As one of the stars on the FXX sitcom "The League," Steve Rannazzisi is slowly making a name for himself in the world of comedy and beyond. The actor and comedian is now touring to promote his recently released Comedy Central special, "Manchild," and will perform a pair of shows at the Wilbur Theatre on Friday, Feb. 28. Rannazzisi spoke on the phone recently with Boston.com about the upcoming sixth season of "The League," this weekend's show in Boston, and more.
Boston.com: Fans know you best as Kevin MacArthur, the former fantasy football commissioner on FXX’s “The League.” Are you a big football fan in real life?
Steve Rannazzisi: I am a pretty big football fan. I was before the show started, and I continue to be throughout. I’m a Giants fan because I’m a New Yorker, so that’s where my loyalties are. Getting to do the show, I get to go to different games and stadiums – Cowboys games and Chargers games – so it’s getting a look at all the different teams in football.
Boston.com: So you’re a New York fan, but since you are coming to Boston, what are your thoughts on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots?
Rannazzisi: It’s amazing to me how every year that team goes through injuries, goes through – even this year with scandals – and it’s like, they still are in the AFC Championship game. It’s unbelievable to me how [Bill] Belichick and Brady just pull it out every year. It reminded me of the Joe Torre-Derek Jeter thing for many, many years. It was just two guys at the top of their game and connecting on a level that no one else can. You can’t mess with it.
Boston.com: On “The League,” you’ve had a ton of big name guest stars on the show, like Seth Rogen, and a who’s who list of NFL players. Which memorable stars have you enjoyed working with the most?
Rannazzisi: First of all, Seth Rogen, he’s so interested in the show. This year, he wanted to write an episode with just him and Rafi, Jason Mantzoukas’s character, and they did that together and he just loved hanging out. And that’s his style of comedy, that improvising, you know – say-what-you-want-in-the-moment-style of comedy. Getting to work with him was a real pleasure because he’s one of the best in the business. That being said, it’s amazing to get to work with football players like J.J. Watts. This guy was incredible this year. He’s an athlete, 24, and he doesn’t take himself too serious, which is great.
Boston.com: You have so many funny cast members on the show like Nick Kroll and Paul Scheer. What’s it like working with them?
Rannazzisi: Nick’s the worst. Paul’s a monster. And Katie [Aselton] and Mark [Duplass] aren’t really married in real life. They’re not. They just say they are for the press. They’re not. No, they’re wonderful people and getting to go to work with them every day is awesome.
Boston.com: You talked about the improvisational style of comedy. How much of that factors into “The League?”
Rannazzisi: We work off a very detailed outline that our writers come up with, usually about 12 pages long. But each scene is broken down into just some situation that’s going on and what they want to get accomplished. So there’s not really specific lines, per se, within the scene as to who says what when. We improvise the scene as we see fit and then kind of use that as a guide. The more times we do the take, we feel like adding something or going off in a different direction, we’re allowed to do that. So, we do have a huge freedom on the show and I feel like that conversational style is what draws a lot of the male audience in, too, because that’s the way guys talk to each other, you know, the way we speak to each other on the show.
Boston.com: I know you’re a seasoned comedian and studied theater in college, but do you have any improv training as well?
Rannazzisi: When I moved out to Los Angeles, I started taking classes at the Groundlings, which is pretty world famous for improvising stars – Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy to name a few. And those guys were teachers when I was going to school there, and I just came to learn from them and that school. It’s so distinguished. I was also a stand-up comedian and am a stand-up comedian – obviously – so working off the crowd I did a lot of improvising and messing with the crowd, so I get to do that every night, which was fun.
Boston.com: What made you want to get into comedy and the world of stand-up?
Rannazzisi: It was sort of hand-in-hand when I got out of college. I enjoyed doing comedies as plays in college and then when I got out, I wanted to perform every night and I wanted to get on a stage of some sort every night. And I see a stand-up comedian and I had written some jokes in college and I wanted to try them out. I went to an open mic and then kind of got bit. Just kept going back and back and exhausting all my friends that I could bring for bringer shows and then trying to get booked on other people’s shows. Then I moved to Los Angeles and got a job at the Comedy Store, so that was it. When you work there, you’re there every night, and you’re performing every night. So getting to be in that place, that was like stand-up comedy college for me.
Boston.com: Which actors or performers inspired you to take the stage?
Rannazzisi: Bill Murray, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell – I mean, these are movies that I’d watch over and over and over again. And then stand-up wise, I really, really love Louis C.K. and Jim Gaffigan. And just in the 15 years when I started, they were just really getting great. Dave Attell is one of the best. Bill Burr. So those guys, when you watch them and they’re so funny. They have so much new material every time, it makes you want to be better.
Boston.com: Outside of “The League,” what other projects have you been working on?
Rannazzisi: I’m looking to develop my own sitcom, whether I’m in it or not, so I’ve got that on the burner right now. Doing the tour. Thinking about doing some more. I have this web series called “Daddy Knows Best,” which is pretty popular on Youtube. Got a couple million hits so I might do some more of those. And then auditioning for other stuff. So yeah, I’ve been keeping busy.
Plus I got a family dragging me to the bottom of the ocean like an anchor.
Boston.com: I was going to say, how do you balance life as a family man with shooting and touring?
Rannazzisi: It’s a blessing when I get to go on the road. No, my wife is home with my two boys and she has a much harder job than I do. We do it together, we figure it out. I kind of get in the way a lot, so it’s best that I’m on the road.
Boston.com: Now “The League” is heading into its sixth season on FXX. What can you tell us about the upcoming season?
Rannazzisi: We just got together at the Super Bowl and that was the first time we’ve seen each other since we wrapped. And we just kicked around some ideas and started talking about season six and we’re going to get into it soon. So we’ll start to write and the creatives will start to write and it will start up again some time in the middle of July. it depends on when we start airing next year, which is usually late August. We’ll start around the middle of July.
Boston.com: Are there any guest stars you’d like to have on this upcoming season or in future seasons?
Rannazzisi: Yeah, we talked about it. Paul Scheer wants Richard Sherman to be our new head writer, which I’m down for. I want Peyton [Manning] on the show. I wanted him a lot because he’s super funny and he doesn’t take himself too serious. But now I want him on the show just to explain what the hell happened. Like honestly, what happened?
Boston.com: Yeah, what did you think of his performance at this year’s Super Bowl?
Rannazzisi: I was there and I had a great time, but, it was like, the Super Bowl and being there is a different experience. We did have seats right on the Broncos' endzone, which saw zero action. So we were usually staring right for most of the game. For us, it was awesome. But I guess for the viewer, it probably stunk.
Boston.com: Now, for people who may not be familiar with your work, what can they expect from your show when it comes to Boston?
Rannazzisi: I have a big dance number where I do full frontal nudity at the end. That’s big. That’s my Michael Fassbender. It’s big in every way, my friend. But no, sarcasm, silly, family, drugs – there’s a little bit of something for everyone. At some point, you’ll probably laugh really, really hard, and some point, you might be either disgusted or offended by something I say. Where you end on that spectrum, it’s not up to me.
Will you see Rannazzisi at the Wilbur Theatre on Friday, Feb. 28?
Stephanie Callahan is a native Bostonian who loves cooking, traveling, spa treatments, and being on the ocean.
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