Another unique aspect of “The Nightman Cometh” is how it was filmed. The scenes of the play itself were all done as an actual play with a real audience, while all the behind-the-curtain drama was filmed separately. “I wanted it to exist as a full theater piece,” said the episode’s director, Matt Shakman. “So I brought in 100 background performers who had no idea what they were about to watch and told the guys, ‘Just do it all the way through.'”
“The audience didn’t have any context, so I remember a lot of confused faces as we were performing,” Rob McElhenny added. “People [who weren’t familiar with the show] were wondering why it was funny … But I always go back to Glenn and Charlie; if they’re still laughing, then I know it’s funny.”
The episode was such a hit that in 2009, the cast did a live performance of the episode in multiple cities across the country. This time around, the audience was fully on board, singing along and cheering on the actors as they delivered their many now-iconic lines. The best part was Charlie’s proposal song at the end, where he one-ups his performance from the episode by throwing in a random, perfectly-delivered harmonica solo. Day described the experience as an “adrenaline rush,” and a highlight of his career.
“When you’re making television, aside from someone coming up to you at the airport or something, you don’t really know the impact of your show. You never have a large crowd of people screaming or singing along,” Day explained. “It was a glimpse into what it was like to be a rock star for a minute, to have people singing your songs, and a really raucous crowd interacting with us.”