When The Gang announced they would be coming to London and Dublin for live editions of their podcast, I was very excited to be there. The biggest question I had after the announcement was how the show would be formatted and presented. The podcast has rarely left the studio, and neither have the crew for that matter. While the show itself has been running since 2005, there have only been a handful of live performances linked to the Always Sunny universe. Fans of the sitcom got to see The Nightman Cometh Live! in 2009, and the Always Sunny Podcast hit the stage of Philadelphia’s The Met in 2022. These events all took place in North America though, and this mini-tour would be the first time European fans would get to see any variation of a live show involving The Gang.
The show’s huge popularity, and the hunger that had grown by its absence from the stage on this side of the pond, meant that they would be going big straight away, with shows announced for London’s Royal Albert Hall and Dublin’s 3Arena. While seeing thousands of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans flock to these huge venues was an incredible sight, I do feel like their absence led to a weird sense of fans almost bursting to celebrate. There was a party atmosphere outside the majestic Royal Albert Hall, with fans dressing up as iconic versions of their favourite characters. We saw some great examples of Fat Mac, The Trash Man, Ongo Gablogian and even a fair few fans who looked like they were about to flog us some Fight Milk.
The atmosphere in and around the venue was fantastic, and once the show kicked off it was hard for some fans to contain their excitement. I feel like the challenge of doing a live podcast is one that is always going to be difficult to navigate, blending a fine balance of a set format, but also going with the flow when it comes to the effects of audience participation. The last thing you want to do is alienate the audience or let them fully take over. I feel that the cast did a great job here.
My only gripe is that it felt like we may have missed out on the opportunity to fully dive into audience interaction because of the sheer size of the venue. There was a very intimate feeling about the presentation of the podcast, where those on stage were actively trying to get suggestions and feedback from the crowd. However, 5,000 fans screaming at once definitely meant that this side of the show couldn’t fully flourish.
Let’s be honest though, there are always those people at shows who want to make it all about them and grab the attention of the performers. There were plenty of people like that here too and it’s a good idea not to give them too much focus either, before they end up becoming a distraction. Saying that, I do feel that going straight into this market with such a huge audience hindered what that aspect of the show could have been. They’re simply too big to pull off that type of show now, with some attendees having waited for an outlet for their fandom for almost two decades. There were plenty of times where the performers did try to listen to the crowd for suggestions and feedback, but trying to decipher certain audience members’ voices among thousands shouting out, was nearly impossible.
That being said, the show itself was everything you would want it to be. Not only did Rob, Glenn and Charlie show off their insane levels of comedic chemistry with one another, it was all well navigated by Meg. The IASIP writer and producer brought a sense of order to some of the chaos, even having to look like a villain to the audience at times when trying to keep things on schedule.
I won’t get too into the content of the show itself, because I don’t want to ruin the upcoming podcast episode, but it mainly consisted of a “greatest hits” of clips and talking about the stories behind them. This is another challenge when doing your first live shows when there’s such a long history of content, and lore to go over. While there are some in attendance who want to hear something brand new, realistically most of the people there are waiting for references from episodes such as “The Gang Buys a Boat” and “The Gang Dines Out“. I would imagine that this may be a challenge when trying to come up with different talking points for the evening show and then also the Dublin shows. But from what I have seen from fan reactions of those so far, they definitely were able to dig into their back catalogue to satisfy those audiences with references to different yet equally iconic moments.
The opening segment began with a look at the relationship between the characters of Mac and Charlie, this was accompanied by reference clips on screen for the cast to react to. I think this was a great way to run the show overall as it’s sometimes hard to remember which scenes are being referred to on the podcast, unless they’re the most memorable ones. With that being said, the clips that were played throughout the show were mostly fan favourites that most would be able to recollect anyway, but it was still great to be able to watch them alongside the cast, who could then point out the more nuanced moments. The audience were fired up and in great spirits from the very beginning of the show, and were treated to an early musical number as Charlie grabbed a guitar and belted out “Rock, Flag and Eagle” as the audience sang along with the aid of lyrical prompts on screen.
The first half ran into the interval by about 25 minutes before we got our 25 minute planned break, which featured more iconic clips from the show on the big screen as fans digested what they had just seen and rushed to the bars and toilets. The Royal Albert Hall is a beautiful venue with incredible architectural features, and any time I can get an excuse to go there I am happy to jump at the opportunity. The second half was scheduled to be approximately 1 hours and 35 minutes but was cut down to 45 minutes to accommodate for the first half being almost an hour long instead of the originally scheduled 30 minutes.
The second half saw the cast play a fun game of “Family Fight”, this was in the style of Steve Harvey’s “Family Feud” or as pointed out by Meg, what Brits may remember as “Family Fortunes”.
Fans were also treated to some fantastic cameos throughout the show, both on the big screen and in person. They managed to find a clever way to weave these into some fun little segments with hilarious appearances from The Lawyer, Uncle Jack, Artemis and the legendary Frank Reynolds. It was a brilliant way to feature those actors and while it would have been nice to see Danny DeVito in person, it was an unrealistic hope. One huge surprise though was Kaitlin Olson’s on stage appearance, she was accompanied by a reception so thunderous that it could have come from the fantasy ridden mind of Dee Reynolds herself.
The show would feature many musical treats with Charlie playing some classic IASIP tunes on the guitar and then Kaitlin’s appearance in the second half leading to a rendition of “Tiny Boy, Little Boy, Baby Boy“. Charlie would jump on the piano and also treat fans to the comforting “I like Paddy’s Pub” alongside a heartwarming slideshow of moments featuring the sitcom’s cast on the big screen.
Live podcasts don’t often get an encore and that’s why this show really wasn’t simply a live recording of a podcast with an audience. This was more than that, it was a fantastic stage show with so many different elements . But there was only one way to end things! The Gang would reappear on stage for a rousing rendition of “Nightman“.
Overall the show was exactly what I hoped it would be, carefully blending the podcast and musical formats, with the need to also involve the audience and satisfy them with the big hitters. All of this was done while keeping things fresh and feeling like fans were getting a unique experience, that thankfully didn’t just feel like a copy and paste job. It’s hard enough for a band or stand-up comedian to find that balance, let alone adding in the element of a podcast with its own lore and back catalogue of references. All of this was achieved with a fanbase who have been craving some sort of live ISIAP experience for many years.
I raise a glass of Four Walls whiskey to you all!