Charlie Kelly is the janitor of Paddy's Pub. He is a member of the Gang that works at the bar, and is considered the "wild card" of the group. Charlie has been best friends with Mac since childhood. He shares an apartment with Frank Reynolds, who is very likely his biological father.
At one point Charlie was a co-owner of Paddy's Pub, but he sold most of his shares to Dennis and Mac for, among other things, half a sandwich ("The Gang Sells Out"). The most tedious and disgusting janitorial tasks at the bar are referred to as Charlie Work, even when Charlie is temporarily spared from performing them.
Charlie is known for his illiteracy, his habit of slipping into a variety of characters for his various schemes, and his never ending obsession with The Waitress. Although he is by most respects the stupidest member of the Gang, he is capable of rare, impressive moments of brilliance, particularly with music and engineering complex social schemes.
Charlie is portrayed by Charlie Day.
Charlie's signature attire is his pajamas: a holey black t-shirt depicting a shiny black horse, and an old pair of long thermal underwear. (Though for a lot of Season 3, he kept wearing the same Bayside Tigers t-shirt).
He has unkempt hair and scruffy facial hair. He often wears old T-shirts and on his oft-worn green jacket, Charlie wears the specialty mark of a United States Navy Aviation Electronics Technician and a Ruptured Duck patch.
Like the others, Charlie possesses several narcissistic characteristics. He never admits ignorance on any subject, despite being ignorant of just about everything, and often acts like he knows better than others. He tends to try and demonstrate his knowledge by throwing out terms associated with the subject in question, or simply mirroring what other people are saying, without any real understanding.
When called out on his painfully obvious illiteracy and general lack of intelligence, he gets incredibly defensive and angry. He also has a problem with authority, and often ignores the gang's attempts to control his dysfunctional behavior. He also appears to have pica.
Though his general intelligence, logic and grip on reality seem to be sorely deficient, Charlie is actually one of the most socially skilled and aware members of the gang, though this is not saying much. He frequently displays a greater awareness of, and concern for, social taboos, such as what is racist or anti-semitic, than other members of the gang, particularly Mac and Dee. He also has a talent for manipulating other people when he puts his mind to it (chief examples being his intricate, Machiavellian schemes in Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom and Charlie and Dee Find Love), suggesting he possesses the keen psychological insight required to do so.
Delusions of Grandeur
Whenever the Gang begin a new scheme, Charlie often expects to be placed in a position of authority, such as being Dennis's campaign manager in "The Gang Runs for Office" or being captain of the boat in "The Gang Buys a Boat", despite being woefully unsuited for them.
When denied something he wants, he will usually attempt to get it anyway through deceit and manipulation, never taking responsibility for the havoc he always causes as a result. This is most notably seen in his (often criminal) persistence to woo The Waitress, who refuses to give him the time of day.
Charlie's delusions of superiority and emotional volatility seem to cover up a deep-seated sense of shame and low self-esteem. His fits of rage often spring up when he senses he is being attacked, wronged or not listened to. The disproportionate amount of anger and the lengths Charlie goes to avenge himself against slights real and imagined suggest that on a subconscious level he is miserably aware and ashamed of his failings, and hates to be reminded of it.
Charlie has a tendency to dress up as characters and lose himself in fantasies based on movies he's seen. In some cases, a subtle reference to a movie is made without Charlie explicitly referencing the character. He has dressed up and pretended to be the following characters:
- Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic from Born on the Fourth of July ("Charlie Gets Crippled")
- Corruption-fighting police officer Serpico played by Al Pacino ("Bums: Making a Mess All Over the City")
- Musician Bob Dylan when getting ready to perform a song ("Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person")
- Hoss Bonaventure, a stereotypical rich Texas oilman, first seen when selling gasoline door-to-door ("The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis"), and then again on a blind date ("Frank's Pretty Woman")
- Charlie has a nervous breakdown similar to John Nash in A Beautiful Mind and imagines a huge conspiracy is happening around him ("Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack").
- Charlie believes himself to be a genius janitor similar to Will Hunting from Good Will Hunting ("The Gang Reignites the Rivalry")
While dressing up as these individuals, Charlie often loses track of reality and literally adopts their personality and idiosyncrasies. This inability to separate fantasy from reality is a trait shared by his alleged biological father Frank, who sometimes tells stories from the movie Rambo as if they happened to him ("Mac and Dennis: Manhunters").
For some reasons, Charlie believes himself to be very well versed in legal ceremony and practice. He claims that his specialty is "bird law" and is adamant that he be the legal representation for anyone in the Gang who is in a legal jam ("The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis"). This often means he is faced head-to-head against The Lawyer.
