Day is the heart of FX's subversive, cult-fave comedy "It's Always Sunny," a show that's often been referred to as "'Seinfeld' on crack." Five friends run a Philadelphia bar together and make hilarious social commentaries that are carefully crafted into seemingly outrageous storylines about stalking, patriotism, racism, gun control, welfare, terrorism, gay marriage, religion, the gas crisis and bromance.
Day's Charlie Kelly is the sweetest member of "The Gang," as the "Sunny"-ites refer to themselves. This despite Kelly's stalking of The Waitress (played by Day's real-life wife, Mary Elizabeth Ellis), even pretending to have cancer to win a date with her; not being able to read or write; spending much of his day killing big rats; and writing -- well, inasmuch as he's capable of writing -- a musical about how he was molested as a child. Why? It's all about Day.
The actor can muster an insane amount of enthusiasm for anything his alter ego is up to, selling even his character's wackiest ideas with complete sincerity. Whether whipping himself into a manic frenzy while pretending to be a Serpico-like cop or trying to woo potential online dating love matches with his love of "milk steak," Charlie steals many a scene because of Day's ability to go from subtle to over-the-top funny in seconds.
Sound familiar? Sort of like something a certain other bearded, bundle-full of-energy comic actor -- hint: rhymes with "Mack Dalifianakis" -- has done so well?
The key to pulling off the kinds of characters a Zach Galifianakis or a Charlie Day have mastered is the physical comedy, of course, but combined with that rare ability to be just as funny with a facial expression, a raising of the eyebrows, a slight stare, a softening of the voice. In other words, the ability to deliver a nuanced performance.
Day's done it on a regular basis on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and in last year's Drew Barrymore/Justin Long comedy "Going the Distance."
Day was Long's roommate Dan, whose habit of providing a soundtrack for his roomie's hookups would have been creepy, instead of just endearingly weird, in the hands of a less skilled, less likable actor.
And it's that talent moviegoers will see again in this week's "Horrible Bosses," in which Day plays Dale, a dental assistant who wants to kill his boss -- a dentist played by Jennifer Aniston -- because she constantly makes him the subject of her unwanted sexual advances. Dale is totally committed to his relationship with his fiancée, but even his friends (played by Jason Bateman and Day's "Going the Distance" co-star Jason Sudeikis) find it difficult to believe that he's unhappy about being hit on by his hot boss.
Yet Day infuses Dale with a goofy charm and sincerity that not only allows him to go scene for scene with funny guys like the Jasons, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and a nearly unrecognizable Colin Farrell, but also to make the audience believe that, no, Dale doesn't want to have sex with his sexy boss, because, yes, he loves his fiancée just that much.
Still unconvinced? Seeing "Horrible Bosses" for yourself should take care of that, as should the knowledge that Guillermo del Toro has cast Day in "Pacific Rim," his 2013 aliens-attack-Earth flick in which Day will reportedly provide the comic relief alongside the dramatic acting talent of Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba.
Watch out, Zach G... there's a new go-to funny guy in town.