By Jay (of MastersOfNone.com)
Comedian and actor Steve Rannazzisi plays Kevin on FX’s improv-heavy fantasy football comedy The League alongside other heavyweight comedian/actors like Nick Kroll and Jon Lajoie. And after seeing his act at the beautiful new Levity Live comedy club in West Nyack, NY, it’s clear that he can certainly hold his own with them on the stand-up stage as well. In between tales of parenting, stoned pizza guys and marriage woes, Rannazzisi dutifully worked the room like it was a gathering of friends who were sharing war stories. We caught up with him before the show. And what’s that? You can hear the full interview at Masters Of None.
Everyone knows you as Kevin from The League, but I don’t think a lot of folks know you as a stand-up yet, I haven’t seen a lot of interviews with you or seen you doing the whole podcast circuit. Is that a selective thing or have you not gotten to it yet?
I’m sort of, not selective, but the podcast thing is sort of new so if you do one, you’ve gotta do a million, so I’ve done Maron’s and Rogen’s and a couple others here and there. As far as stand-up is concerned, I’ve been doing it 10 years, but I’ve been busy doing other things so I haven’t had a chance to go out on the road and explore this hour, but now it’s pretty good and I’m going to film it for a special and I’m excited about that.
The second season of The League kind of blew up. What’s the number one thing people come up to you on the street and ask you concerning The League?
I get asked to Shiva Blast [yelling the namesake of the fantasy football trophy] on a daily basis and I get asked fantasy football advice constantly. I’ve had more hot Jager-breath conversations with 28-year-old drunk guys than anyone should have to put up with in their lives. And I tell people what I think, I mean, I’m pretty good at fantasy football, but I’m not an expert, so I just give them my advice and say, “Please don’t kill my family if it doesn’t work out.”
People love the show, but there have been times like when I was in a packed Macy’s once with my three-year-old son and some guy yells out, “Show me your pretty dick!” And I’m not going to respond to that, whether you’re a fan or not. It’s inappropriate. So it is great, and there are some downsides, but I take them in stride.
Speaking of having a three-year-old yourself, your life kind of parallels the character you play on the show, what with the young family. And I know you guys improv a lot of the things you say, so how many things have you said on the show are things you wish you could say at home?
What’s cool about the show is that not only is it improvised but the woman who plays my wife on the show, Katie Aselton, is married in real life to another actor on the show, Mark Duplass. So now when we do scenes together, especially arguing scenes, we say to each other literally what we want to say to our real spouses but just don’t have the balls to say it. So it’s like free therapy– actually I get paid to go to therapy.
What does he think about the scenes where you guys have to make out or be in bed?
Oh, I think he’s fine with that. It’s not as strange when it’s just her and I, it’s a little weird when we’re all in the bar or something and she has to come over and just kiss me hello, but at this point we’re all insestual, I mean Nick Kroll’s punched me in the balls, I’ve kissed my brother on the cheek, so it’s like we’ve all had sex with each other at some point.
You’re from Long Island, so are you a Jets or Giants fan?
Giants fan, and I’m just now starting to believe in Eli Manning, that’s how pessimistic I am. I think during the Super Bowl I called him a mouth-breathing dummy, because I have no confidence in him, whatsoever.
Once he gets that third Super Bowl MVP, you’ll feel OK with him?
Yes, once he gets five, I”ll be good with that. I packed last season in during game one when they lost to the fucking Redskins. I tweeted out in the first half of the first game, “I wish my dick was as long as this season is going to feel for Giants fans.” And I was wrong.
So your dick is both short and pretty.
It’s a beautiful cock.
With The League taking place in Chicago, does everyone expect you guys to be all from Chicago?
They think we shoot in Chicago, which we don’t; we’ve never shot a scene in Chicago, but there’s a famous steakhouse in Chicago called Gibson’s, and someone along the line thought it would be a good idea to sell us the rights to their outside awning, and the bar that we shoot the show in is a shit hole in Los Angeles and I feel bad because we just basically piss all over Gibson’s and their fine reputation by just being filthy inside this really nice establishment. But they’re very nice people at Gibson’s, they’ve comped me many times.
So the first big thing you did was Punk’d right?
Yeah, that was 2003. They just started airing the first season and they wanted to get started on the second season right away, so they came to the Comedy Store [in LA] and were looking for people and there were people being assholes in the audience and I was putting fires out and I guess they liked the way I worked off the cuff, so they asked me to come in and meet with Mr. Kutcher and it was good. Tracy Morgan was the first one I ever did. His boy showed me a gun during it!
I had to sign a piece of paper. My wife didn’t know where I was, they were like, “You have to be so down low on this, you can’t tell anybody what you’re doing or where you are.” So, I’m doing the Punk’d and one of Tracy’s boys lifted up his shirt and he didn’t like pull the gun out, but he’s like ‘I have a gun, I’m not gonna use it, but I have a gun’ and then I thought back that this guy could have shot me and they could’ve put me in a Dumpster somewhere and that would’ve been it.
So you’ve been doing stand-up 10 years. Since the show hit, how has the stand-up been affected by it?
My confidence is through the roof, but my material still stinks. I think I’m way better than I am. No, um, it’s great, I mean, in the beginning 20 percent of the people came because they knew who you were, now it’s like 50 percent, but there’s more pressure now because they brought the other 50 percent, so there’s pressure on me and them because the other people are like, ‘Who are we going to see?’ One girl one time thought I was on Glee. I’m 34 years old, who would I play on Glee? I told her I played the retarded pedophile janitor and I teach a lesson once a week, ‘Don’t come in this closet!’ and I close the door.
When are you filming the next season?
Sometime in August and I think we’ll premiere a little later this year, sometime in October. Fourth season, very excited.
Do you guys have any kind of…
Moral compass? No.
No, but it seems like you’re always kind of on top of what’s going on in the NFL somehow. Do you make educated guesses or film extra takes?
We always have a schedule in front of us, we always know who’s playing who, so we guesstimate, it’s literally like fantasy football, we guesstimate on who’s going to have a big year and we always do a take on the back so if we need to, like if someone gets hurt, we can always go into a sound session and just be like “LARRY FITZGERALD” and then you’ll hear like, “What, I can’t believe LARRY FITZGERALD caught that pass!” So it works out.
It seems like the show was pitched as a fantasy football comedy but it was just an excuse to have a great show the way it is, fantasy football is kind of in the background.
Yeah, we get a lot of women that come up and say they don’t really know anything about football but they enjoy the show just for the comedy. And we say you don’t really need to know a lot about football to enjoy the show, you just need to have friends you hate. That’s what people really gravitate to– that kind of camaraderie and the way we do it with no set lines, it’s very conversational and that’s what people like.
Photo by Anastasia Nora-Lee