourselves in awkward positions all the time. ... You stand on a piece of green tape and say a line or you stand on a piece of green tape and pretend you're passed out while someone's half-naked on top of you. If you can't pull that off, God help you."

Quentin Tarantino considered Charlie Day to play Charles Manson

Few actors would turn down the opportunity to work with Quentin Tarantino. But evidently, Charlie Day is no ordinary actor. He was originally asked to audition for the role of Charles Manson in Tarantino's Oscar-winning "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," but didn't even show up for the audition (the part ultimately went to Damon Herriman).

During an appearance on the "Armchair Expert" podcast, Day explained that, though he had immense respect for Tarantino, he was focusing on his own directorial work at the time, and he also questioned his competency for the role. "I knew they're not going to cast me as this character!" Day laughed, adding, "I'm like, 'Nah, nah. I don't want to see myself as Charles Manson.' ... It would have ruined the movie."

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he elaborated on his rationale for turning down the potentially career-changing opportunity. "The truth is I couldn't really see myself as the character, and Damon Herriman was amazing. ... So it was one of those things where I was like, 'I don't want Quentin to not cast me, so if I'm going to read for something, let me make sure it's something that I feel like I can really shine in.'" Though we can only imagine what Charlie Day as the cult leader would have been like, it speaks to his sensitivity as a performer that he would turn down the highly coveted role simply because he couldn't envisage himself as such a notoriously brutal person.