He also created the character Greenman and frequently dons the costume.
Charlie will sometimes scheme to deceive the entire Gang in order to achieve his goals, especially in pursuit of the Waitress.
- Charlie pretended he was dying of cancer in a failed attempted to get the Waitress to sleep with him ("Charlie Has Cancer").
- Charlie manipulates Dennis into sleeping with both Charlie's and Mac's mothers in an attempt to get the Waitress to sleep with him out of revenge ("Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom").
- Charlie pretended to be in love with another woman in order to make the Waitress jealous ("Charlie and Dee Find Love").
- Charlie tried tricking Dee, Mac, and Frank out of their shares of the bar, but was interrupted by Dennis ("Charlie Rules the World").
He enjoys seeing the other members of The Gang embarrassed. In "Dennis and Dee's Mom Is Dead", he is eager to have someone read to him from Dee's middle school diary so he can laugh at her difficulties as a disabled adolescent.
Charlie is intensely patriotic:
- He is threatened by a North Korean bar, proclaiming it as "un-American" ("The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation").
- He helps throw a wrestling show, in order to support the troops returning from war ("The Gang Wrestles for the Troops").
- Charlie tries to convey his love for America by protesting ("Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass").
Charlie may or may not be an atheist:
- He argues with Mac about religion frequently.
- The idea of a crucifix in the bar made him very angry/uncomfortable (Sweet Dee Gets Audited).
- He hated having to go to church and is a believer that organized religion is a scam (Charlie's Mom Has Cancer).
- He pretended to be a priest without guilt, basing most of his sermons on stereotypes (The Gang Exploits A Miracle).
- Charlie did go to catholic school as referenced by Mac and in the same episode asks Mac about God's stance on blood tests ( Charlie Wants an abortion)
Charlie's real father is almost certainly Frank Reynolds. Frank had a one night stand with Charlie's mother 30 years ago ("Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad"). Frank forced Charlie's mom to have an abortion but it "didn't take" and Charlie was born three months later. Bonnie says she had to keep it a secret from Frank because he was already married to Barbara Reynolds at the time. If Frank had found out he would have made Bonnie throw him in a dumpster ("The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby").
Charlie has at least one younger sister who is mentioned once. Two young girls are at Charlie's intervention but neither of them speaks or is named. When Charlie mentions his sister to the McPoyles, he states that she was at the intervention they had just left ("Charlie Got Molested").
Charlie's grandmother (Bonnie's mother) also appears at his intervention ("Charlie Got Molested"). She is never seen or heard from again in the series.
It has been repeatedly implied that Charlie was sexually abused as a child.
- When the McPoyle brothers claimed they were molested by Coach Murray, he had a strange reaction. He later admits he was never molested by Coach Murray to the police.
- Later, Charlie repeatedly wrote music about the "Nightman", a spirit-like being who crawled into his room at night when he was young and takes hold of him with his "strong hands", and "fills him up". The words Charlie uses to describe his transformation into the Nightman undoubtedly describes a violent rape by a man.
- Charlie is intensely uncomfortable around his Uncle Jack, often dodging physical contact with him. He also reacts negatively to memories of the two sharing a room when Charlie was a child.
Charlie's former sexual abuse is obvious to every character on the show except Charlie himself. While performing in Charlie's musical, most members of the Gang interprets the song as involving the rape of a small boy. Dee objects to singing her Coffee Shop Princess song as being about the molestation of a young boy. Frank interprets the Troll Toll Song as being about wanting "this boy's hole" instead of "this boy's soul". And Mac interpreted the same song to involve a rape scene, which he and Dennis worked hard to make "classy" ("The Nightman Cometh").
It is strongly suggested that the Nightman was actually Charlie's Uncle Jack. Further, the troll is almost certainly Charlie's mother, who was charging Uncle Jack rent to stay in her house. Charlie interprets this as Jack paying the "troll toll" ("The Great Recession").
In eighth grade, Charlie won a dance competition to "Take My Breath Away" by the band Berlin ("The Gang Dances Their Asses Off").
Charlie has mixed memories about how others perceived him in high school. At times he is oblivious to the fact that he wasn't considered cool ("The Waitress Is Getting Married"). Other times he remembers that he was called "Dirtgrub" and he would eat dirt and spiders to make the cool kids laugh to leave him alone. Even though Dennis and Dee also attended the same high school, they usually did not interact with Charlie ("The High School Reunion"). In high school, Charlie, Mac, and "Psycho Pete' were in a group they called "Freight Train" ("The High School Reunion")("Psycho Pete Returns").
