After seven glorious seasons, The League is retiring. To discuss pocket dogs, toilet kitchens, eskimo brothers, and a bunch of other long-running jokes that we can’t believe made it onto basic cable, Rotten Tomatoes attended The League finale at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night.
Here’s everything we learned from cast members Paul Scheer (Andre), Katie Aselton (Jenny), Stephen Rannazzisi (Kevin), Jon Lajoie (Taco), Jason Mantzoukas (Rafi), and Rob Huebel (Russell), along with creators Jeff and Jackie Marcus Schaffer.
Rotten Tomatoes asked the cast about their favorite long-running bits, and one that came up again and again is that Rafi has never not called Kevin ‘Brian.’
“I love the fact that Rafi calls me Brian and has done so since the first time, which I think was because Jason didn’t know my character’s name,” Rannazzisi told Rotten Tomatoes. “So he called me Brian and later we told him it was Kevin, and he was like, ‘Oh, I’ll never remember that,’ and it fits Rafi’s character perfectly.”
You would think that anyone could be inside Taco’s Mr. McGibblet costume when his mask is on. Not so. Co-creators Jeff and Jackie Marcus Schaffer have told Lajoie that they can tell when he’s the one inside, so they prefer that Taco do all of his own McGibblets work.
“I hate that thing,” Lajoie admitted. “It is the most uncomfortable hot sweaty thing — it’s like being inside of a grizzly bear’s a–hole.”
The shocking death of Ruxin’s wife, who [spoiler alert] slipped away while getting a vaginal rejuvenation procedure, had been on The League‘s road map for a number of years — the writers were just waiting for the last season to kill off Nadine Velazquez’s character.
As Marcus Schaffer explained it, they wanted to explore how “the most insensitive people in the world help somebody, who is even more insensitive than they are, grieve.”
Rafi, the man who gave us “second harvest” is totally neurotic about germs in real life. In fact, the writers waited until this week to break the news to Mantzoukas that his cocaine toilet seat in the “Going Kluneberg” episode from 2010 wasn’t exactly a brand new toilet seat. “It was… new-er,” Jeff Schaffer told him in the safety of a large crowd.
Though he wasn’t there to defend himself, the consensus from the cast was that if someone is going to break character and start laughing, it’s usually Nick Kroll.
Aselton recalled a scene where they were all playing volleyball and Andre kept asking Ruxin to man up. “I was freezing in a bikini and I was about to kill them,” the actress said. “But there was nothing we could do. Tears were just coming down Nick’s face.”
Lajoie had a separate, though very similar, memory. “We were in a scene and the actor who was playing Rafi’s landlord came in and he mentioned something about a toilet kitchen,” Lajoie remembered. “We had to do it maybe 40 times. It was impossible. Once Nick starts laughing, there’s no stopping it.”
Again, that’s to the beach, not on the beach.
“They made me into a crazy sex addict on the show,” Huebel told Rotten Tomatoes, “so I had to have sex with a lot of inanimate objects [like] cheese. I f— the beach! So, they got some mileage out of that.”
Sadly, the beach scene, like so many others, didn’t make the final cut. According to Jeff Schaffer, the show has about twice as much material as what makes it to air. So much lost gold.
“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes activity that goes on to make sure that I’m not eating gross pocket dogs,” Mantzoukas explained. “They’re always cooking them and then we split them in half and put them in a plastic baggy so they’re not just sitting loose in my pocket because that jacket is disgusting! I’m pulling out something that is usually pretty fresh and in a clean pocket because otherwise it’s too disgusting to even think about. I’m already eating upwards of 15 hot dogs a day at this point.”
That particular brand of late-70s soft rock that put Christopher Cross and Toto on the map is a favorite of Duplass and Rannazzisi.
“Mark Duplass and I like to sing yacht rock songs, like some Gordon Lightfoot stuff,” Rannazzisi admitted. “So on set, we’ll break tension with some really soft, ‘70s divorce music.”
When he was 22, Jeff Schaffer had a friend who used to term “eskimo brothers” to refer to two guys who had slept with the same woman. He wrote it into the show and now it’s in the lexicon.
“Jeff Schaffer was like, ‘It’s a thing,’ and I was like, ‘It’s not a thing. I googled it and couldn’t find anything.'” Lajoie explained to RT. “And since then, sure, it’s everywhere, and this year — not that I was watching it — on The Bachelorette, they were dropping ‘eskimo brothers’ left and right… so it has a life of its own.”
One running gag that Lajoie loves is Rafi calling Pete “tall guy, when he’s not necessarily taller than anyone.”
Jon Lajoie had been working it as a YouTube star, producing his own funny songs, before he was drafted to The League.
“That’s how I was found for this show,” he said. “They were like, ‘Taco already exists. Let’s go get this guy.'”
