In 2009, FX debuted The League, a sitcom created by Jeff Schaffer (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and starring a slew of familiar faces. The show’s subject matter was highly relatable — five friends competing in a fantasy football league. However, these five friends will do literally anything in their power to sabotage their opponents in order to win their league trophy, “The Shiva.”
While the series’ main focus was predominantly fantasy football, it’s evolved into something much more. With an immensely talented cast, terrific writing, and hilarious recurring gags; The League has become one of the best-kept secrets on television. At the 2014 New York Comic Con, the cast and creators sat down with us to discuss the show, which is currently in the middle of its sixth season and talked about the future of The League.
One of the most relatable characters on the show is Kevin MacArthur played by the hilarious Stephen Rannazzisi. Kevin is the commissioner of the gang’s fantasy football league and is also married to Jenny (Katie Aselton). Nothing seems to ever go right for Kevin. He isn’t where he wants to be in his career. His manhood is always being questioned by his friends and father-in-law. Worst of all he currently has “The Ruxin,” which is given to the worst team at the end of the season. It doesn’t help that his wife is the current league champion, which he is constantly reminded of on a daily basis. The trials and tribulations of Kevin are one of the biggest draws to The League. Whether he is trying to get out of doing things with his wife and kids or involuntarily going to the bathroom in appropriate locations; Kevin is always making bad decisions and it is one of the many reasons I tune in ever Wednesday to watch The League.
While promoting the latest season at New York Comic Con, we spoke with Stephen Rannazzisi about playing Kevin, getting called many different names in public, improvising with NFL players, and avoiding calling his son Chalupa Batman.
So how does it feel to have your balls grabbed?
[Laughs] Which time? What are we talking about? It happens all the time. Either that or I am diarrhea-ing myself. One or the other. Which time are you talking about?
The one from “Breast Awareness Month.” Where Andre does it
Andre. It’s so tough doing those scenes with Paul because he’s so vulnerable and likeable and you’re just like “come on man.” He just wants to make it a moment or a thing and it’s like “Can we just get this over with?” I don’t think I have had pants on at all this year, like very little have I had wardrobe pants. I’ve been wearing thongs because at one point I’m wearing my underwear, I wear boxer-briefs, and they came over to me after their meeting and they were like “It’s too much money in editing to get the boxer-brief out so you need to start wearing these thongs.” So whenever we do these scenes I have to wear a man thong and we shoot in L.A. for Chicago I’m jacketed up. I told them to set them on fire when we are done, just burn them alive.
How much improv happens on set?
A lot. There’s detailed outlines to each episode, but they are broken down in to ten or twelve pages of where we are going to go and the structure of the show, but within each scene it sort of like here’s where we start, here’s where we get to, here’s the things that can happen, but for the most part go out and do it and see what it’s like.
How does that work with NFL players?
Most athletes are taught, “Hey get in here, know your lines, know what you’re doing, know the product you are selling or whatever it is.” It works reverse on our show. Just be yourself and as long as they have the ability to not take themselves seriously, those are the guys that do really well on our show. Like J.J. Watt, each year he comes back and gets better. This year, Nick [Kroll] was improvising with him and he came back and said something to Nick and all of us were like ‘J.J.’s done some training in the off-season.’ You can’t take yourself too seriously, you have to play along with it.
Rafi has been calling you Brian forever. Now you have finally acknowledged it.
My inner Brian.
Why have you never really corrected Rafi?
We did in the beginning, but obviously he’s never going to listen. He calls Pete [Mark Duplass] “Tall Guy.” In the beginning, the first couple episodes I was like, ‘I’m going to correct him and then I’m like well now I’m not. Every week I’m going to correct him?’ But now people on the street call me Brian. [Laughs]
So they don’t even call you by your character’s real name?
No, no they don’t call me Steve ever. They call me Kevin or Brian, or “Pretty Dick.”
Oftentimes on the show you say horrible things in front of your fake daughter. Do you ever worry about what you say in front of her?
We use to do that, but she’s Dave Foley’s daughter so she grew up in a household that understood the nature of jokes, but I do remember the one episode we were doing the SACKO episode and we had the SACKO outside and we kept feeding her things like say Jew fort and she would yell out “Welcome to the Jew fort,” but she had fun with it guys! She’s like twelve-years0old now and smarter than the rest of us. It’s incredible. She’s like a girl now. When we started the show she was a little girl. She’s now a filth savant.
Jenny hasn’t accepted Chalupa Batman’s real name, but it seems like your character has. Will he grow up as “CB?”
I think CB will be the happy compromise for us. I think she would like to obviously call him Christopher, but I feel like CB is a happy marriage. I can get away with my wife and if I slip in front of my friends they aren’t going to break my chops. CB is a happy middle ground.
They always correct you too, which is the best part.
“Oh you mean Chalupa.” Oh yeah. Got it. Chalupa.
Check out our interviews with: Nick Kroll, Jon Lajoie and Mark Duplass. The League airs Wednesdays on FXX.