Skills and Abilities
Despite his apparent lack of intelligence, Charlie has displayed some unexpected skills and abilities:
- Charlie can survive abortions. Charlie was aborted by his mother and three months later popped out "happy as a clam!" ("The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby").
- Charlie can drink immense amounts of alcohol. He once drank 70 beers and still managed to hit a baseball with a bat, as well as hold a (very slurred) conversation [The Gang Beats Boggs].
- Charlie has a prodigious ability to handle drugs and sedatives. He can consume an enormous quantity of sedative-stuffed brownies ("The Gang Dances Their Asses Off").
- He enjoys cooking, which he often does on a hotplate in his apartment ("The Gang Goes Jihad").
- He is adept at sewing, which allows him to maintain the few pieces of clothing that he owns ("The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty Magoo").
- Charlie is an acclaimed "great referee" ("Charlie Wants An Abortion") although he shows up drunk to referee a children's basketball team ("The Gang Gives Back").
- He also has a renowned method of cleaning toilets and urinals with his bare hands ("Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare").
- He is extremely good at dominoes ("The Gang Gets Racist").
- He can eat an entire unripe pear in less than 23 seconds of air-time ("The Gang Hits the Road").
- He is apparently single-handedly keeping the bar from failing health inspections ("Charlie Work").
- He has perfect pitch ("Charlie Work").
Charlie has also directed several video productions:
- he can play the piano, saxophone
- A video of Dennis and Mac threatening jihad ("The Gang Goes Jihad")
- A video of Dennis to promote his run for office ("The Gang Runs for Office")
- A video of Sweet Dee being lit on fire ("Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire")
- A commercial for his product, Kitten Mittens ("Paddy's Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens")
Dennis and Mac frequently manipulate Charlie into tests of his fortitude, such as hitting him over the head with beer bottles and chairs, or having him tow Dennis's Range Rover through the streets of Philadelphia. They consider Charlie to be almost impossible to injure ("Hundred Dollar Baby").
Charlie is also surprisingly adept at concocting elaborate plans to achieve his desires ("Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom"). Similarly, he is able to correctly deduce and understand scheme that the rest of the Gang formulated and began without telling him. Simultaneously, he organizes and successfully executes an intricate plan to fraudulently pass a health inspection, all while fixing the mistakes the Gang made with their plot. His success goes entirely unnoticed by the rest of the Gang ("Charlie Work").
He has also intricately memorized and even mapped out the air ducts and vents throughout Paddy's Pub. It is stated that Charlie sometimes seeks refuge and solitude there. It is the only access to Charlie's "bad room", in which Charlie likes to go to "be alone and break bottles" ("The Gang Gets Held Hostage").
Charlie can hold his breath for over seven minutes, just short of the world record ("Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender").
Charlie is the most skilled musician in the group. He can write original music and sing it, and he has also displayed skill in playing the keyboard and saxophone. Charlie wrote the music and most of the lyrics to the song Dayman and performed it with Dennis as part of their group, Electric Dream Machine ("Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person").
He also wrote an entire musical in "The Nightman Cometh", including the following original songs:
He also wrote and performed several other songs:
- "The Nightman"
- "I Like Paddy's Pub" ("The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award")
- "Go Fuck Yourselves" ("The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award")
He is able to tell that the beep a carbon monoxide detector makes is a G sharp, allowing Frank to imitate the sound on a recorder, which suggests that he possesses perfect pitch. ("Charlie Work (episode)")
He is shown playing a saxophone in the episode "The Gang Hits the Slopes."
WeaknessesCharlie lives in squalor. Several people have referred to his dingy apartment as a "shithole". ("The Gang Goes Jihad") His poverty is in part caused by a tendency to make "bad investments" ("Gun Fever"). At one point, Charlie sells a "shit load" of his shares of Paddy's to Mac for half a sandwich ("The Gang Sells Out").
Charlie has limited personal hygiene. Mac says that he has never seen Charlie put on deodorant, and Charlie admits that he only washes his testicles every Friday ("The Gang Dances Their Asses Off"). The Waitress also noted once that Charlie "smell[s] really bad" ("The Gang Sells Out").
Charlie often exhibits difficulty reading and writing, and is often accused of being illiterate and "retarded" by other characters. Mac even went as far as claiming "No one understands the subtleties of Charlie's retardation better than me." Dennis suspects that Charlie might be dyslexic, because the scripts he writes often have words in an incomprehensible order ("The Gang Runs for Office"). Charlie misread a contract that resulted in his putting the bar at risk of being lost in a contest ("The Gang Dances Their Asses Off"). He was unable to write clear lyrics for his musical and needed help from Artemis ("The Nightman Cometh"). His writing is often shown as being unreadable to the rest of the gang due to it being composed of small pictures, symbols, and written in various color of crayons ("Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats").