Some of the songs Taco sings predate Lajioe’s tenure on the show. For instance, the inappropriate little ditty he does at Ellie’s birthday party was already one of Lajoie’s jams!
Most of the pro athletes who appeared in cameos on The League had never acted before, so how did the cast make them comfortable? “Insults and insults,” said Jeff Schaffer. “It was great. [The cast] would make fun of them and then they would be like, ‘Oh, wait,’ and then they would realize they were in a locker room.”
Sometimes the actors’ improv with the athletes would also serve to mortify their fellow cast mates. “We were trying to loosen up Chad Ochocinco,” Rannazzisi explained, “when Ruxin thought it would be a great idea to tell him that Andre didn’t believe that slavery was a real thing,”
The guest star in “Ghost Monkey” was out of control. During the car scene, the monkey got loose and started gnawing at the Mercedes’ visor. Meanwhile, the monkey’s owner, who was hidden in the trunk, told the terrified cast, “Just feed him gummy bears; he likes that.” Apparently, there’s a big difference between a monkey handler and some guy who owns a monkey.
The game of hitting each other in the crotch sent Scheer into a tizzy. “‘God, please don’t let our fans think that this is a way to interact with us, getting hit in the balls,'” Scheer remembered thinking. “We really sat around in a panic the night we shot that episode because people approach us as they know us from the show.”
Not every long-running bit is known to the audience. Jason Mantzoukas tried a number of times to slip in that Rafi was close friends with notorious murderer Joran van der Sloot, sometimes even referring to him as ‘JVS.’ The Schaffers never let it slide — not even once over seven years.
The cast frequently meet people who claim to be huge fans of the show. Such big fans, in fact, that Lajoie is constantly called Nacho instead of Taco, Rannazzisi answers to Kevin, Brian, and Tall Guy, and an alarming number of fans think Rafi’s name is Ralphy. Also, Aselton wants everyone to know that it’s “s–t-sipper,” not “s–t-zipper.”
In the August 2015 issue of Maxin, Gabriella Paiella wrote an ode to Rafi. “Much of Rafi’s immense success as a cult character can be chalked up to Mantzoukas,” she stated. “The League is, by and large, an improvised production — and Mantzoukas is one of the best improvisers in the game. He excels at raising the stakes in each scene and spouting one-liners like ‘I am day drunk. Get ready to see my d–k!’ No other character on television has the ability to make you to laugh so hard while simultaneously wondering ‘what the f— just happened?'”
The crazy thing? Rafi was only written into three episodes of the show, so Mantzoukas knew he had to kill it by making Rafi the worst human being imaginable in his limited screen time.
…And if you’re not sure who it is, you’re the Andre!
The series finale of The League airs tonight on FXX at 10 p.m. Will you be watching?
Even with over 20 new shows premiering in September (not to mention all the existing series returning with new seasons), we can’t blame you for wanting to binge whole seasons of tried-and-true TV. This month, we’ve pulled together a collection of shows for your bingeing pleasure, including some off-the-radar series, and a few biggies that you need to start right now if you want to catch up before they come back!
What it is: A disparate group of people attempts to survive the zombie apocalypse; existential malaise and bloody mayhem ensues.
Why you should watch it: We’re not gonna lie: The Walking Dead has its share of dead patches and dull characters. But the basic setup is so compelling — how would you respond if the whole world went to hell? — that you’re likely to press on regardless. Plus, when it comes to creative zombie slaughter, this show can’t be beat — you get the feeling that every stabbing, every shooting, every beheading has been lovingly conceived and executed by some of the finest craftspeople in the business. Season six premieres on October 11, so you’d better start catching up now!
Commitment: 69 hours.
What it is: American Horror Story is the show that kick-started the recent anthology trend, with shows like Fargo and American Crime picking up the cue. Each season of AHS is its own horror-themed storyline (a haunted house, a demonic asylum, a home-school for young witches, a carnival freak show, and finally, this year, a terrifying hotel), often using the same cast members in different roles.
Why you should watch it: Audiences who scare easily are terrified by it. The rest of us eat it up. The shocks keep coming; if you don’t like one twist, you know there will soon be another jaw-dropper around the corner! And the most intriguing new(ish) development is the unraveling of inter-season stories that are connected with each other (most evident so far in season four). Season five premieres on FX on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Where to watch: All four seasons are available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, and on DVD and Blu-ray. The first three seasons are also available on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix.
Commitment: 55 hours.
What it is: Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) is a criminal defense attorney and professor teaching law students how to defend the accused, while tangling them up in a real-life murder mystery of their own.
Why you should watch it: Viola Davis’ Emmy-nominated performance, mixed with the twisty drama stylings of Shondaland Productions (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) will deliver a barrage of riveting mystery right into your lap. A darker tone than Grey’s and Scandal, HTGAWM has surprised audiences with its unrelenting, austere tone, permeated with intense character drama. With the premiere of its second season coming up on September 24, you should have enough time to run through season one before things heat up again.
