Q&A: Glenn Howerton on Getting Handed Lead Roles But Not Emmys

'Always Sunny' star talks about his new movie, 'Coffee Town,' and getting ready to end his TV show

Glenn Howerton as Dennis Reynolds
Joey L./FX
Glenn Howerton as Dennis Reynolds
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Glenn Howerton is outside enjoying some rare free time with his family in beautiful sun-kissed Los Angeles. Most of his year is spent on his hit FX show It's Always Sunny in Philadephia: writing for it, editing it, and acting in it (as Dennis Reynolds), along with co-creators Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney. Nearly a decade ago, the three real-life friends brought in lone lady of the crew Kaitlin Olson and TV icon Danny DeVito (joining a season later) and forged one of the most daring and depraved sitcoms to grace the airwaves of network television.

Despite their censor-deviant material, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has just finished shooting the ninth season. That’s right: ninth, up there with The X-Files. They have yet to be even nominated for an Emmy and it doesn’t bother them at all. Okay maybe a little, as Howerton revealed when asked during a chat about his new movie, Coffee Town.

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The first feature from comedy site College Humor, Coffee Town features Howerton along with Ben Schwartz, Steve Little, Adrianne Paledecki and Josh Groban. Glenn stars as an internet manager (and in his words, "less of a psychopath than Dennis") who is on the brink of losing his favorite internet cafe to a remodel, so he cooks up an idea to fake a robbery to scare off the investors. Howerton spoke with Rolling Stone about the new film, his relation to comedy and why it will soon be time to turn off the lights on It's Always Sunny.

First of all, given the title Coffee Town, I have to ask: Are you coffee drinker?
I was for many years, and I literally in the last four months have tried to get myself off of caffeine. I’ll have a little green tea every now and then. That being said, there’s nothing I love more than sitting in a coffee shop and reading a book. You don’t have that kind of time when you have a family, though.

Why haven’t we seen you in more movies?
For the first six years, Sunny was a year-round job. I'd have maybe two months at most by the end of the season, and by then I was just tired. To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was go audition, and when I did, by the time I got to it the schedule didn’t work. Now we’re better at it, but now I’m trying to find out what kind of guy I want to play outside of Dennis.

Did it feel natural for you to do a comedy?
Actually, no. When I’m watching movies, I stay away from comedy because that’s my job and it’s hard for me not to intellectualize it. In the end, I just liked the writing and they wanted me from the start. It came together very easily.

Ben Schwartz and Steve Little have improv backgrounds. Did you have fun with that?
Those guys are true improv guys – just watching them work was a lesson for me. I’ve improv-ed before, of course, but that’s not my background. I did theater before so they had a leg up on me, and to be honest, they’re a lot funnier than me in the movie. I guess that’s the point though.

Josh Groban plays your nemesis in the film. Were you all surprised by that casting?
I was shocked, I had no idea what Brad (Copeland) was thinking, but then I met him and was just blown away. That dude is really funny. I didn’t know he came from an acting background before all the opera singing. It’s a supporting role but he makes it a lot more. You know what? He’s also funnier than me in this movie.

Well, you’re funny on Sunny so let’s talk about that. Are you really quitting after ten seasons?
Yes. There’s a certain point where you wear out your welcome and we don’t want to do that. We want to leave them wanting more. We spend a lot of time trying to find new lines to cross. We’re not trying to offend people or gross them out, but we’re looking to surprise them. I think we’re proud of what we’ve done so far, so it’s time to stop. I’m sure there are already a few people who are like 'Jesus Christ is that show still on? Go away.'"

How is it possible that It's Always Sunny has never been nominated for an Emmy?
I don’t know what it is man, because I meet enough people, well respected people in this business who are really big fans of our show. I’m always blown away by it. Matt Wiener, [who] created the show Mad Men, is a big watcher. He used to come to visit us a couple times on set. The Game of Thrones showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff are huge fans. So much so they wanted to write an episode – we’ve never let anyone else write an episode before, but we let them. So I don’t know where the disconnect is. For some reason the Emmys, the Golden Globes, they act like we don’t exist and I think it’s kind of a shame.

In a lot of ways, it’s kind of our fault, because we never go to the parties, you know, the events you're supposed to. We’ve never really played the game.

Are you going this year?  
I don’t know, maybe in the 10th season, just because it’s the last season and for the sake of the show, maybe we’ll try to butter some people up. But then again part of me wants to be like, "fuck you fucking motherfuckers, man."

Will you feel comfortable continuing to do comedy after the show ends?
Right now I’m watching a lot of twisted Asian horror. Movies by Park Chan-wook and Joon-ho Bong, who originally did The Host. I’d like to direct, I believe that I have an eye for it. But ultimately acting is still my first love. I would love to bring something that dark and messed up to the screen, but I don’t know if American audiences are ready for it.