Charlie has an unhealthy obsession with The Waitress, and will do anything for even the slightest chance he might win her over. To this end, he has thrown away perfectly good relationships ("The Gang Gets Racist"), kowtowed to doing all the Charlie Work on the threat Dennis will sleep with her ("Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom"), and picked a fight with a guy whom he believed to be dating her ("Who Got Dee Pregnant?")
Charlie is sometimes unable to comprehend what people are talking about ("The Gang Recycles Their Trash"), and he has a poor grasp of history and current events. He mentions that Israel is in a tough situation because of "that whole tsunami" and the "superdome thing" ("The Gang Goes Jihad") .
He is extremely prone to electric shock, having been shocked over 500 times ("The Gang Gets Whacked (Part 1)").
Like Dee, he suffers from stage fright and becomes nauseated when performing in front of live audiences ("Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life"). He's afraid that people will boo him or hate him, and that's why he's never pursued his dreams ("Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person"). Despite these fears, however, he was able to perform in his own musical and propose to the Waitress in front of an audience ("The Nightman Cometh").
Charlie frequently abuses inhalants such as glue, spray paint, and bathroom cleaners, and poppers ("Underage Drinking: A National Concern") ("Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad") ("The High School Reunion").
After blowing up the building next door to the bar Charlie is ordered by the court to go to Alcoholics Anonymous after telling the judge he was drunk, which was true but also in the hope that it would get him off the hook. When arriving for his first meeting, Charlie enters drinking a beer. After the Waitress stops being his sponsor, Charlie responds by getting extremely drunk before refereeing a children's basketball game ("The Gang Gives Back").
Charlie has displayed a strong anxiety about leaving Philadelphia, which has lessened over the course of the season. In the first attempt we see him make to leave Philadelphia, in the episode "The Gang Hits the Road", his sense of panic about leaving Philadelphia leads to Dee's car being stolen. In the first two times we actually see him leaving Philadelphia, in the episodes "The Gang Gets Stranded in the Woods" and "The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore", The Gang has to render him unconscious for him to go. In "The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre", he does leave Philadelphia to go to Maureen Ponderosa's wedding in a lodge in the woods, but he makes it clear he is not happy about it. However, in "The Gang Beats Boggs", he seems to have no trouble getting aboard a flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. in "The Gang Hits the Slopes", he does remark, as he stands atop a very difficult ski run holding beer bottles in place of ski poles, that this is why he hates to leave Philadelphia, but he apparently travelled to the Poconos with the rest of The Gang willingly.
In addition, Charlie has abused or been addicted to:
- anabolic steroids ("Hundred Dollar Baby")
- copious amounts of alcohol ("The Gang Gives Back")
- LSD, although only because Frank drugged him ("The Gang Gets Invincible")
- glue ("Underage Drinking: A National Concern") ("Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad")
- poppers ("Mac and Charlie Die (Part 1)")
- cocaine ("The Gang Gets Whacked (Part 1)")
- spray paint ("Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person")
Charlie has had little success in dating, and spends much of his spare time stalking the Waitress. He has even hired a spy to watch the Waitress ("Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life"). He goes to great lengths to win her over, in spite of her declarations that she will never be interested in him, and even her 50 foot restraining order ("Charlie and Dee Find Love").
Charlie seems to believe that the relationship he has with The Waitress is normal and is the way that a relationship is supposed to go. When he tells Ruby Taft that he was merely using her to make The Waitress jealous, he says, after noting she banged him "almost immediately", that "a quality woman doesn't do that; she doesn't say 'yes' right away; she says 'no' to a man, for years, like ten years" ("Charlie and Dee Find Love"). However, the Waitress herself could barely be referred as "quality woman" this way, given how she banged Dennis so quickly ("Charlie Has Cancer").
Charlie presumably lost his virginity to Stacy Corvelli in high school. She shows up a decade or so later and tricks him into thinking he fathered her son, Tommy. Tommy is actually the son of another high school classmate, Jimmy Doyle ("Charlie Wants an Abortion"). A deleted scene in the Season Five DVD hints that Stacy is the only woman he has ever slept with until that point, and that it may have been a traumatic experience for him.
Until Season Eight, Charlie was the only member of The Gang who had not had sex during the present time of the series. His relationship with Ruby Taft broke this "record" ("Charlie and Dee Find Love").
