Steve Rannazzisi of ‘The League’ tackles Buffalo - INTERVIEW
blog by Julia Jornsay-Silverberg • March 07, 2013 @ 11:04am
As a fellow Long Island native and a big fan of “The League,” I immediately jumped on the opportunity to speak with him to learn more about what’s in store for his Queen City weekend. I was eager to find out just how Rannazzisi got into comedy and what his experience has been working alongside the tremendously talented crew and cast of “The League.”
Considering he last visited Buffalo as a 6-year-old, Rannazzisi is unfamiliar with the city and excited to see what Buffalo has to offer. Rannazzisi loves to eat, and he told me that he’s looking forward to the chance to chow down on our city’s specialty: wings.
Rannazzisi grew up in Long Island and majored in theater and film at the State University of New York. After graduation, Rannazzisi moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream career in entertainment. He started his career doing stand-up in 2001; after seeing Jay Mohr perform stand-up at Christie’s, he was inspired and thought “hey, I should try this.” After being recognized on stage by Ashton Kutcher at the Comedy Store in West Hollywood, he got his first taste of television success in 2003 as a cast member on MTV’s Punk’d.
Punk’d marked Rannazzisi’s first experience on a set. “It was very much a learning experience which exposed me to the set-life and showed me the importance of all of the various roles on a set. The entire cast and crew knew we were newbies. They were extremely friendly and helpful in teaching me the ropes.”
After a few years playing various roles in TV and film, his casting director set him up to audition for FX’s “The League,” a comedy about a group of tight-knit friends who both bond and quarrel over fantasy football.
“They originally had everyone read for the role of Ruxin,” Rannazzisi recalled. “After I left the audition, I got a call while I was still in the parking lot of the set to come back up to read for the roles of Pete and Kevin.”
After auditioning for both roles, it was clear that Steve Rannazzisi and Katie Aselton, who plays Kevin’s wife Jenny, had great chemistry. Rannazzisi was immediately cast for the role of Kevin.
“The League” was created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Schaffer (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Seinfeld”) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (“Eurotrip”) who serve as executive producers and directors.
“The writing process of ‘The League’ is very similar to ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ in the sense that the creators write most of the episodes by coming up with situations. There is no specific script, just an outline,” said Rannazzisi.
The structure of the show means that each character gets to improvise their own lines. Similarly, the actors have taken little pieces of themselves and built them into their characters, allowing them to act spontaneously while maintaining the voice of their respective characters.
Throughout the four seasons that this ensemble cast has worked together, they have grown to be close friends. They even attended the Super Bowl together! Rannazzisi remarked on what a fun, enjoyable process it is working on the set.
“We work for very long days for four months, so we spend a lot of time together. We have a lot of fun and crack each other up, which I think shows that we’re making good comedy,” Rannazzisi remarked.
Below are a few more highlights from my conversation with Rannazzisi:
• His biggest inspirations for comedy have been actor-comedians such as Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Chris Farley and Bill Cosby.
• His favorite episode of “The League” is Season 1, Episode 4: Mr. McGibblets, which is my personal favorite as well.
• When asked how he is most similar to his character Kevin, Rannazzisi replied, “I’m a father, and I have two kids. I know what it’s like to be in a committed relationship.” The scenes between Kevin and Jenny are very similar to real-life situations that both Steve and Katie have experienced in their own relationships.
• Rannazzisi is a big fan of sports. He plays golf but states that he’s not great at it. He also loves basketball, football and is active in fantasy football. “I’m involved in a few different fantasy leagues: one with my high school buddies and one with the cast and creators of ‘The League,’ which is a total shit-show.”
• In addition to his love of sports, Rannazzisi remarked that he’s a political junkie, loves to travel and enjoys being lazy.
Although Rannazzisi couldn’t give much away about what’s in store for Season 5 of “The League,” he did tell me that he’s currently working on a Comedy Central special which he’s been shooting in New Orleans. His performance this weekend in Buffalo will be a good preview of what the show will be about.
Rannazzisi will perform stand-up this weekend at Buffalo’s Helium Comedy Club on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. General admission tickets range from $17 to $25, and reserved seats range from $22 to $30, depending on the night. Click here to get tickets. It’s bound to be a riot.