To prepare for the final season of The League, FXX’s raunchy comedy about a fantasy football league of terrible, terrible people starring Steve Rannazzisi (Kevin) Katie Aselton (Jenny), Mark Duplass (Pete), Paul Scheer (Andre), Nick Kroll (Ruxin), and Jon Lajoie (Taco), Rotten Tomatoes chatted by phone with Rannazzisi about what’s in store.
Rannazzisi, whose stand-up special Breaking Dad airs on Comedy Central on September 19, explained what’s coming for Kevin in the final season of The League when it premieres tonight, what some of his favorite running gags have been over seven years, and why you should probably stop asking him for fantasy football advice.
Sarah Ricard for Rotten Tomatoes: Are you ever surprised with what you guys get away with? Have you rehearsed things and been like, ‘Oh my God. There is just no way this is going to get through,’ and then it does?
Steve Rannazzisi: We did an episode called “Vaginal Hubris” and there was a dinner table conversation with Ruxin, Sophia, and a couple of people, and basically Katie [Aselton’s] character Jenny talks about how positive she is that Kevin would never leave her because she has confidence in her p–sy. She keeps saying ‘p–sy’ and we were like, ‘Are we going to do a take where she doesn’t say p–sy?’ And they were like, ‘No, she can say whatever she wants.’ And I’m thinking, ‘‘P–sy confidence’ or ‘Vaginal Hubris’ is never going to make it on television,’ and it did. And then I was like, ‘Oh, we can do whatever we want.’ We’ve never had a note about, “Maybe you guys should try to change this.’ It’s always been about time. All of our arguments have ever been about, like, ‘We need 30 more seconds to get this bit in.’ It’s never been an issue of ‘try not to say this,’ or ‘try a different version of that’. We pretty much come out unscathed so it’s been a blessing.
Rotten Tomatoes: Has there ever been a person like a great aunt or somebody who you didn’t want to see the show because it was so filthy?
Rannazzisi: My mom doesn’t watch the show. My brother’s a priest, and my mom is a pretty religious person… I mean, she doesn’t talk bad about it. She’ll go ‘How was your [show?]’ and she’ll just glaze over it. I know she doesn’t know what happened on the show… but I think she likes the fact that she gets to tell her friends that I play a lawyer on television and that’s enough for her. Like it’s Law & Order or some procedural where I’m solving crimes.
Rotten Tomatoes: Was that ever a thought that crossed your mind? Like, ‘Oh, geez, how do I do a show that my family can’t even really watch?’
Rannazzisi: No. The one thing that crossed my mind was… the episode where I lose in the playoffs and I have this outburst on the front lawn where I smash the manger and I kick everything. So that was the one where I was like, ‘I think they may have a problem with this one.’ I’m pretty sure I told my brother and my mom not to watch this episode because at one point Ellie turns to me and says, ‘What are you doing to Santa Claus? You’re ruining the manger,’ and I turn and say, ‘There’s no Santa Claus. There’s no God. There’s no nothing, okay?’ I keep saying these horrible things to a little girl on television. Yeah, this is the one I’m going to make sure my parents don’t watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: I got to see your stand-up special and there’s definitely a little overlap between Steve and Kevin.
Ranazzisi: I talk about what I do and what I know and, right now, I’ve got a wife and two kids, so that’s what I’m primarily talking about. But for me, there is a little bit of overlap and Kevin is a version of myself — I don’t care nearly as much about fantasy, obviously — but I can get a little bit dramatic over things and I can get a little overzealous in certain situations. So it’s things like that that I take out of me and put into Kevin. I mean, when you look at it on paper, the people that come to my stand-up show and expect to see Kevin MacArthur are not disappointed. It’s not like I’m out there doing prop comedy.
There is an element of dealing with annoying people which is similar to the show… but I am not nearly as crazy as Kevin MacArthur.
Rotten Tomatoes: The characters on The League seem to have an issue separating fantasy from reality sometimes. Do you ever come across fans of the show that just cannot accept that you are not Kevin?