Commitment: 10.5 hours.
What it is: Bob and Linda Belcher run a restaurant with the help of children Tina, Gene, and Louise. Between the funeral home next door, a relentless health inspector, the children’s misadventures, and Bob‘s unreliable business strategies, the restaurant is always struggling to stay open.
Why you should watch it: Bob’s Burgers is a funny animated sitcom full of satirical and absurd situations that works both as a family and a workplace comedy. All the main characters have strong and quirky personalities, and you will quickly find yourself picking favorites. Even though the show received mixed reviews when it came out in 2011, it won critics’ praise over the time, and currently has two seasons at 100% on the Tomatometer. Season six premieres on September 27.
Commitment: 33 hours.
What it is: A man is framed by an organization known as “The Company” and sentenced to death for murdering the brother of the Vice President of the United States. His own brother then devises an elaborate plan to have himself thrown into the same prison in order to break them both out.
Why you should watch it: The show was nominated for several awards when it first premiered in 2005, including a Golden Globe for Best Television Series Drama, and is now enjoying a second life thanks to its popularity on Netflix. No matter how outrageous the plot in Prison Break, you can’t help but root for the siblings as they fight for their freedom in and out of prison over four seasons. Plus, Fox recently announced a forthcoming reboot, so now is the perfect time to lock yourself up with Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.
Commitment: 56 hours.
What it is: A Chicago-set ensemble comedy about five guys (Mark Duplass, Stephen Rannazzisi, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, and Jon Lajoie) and one gal (Katie Aselton) whose obsession with fantasy football begets hilarious trash-talk, outrageous deceit, and harebrained schemes.
Why you should watch it: In a lot of ways, The League is a throwback to ’90s network sitcoms about wacky friends — only it’s been updated with the raunchiness of an FX comedy. Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm alum Jeff Schaffer created The League along with his wife, Jackie Marcus Schaffer, so you can expect intricately woven — and often absurdly conceived — plots with heavily improvised interplay skewering pop culture, friendship, parenting, sex, religion, drugs, and, of course, insane football fandom.
Commitment: 27 hours.
What it is: Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a bipolar CIA agent, works overtime to prevent a terrorist attacks on American soil.
Why you should watch it: If ever there was a series that consistently left you with your mouth agape in shock at the end — and sometimes, even in the middle — of each episode, this is it. Homeland is often unbearably tense, not just because of its national security plotlines, but also because of the personalities (and often opaque motives) of its characters, who are played with aplomb by Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, and Rupert Friend. If you really put your mind to it, you might be able to get caught up before season five premieres on October 4.
Commitment: 48 hours.
What it is: Difficult People is a new comedy on Hulu, executive produced by Amy Poehler. Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner star as struggling performers in New York who hate just about everyone, except each other.
Why you should watch it: Critics say the show succeeds in making the unlikable likable with mean-spirited, unhappy characters who can’t help but amuse. A talented supporting cast and an impressive array of guest spots and cameos keep the laughs up and the cringes to a minimum. Plus, Difficult People is Certified Fresh at 85 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s airing right now.
Where to watch: Difficult People is available exclusively on Hulu.
Commitment: 2.5 hours currently (new episodes are available on Wednesdays), so not difficult at all.
What it is: Robert Taylor is gruff and gritty as Sheriff Walt Longmire, a complicated hero who dutifully fights the bad guys in big sky Wyoming, following the tradition of screen cowboys John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
Why you should watch it: Blending case-of-the-week with a slow-burning multi-season arc, Longmire is the strong, silent type, thanks to fine acting from its leads — Taylor, whose character is coming to grips with his wife’s death; Katee Sackhoff as the mysterious deputy sheriff Vic Moretti; and Lou Diamond Phillips as Walt’s good friend Henry Standing Bear. Axed by A&E after three seasons (and a humdinger of a cliffhanger), Longmire will return for a fourth season on Netflix on Thursday, September 10.
Commitment: 25 hours.
What it is: Supernatural is a fantasy horror show on The CW that follows the Winchester brothers (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) as they battle vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts and other monsters from the supernatural world.
Why you should watch it: The series enjoys an obsessive cult following, and the show seems to keep picking up speed like a 1967 Impala. Nine of its 10 seasons (all the ones that have a score) are Fresh on the Tomatometer, which is a credit to its consistency. Season 11 premieres on October 7, so if you binge like a bat out of hell, you might be able to catch up.
Where to watch: Seasons one through 10 are available on Amazon, Google Play, Hulu, Netflix, PlayStation, Vudu, and Xbox. Seasons one through nine are available in a DVD or Blu-ray box set, and season ten is on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Commitment: Hopefully watching 215 hours of demon-hunting doesn’t scare you away.