Charlie bangs Silvia while on a ski trip, but it later turns out she was a prostitute hired by Frank. ("The Gang Hits the Slopes")
He has come close to banging several women:
- Janelle Jenkins — He dated Janelle to prove to The Waitress that he was not a racist, and Janelle was legitimately interested in him ("The Gang Gets Racist").
- The Waitress — Mac and Dennis paid her to sleep with Charlie, but he didn't make a move on her ("Charlie Has Cancer"). Later, he wasn't quick enough to say a word to her when she claimed "I'm gonna bang the next person who talks to me" before Schmitty popped in ("The High School Reunion, Part 2: The Gang's Revenge").
- Prostitutes — it was not shown whether or not Charlie banged one or more prostitutes when partying with Frank's money. Mac affirmed that "...services have already been rendered" ("Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare").
- Sun-Li — Sun-Li followed him home and moved into his apartment, but he didn't even kiss her, though they were briefly engaged. Charlie later discovered that she was only 12 years old ("The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation").
- Painted girls at fraternity — two girls painted Charlie and Mac, and were going to let them return the favor before showering together to wash the paint off (presumably leading to sex). But before Charlie and Mac could paint them back, the heads of the fraternity kicked them out ("The Gang Reignites the Rivalry").
Charlie has been caught masturbating by several members of the gang. Dee caught him masturbating to Dennis's cartoon drawings of large breasted women ("The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty Magoo"). She also accused him of stealing Dennis's erotic memoir in order to masturbate to its pictures, since he couldn't read the text ("Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life"). Frank also mentioned that he likes to hide inside of the apartment couch in order to catch Charlie "pounding off" ("A Very Sunny Christmas"). When Charlie reveals to Frank that he awoke to him doing some "pretty frantic research of [his] own" one night, Frank countered by saying that the two could go "tit-for-tat on that one" ("Mac Is a Serial Killer").
Charlie and Frank get married so Charlie can benefit from Frank's medical insurance and so Frank can rest secure that Charlie would not pull the plug if Frank fell into a coma ("Mac Fights Gay Marriage").
- Charlie has a dislike for lizards ("Dennis and Dee's Mom Is Dead") and people's knees ("The Waitress Is Getting Married").
- Charlie's favorite food is "milk steak", his favorite hobby is "magnets", and he really likes ghouls. "You know, funny little green ghouls" ("The Waitress is Getting Married").
- Charlie has an unhealthy love for cheese, especially in stressful situations.
- Charlie claims he has never eaten blueberries or strawberries before, and he never had a pear until "The Gang Hits the Road".
- Charlie had never left Philly before 06x11 (he did it again in 07x02 an 10x01).
- Charlie eats cat food in order to pass out and sleep through the noise of fifty cats howling outside his window every night ("Dennis Reynolds: An Erotic Life").
- Charlie doesn't own a toothbrush ("Sweet Dee's Dating a Retarded Person").
- Charlie did not believe that jockeys were real and, after finding out that they are real, he is astonished that they can speak ("The Gang Gets Whacked (Part 1)").
- Charlie's name has been used in the titles of multiple different episodes.
- Season One: "Charlie Wants An Abortion", "Charlie Has Cancer", "Charlie Got Molested"
- Season Two: "Charlie Gets Crippled", "Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass"
- Season Four: "Mac and Charlie Die (Part 1)", "Mac and Charlie Die (Part 2)"
- Season Five: "Mac and Charlie Write a Movie"
- Season Six: "Mac and Charlie: White Trash", "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats"
- Season Seven: "Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games"
- Season Eight: "Charlie and Dee Find Love", "Charlie's Mom Has Cancer", "Charlie Rules the World"
- Season Nine : "Flowers for Charlie"
- It's believed that Charlie's play "The Nightman Cometh" is to be a reflection of his childhood, given that most parts of the play are very similar to Charlie's past.
- Charlie was believed to sexually abused by his uncle, and the play features a believed rape scene.
- Charlie's mother was a prostitute, and the play features a troll who is misheard by the audience to be prostituting the child to the Nightman.
- Charlie's original motive was to seduce the Waitress with the play; and in the play, it features a love scene with a princess modeled after her.
- Charlie's mother rented Charlie's room to his uncle similar to the "troll's toll."
- The only thing that isn't part of Charlie's history is the fight between the Day Man and the Night Man, so this can interpreted as Charlie's desire to defend himself or to get revenge on his uncle.
- Charlie and Dee are the only two members of the gang that have slept together
- See also: Category:Images of Charlie Kelly