TV URBAN LEGEND: The comedy “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia” revealed the real name of the Waitress.
One of the things I’ve found over the years writing Legends Revealed is that people are really interested in the origins of famous or unusual names, such as those of bands like Pearl Jam , AC/DC and Stone Temple Pilots. However, what seems to pique curiosity the most is when a character's name is hidden from the audience.
Many people were obsessed with the mystery of Kramer's first name on “Seinfeld,” and a lot of folks are now fixated on the name of the Waitress on the FX/FXX comedy “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Except for the main cast, the Waitress, played by actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis, is the character to appear in 10 ten seasons of the show so far (Ellis is married to executive producer Charlie Day, who also plays "Charlie”). One of the recurring jokes is how none of the main characters seems to know the Waitress' real name – not even Charlie, who’s been pursuing her for more than a decade.
Reader Mark G. wrote in with a popular fan theory about the Waitress: that her name was actually subtly revealed in an episode of the series. Read on to see if it’s true!
Like the rest of the regular characters on “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the Waitress is a mess. She’s 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. That’s 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 characters in the two-part season finale, "High School Reunion." Once there (drunk, of course), she discovers there’s 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 she will have sex with the next person to talk with her. The obsessed Charlie is so stunned that he can’t say anything, and she ends up going off 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.
Earlier in the episode, before the Waitress arrives at the reunion, Frank (played by Danny DeVito) shows up to crash the event, because he feels left out due to the fact that he's much older than the rest of the gang (and, of course). He takes the name tag of a woman named Nikki Potnick. So when the Waitress shows up and is unable to find her name tag, naturally enough, some fans figured that was a subtle revelation of her real name.
After the episode aired, and the fan theory first began to surface, Howerton (who’s also one of the show's main writers) tweeted:
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 the Season 1 episode "Underage Drinking: A National Concern," the gang discovers that a number of teens have been drinking at the bar. While they’re initially appalled, they then decide they have a responsibility to the teens to give them a safe place to drink, as they remember what it was like in high school. 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, but they don’t recall the Waitress’. His tweet did not stop the theory, however, as people argued, "Maybe they just forget that the Waitress and Nikki Potnick are the same person."
Howerton addressed the theory again in 2013 during 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 participated in a Reddit AMA, as well, and she answered a question about whether she has a name in mind herself for the Waitress:
I don't.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 email@example.com.
Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music.