Rannazzisi: Yes. On an hourly basis. All over social media, I get either an invitation to be in someone’s fantasy league, a direct question about who should be drafted and at what point, or who to start when, or how much do I know about fantasy football? Every hour, I get questions like that.
Rotten Tomatoes: Who wouldn’t want Kevin’s advice on fantasy football?
Rannazzisi: That’s what I’m saying. People just see you on a show about fantasy football and they assume you know. They should be talking to my wife. Jenny knows. Anyhow, it gets a little bit crazy, especially this time of year when fantasy football starts, every time. I am a fan of fantasy football. I watch football every Sunday. I play fantasy. I played before I started doing the show and probably will continue to play after. I am a novice fantasy football player. People expect me to be an expert and I don’t even think there are such things as experts — even though there are technically experts. So I just give my advice. I give my opinion if I feel like it and I say, ‘Don’t murder my family when I’m wrong,’ because, nine times out of ten, I’m wrong.
Rotten Tomatoes: It seems like the NFL has been pretty cool with you guys in terms of you talking about the them and having their athletes on your show. Is there a relationship the show and the NFL?
Rannazzisi: No, not like an official relationship. I mean, in the first couple of years, we had to beg people to be on our show… it wasn’t an easy sell because no one knew what it was. They knew it was a comedy and didn’t know how they were going to be portrayed. But, as the show picked up steam and people started hearing about it, the pendulum started swinging to the other side, where now we’re going to the Super Bowl each year and players come up to us and say, ‘Oh, I love the show and I’d love to be on it.’ So, they’re now kind of pitching us ideas. We don’t have an official sponsorship with the NFL, but I feel like we’ve been more accepted then we were before.
Rotten Tomatoes: Over seven seasons, The League has certainly been rich with running jokes. Do you have any favorites?
Rannazzisi: Taco tries to kiss Kevin sometimes and that’s a pretty awkward running joke that we have. Ruxin loves that Kevin and Pete are gay for each other… even though it’s really just one continuous gay joke and in poor taste. It just never really gets old that Pete and Kevin sort of have a true love for each other.
The way Paul Scheer thought of his clothing and who Andre is as a person is the richest running joke on the show, I think – one that continues every day to give us more fodder for fun. Paul is one of the best improvisers in the world and you would think that after seven years, he’d had run out of ways and be like ‘Guys, stop joshing about my clothes,’ but every time he comes with a different excuse for why he wears what, and who else was wearing that, and how it’s in, and that we should be wearing it as well.”
Rotten Tomatoes: I think about the way you guys pick on each other’s physical qualities because it’s not just the character at that point. Like when someone calls you Teen Wolf, there’s something about it that’s mean to the actor.
Rannazzisi: As we’re worried about each other, we’re also picking each other apart in our own minds. Then once we have the freedom to be able to go, ‘Okay, everybody is comfortable here,’ I’m gonna say this. We improvise the show and it gets a big laugh because most of us understand that there are aspects about each other that are funny and it’s all done in a kidding fashion. So when we talk about Paul having clear hair he doesn’t even get upset. He understands the situation.
Rotten Tomatoes: What can you tease for your character in season seven?
Rannazzisi: Kevin wants to win really, really bad. So much so that he and Jenny in their own household, have spoken about having another baby. Kevin is sort of on board about having another baby, but Jenny does not want to have another baby, so we decide we are not going to have another baby. But how do we prevent this? One of us has got to get snipped or one of us has got to get our tubes tied. So Kevin and Jenny in typical Kevin-and-Jenny fashion have decided that this year, whoever finishes better or possibly wins the Shiva [can have] the other person get snipped or tied. That’s how we’re going to choose.
Kevin truly wants to win the championship this year because not only does he not want to lose to his wife or his friends anymore, but he definitely doesn’t want to have an invasive vasectomy surgery. So this is a big year for Kevin.
Rotten Tomatoes: That sounds about right.
Rannazzisi: When your balls are literally on the line, you tend to go all out.
The League returns for its seventh and final season tonight at 10 p.m. on FXX. Read reviews here.