Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia revealed the real name of the Waitress in an episode.
One of the things that I have found over the years doing Legends Revealed is that people are really interested in the origin behind famous names. Some examples include whether Pearl Jam was named after a peyote concoction, whether AC/DC was named after a sex term, whether The Lovin’ Spoonful was named after a sex term, whether Stone Temple Pilots were named after a…sex term and I think you get the basic picture. However, something that seems to strike people’s fancy even more than the origin of a name is when a character’s name is hidden from the audience. A lot of people were obsessed with the mystery of Kramer’s first name on Seinfeld and a lot of folks are currently a bit obsessed with the name of The Waitress on the FX/FXX comedy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The Waitress, played by actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis, is the only non-cast member on the series to appear in all eleven seasons of the show so far (Ellis is married to one of the leads on the show, Charlie Day who plays “Charlie” on the series). One of the jokes on the series is how none of the main cast seem to know the Waitress’ real name, not even Day’s character, who has been stalking her for over a decade. Reader Mark G. wrote in with a popular fan theory about the Waitress that he wanted to see me confirm or debunk, whether the Waitress’ name was actually subtly revealed in an episode of the series. Read on to see if is true!
Like the rest of the regular characters on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the Waitress is a mess. She is an alcoholic with no friends and her crippling low sense of self-esteem allows the other characters, particularly Dennis (played by Glenn Howerton), to treat her like garbage. This is highlighted by the fact that, as mentioned earlier, none of the characters think enough of her to even remember her name.
Her forgettable nature was spotlighted during the seventh season when she attends the high school reunion along with the main cast members in the two-part season finale, “High School Reunion.” Once there (drunk, of course), she discovers that they have no name tag for her and she sits alone at a table with no one willing to talk to her. By the end of the two-parter, she has drunk so much that she announces that she will have sex with the next person to talk with her. The obsessed Charlie is so stunned by the announcement that he cannot say anything and she ends up going off to have sex with another character. Besides demonstrating the wretched state of her life, that episode has also given rise to the aforementioned popular fan theory about her real name. You see, earlier in the episode, before the Waitress arrives at the reunion, Frank (played by Danny DeVito) shows up to crash the reunion, because he feels left out due to the fact that he’s much older than the rest of the gang (and, of course, did not attend high school with them). He takes the name tag of a woman named Nikki Potnick.
So later in the episode, when the Waitress shows up and they cannot find her nametag, naturally enough, people figured that this was a subtle way by the show’s writers to reveal the real name of the Waitress.
Glenn Howerton (also one of the show’s main writers, along with Charlie Day and show creator Rob McElhenney, who plays “Mac” on the show) tweeted after the episode aired and people began to write about the theory:
Sorry, but the Waitress’ name is not Nikki Potnick. If u wanna know who N.Potnick is, re-watch S.1 Underage Drinking. First 10 mins.
In that episode from the first season, “Underage Drinking: A National Concern,” the gang discover that a number of underage teens have been drinking at their bar. While they at first are appalled at this fact, they then decide that they have a responsibility to the teens to give them a safe place to drink, as they remember back in high school how they would always drink themselves. Charlie and Dennis recall one specific incident:
Charlie: You wanna know what else what would happen? We drove Nikki Potnick’s car into a tree on Kelly Drive…
Dennis: With Sweet Dee in the backseat, puking all over the headrest because some guy talked to her that she liked, remember that?
Thus, as Howerton notes, the Waitress couldn’t be Potnick because they remember Potnick’s name while they do not remember the Waitress’ name. This tweet did not stop the theory, though, as people argued “Maybe they just forget that the Waitress and Nikki Potnick are the same person.”
Howerton addressed the theory again in 2013 when he did an AMA for Reddit. He expressed an interesting philosophy regarding fan theories, as well:
Reddit user: Glenn, there is a fan theory about it’s Always Sunny that states that Dennis is actually a serial killer. Most of the evidence for this is how Dennis acts in “Mac is a Serial Killer” and the “D.E.N.N.I.S System.” What do you think of this theory?
Howerton: In my mind, there are very few theories about these characters because I write them. I actually have all the answers. And no, the Waitress is NOT Nikki Potnick.
A few months ago, Ellis did a Reddit AMA, as well, and she answered a question about whether she has a name in mind herself for the Waitress:
I used to fantasize about one day getting a name.
But it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to happen.
I also really love it when people scream “WAITRESS!” at me in public places.
Earlier this year, the show did an amusing (if twisted) video making fun of the secrecy behind the Waitress’ name, as well as the fan theory that her name is Nikki Potnick:
I am willing to trust Howerton on this subject. There doesn’t seem to be a major incentive to lie about it.
So I’m going with the legend as…
Thanks to reader Mark G. for writing in about this one! And thanks to Reddit, Howerton and Ellis for the info!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.