One of the reasons It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has remained so popular for so long is that the show perfectly roasts different segments of society, often from both sides (so it can always come on top, of course).
But with 15 completed seasons of this FX show and counting, it can be difficult for fans to find the best example of the gang putting society on blast. To help you plan your next binge session, here are the episodes where the show’s societal satire had us howling from beginning to end.
The Gang Goes Jihad (Season 2, Episode 2)
In retrospect, it’s wild to think that “The Gang Goes Jihad” was only Danny DeVito’s second episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. His Frank character fit right into this madcap adventure in which the gang had to fight for ownership of Paddy’s Pub, going so far as to record a video of themselves as threatening terrorists that even they agreed was going too far.
Of course, they only did this because the man trying to take over the pub is Israeli. And most of the best humor in the ep comes from the characters embodying the worst aspects of racial profiling and discrimination.
Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person (Season 3, Episode 9)
In many ways, “Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person” is a master class in what makes It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia so great because its social satire is rooted in the gang being horrific to each other.
In this case, Dennis manages to convince his sister Dee that the hotshot musician she is dating is actually mentally retarded, and this leads to hilarious scenes of her trying to figure out if this is really true.
By the time we get to the very much non-retarded singer’s improvised lyrics calling her out, the audience has learned a bit about tolerance (or at least, about the difficulty of diagnosing mental impairment).
The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis (Season 4, Episode 2)
Whether you want a great episode of social satire or just a classic episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” has you covered. The primary satire comes from the gang’s insane scheme to stockpile gasoline and then sell it a year later, effectively making fun of the actual oil executives and other powerful people who make profits at the expense of both the environment and the average Joe.
But an insane B plot with Frank and Dee results in some bonus satire regarding waterboarding as Frank admits that the technique is so effective that Dee is admitting to things she didn’t even do.
Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare (Season 2, Episode 3)
On paper, “Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare” had the potential to be a very preachy episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia because it’s all about the titular characters selfishly trying to get money for doing nothing.
Amazingly, though, the show manages to illustrate both the dangers of abusing welfare and (via Mac and Charlie wildly spending money they stole from Frank) the fact that it’s equally possible for those with spare cash to act lazy and financially irresponsible.
If nothing else, this episode gave us the meme “aww, did somebody get addicted to crack” that absolutely lives in our heads, rent-free.
The Gang Goes on Family Fight (Season 10, Episode 8)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is perfect at roasting society in ways that seem funny rather than preachy, and “The Gang Goes on Family Fight” is a wonderful example of this.
The gang must compete on a Family Feud-style game show, and we get plenty of laughs from incidents like Frank deciding that a family-friendly program on national television is the best place to lay out his political agenda.
But most of the laughs come from Charlie because he had previously filled out answers for the audience survey, effectively showcasing how dumb random audiences can be. This is highlighted when the prompt “name an animal we eat but that doesn’t eat us” results in the answer “dragon.”
The Gang Turns Black (Season 12, Episode 1)
Even for veteran fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, previews for “The Gang Turns Black” resulted in mixed feelings because a musical episode about white people magically transformed into Black people could easily go off the rails.
Instead, the episode provided hilarious jokes surrounding race, including Frank’s happiness that he could finally get away with saying the N-word, even as everyone asks why he’d even want to do so.
The darkest moment comes when Charlie (who has been transformed into an adolescent) holding up a train he received from the police…only to be immediately gunned down by cops thinking they saw a young Black man with a gun.
The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover Edition (Season 4, Episode 4)
“The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover Edition” is the rare It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode that satirizes three very different concepts at once, and we were pleasantly surprised by how well the show pulled it off.
As the name implies, part of the satire comes from the gang’s attempt to emulate a home makeover show, but they only begin doing this because they think they must perform good deeds to make their vision boards (an idea taken from The Secret) come true.
To top it all off, their makeover involved kidnapping Hispanic homeowners, resulting in a satire about ugly Americans trying to make other cultures forcibly assimilate.
Risk E. Rat’s Pizza and Amusement Center (season 16, Episode 6)
One of the best satirical episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Risk E. Rat’s Pizza and Amusement Center,” is also one of its most recent.
The most explicit theme of the ep is that they are making fun of both the Chuck E. Cheese establishment, but the best humor comes from the gang’s failed attempts to relive their childhood experiences.
Dee, for example, is annoyed that beloved character Dingbat Duck, so named for being a bit slow, has been renamed Dapper Duck…but not so annoyed that she puts up with Frank calling the duck “retarded.”
Meanwhile, Dennis and Charlie’s plan to see allegedly realistic animatronic breasts is foiled when they find them sanded off the character’s body, leading to the two speculating whether it was liberals or religious rightwingers who were so offended by robot boobs.
And hovering over all of this is Frank’s scary stories about what the amusement center was like in his day, which involved mascots beating unruly children and employees creating games for children that basically encouraged sexual assault.