Interview with ‘The League’ star, Steve Rannazzisi, about his Comedy Central standup special ‘Manchild’

Steve Rannazzisi plays Kevin MacArthur, the hapless fantasy football league manager on FXX’s (formerly FX’s) hit comedy series, “The League,” currently wrapping up its fifth season, airing on Wednesdays at 10:30pm. Rannazzisi, as Kevin, plays a dad, a familiar role the actor and standup comedian, who has also created his own web series, “Daddy Knows Best,” where he plays the lead, and a familiar topic, as being a parent is a rich source of material in his Comedy Central special, “Steve Rannazzisi: Manchild,” which premiered on Saturday, November 16th. Last week, Comedy Central made “Steve Rannazzisi: Manchild” available as a $5 download in HD formatted for both computer and mobile devices.
Recorded at the Civic Theater in New Orleans, Rannazzisi takes on the trials and tribulations of parenting, fame, and his own immaturiy in his debut hour for Comedy Central. Preview clips of the full, unabridged and uncensored hour are available for free at CC: Stand-Up Direct. Between November and May of 2014, Rannazzisi will be touring in support of the album with tour dates across the country.
We had the chance to catch up with Rannazzisi the afternoon before the TV premiere of his special and he gave us some excellent insight on his sources of material as well as the process of bringing the special to light.
Monsters and Critics: You recorded “Steve Rannazzisi: Manchild” in New Orleans, a fun place to visit, but not a place really known for a huge comedy scene.
Steve Rannazzisi: I know [comedian] Sean Patton is from down there and we have a mutual friend who told me that there’s an open mic scene but not an actual comedy club scene which is why I had never performed down there before. When they told me where the show was going to be recorded I was really excited, because nobody there would have seen my act, plus, they have a football team with very passionate fans and I tend to draw those people because of [“The League”].
Monsters and Critics: In your special you mention you mention your work on “The League” and how you are are sometimes inappropriately approached by these football-oriented fans.
Steve Rannazzisi: When I got to LA I became friends with Dice [Andrew Dice Clay] when I was working the door at The Comedy Store. He would tell me these crazy stories about when he’d be out with his kids, and if you know Dice you know that he’s a really wonderful Dad. He would tell me stories about going through a Vegas casino with his children, and people would shout these really horrible filthy things at him, and granted, he does warrant some of that because of the persona he created, but these people would yell this stuff even after they saw that he was with his young children and that didn’t stop them at all. They just intentionally would blast him and his kids with these profane statements. He would tell me these stories about that and I would say “I could only hope that I could get big enough one day for people to yell stuff out at me in front of my kids” but now I see exactly what he’s talking about.
Monsters and Critics: So people just yell stuff at you, do you think it’s an American thing to be inappropriate in public like that?
Steve Rannazzisi: I don’t know if it’s an American thing but I’ll tell you, I hang out a lot with Jason Mantzoukas, who plays Rafi on the show, and he elicits a visceral reaction from people and they will scream at him! He’s nothing like that character in real life but he can’t shake it, people can not disconnect him from that character at all on any level. If you can imagine the kind of people who can’t disconnect him from that character, their mental capacity, you must realize how ridiculous the situations get. At least for me, my guy on television is not that far off from who I am. The most annoying part for me is when people call me Brian or they think my actual name is Kevin. I think that maybe sites like YouTube make people feel entitled to state their opinions however and whenever they want to.
Monsters and Critics: So your character on “The League” is a dad, and you also have that great web series you created called “Daddy Knows Best,” which, as a dad, myself, presents a lot of moments that are very familiar to me.
Steve Rannazzisi: [Laughs] What we try to do on that show is present the moments that bring people to the brink and then ask “What’s the poor choice to make in this situation?” and then we execute that choice to see what happens. In my standup, I talk about what the poor choices are, and then in “The League” we do poor choices for all the characters, in a different way.
Monsters and Critics: Speaking of moments, I love the bit you have in “Manchild” about stepping on Legos in bare feet. In our house we have those horrific metal tops, the spiked ones, Beyblades – are you familiar with those?
Steve Rannazzisi: Oh yes, Beyblades will cause damage to your plantar fascia, if you step on one of those out of the blue, you will tear something in your foot, destroy your Achilles tendon, your fascia, you’ll be limping around like Kobe Bryant.
Monsters and Critics: So you live in LA to work on TV and your web series and I know you like performing standup comedy in NYC, how do you manage your time?
Steve Rannazzisi: I’m in New York probably 75% of the year. The 5 months we shoot the show in LA, I’m out there and the family lives there. The rest of the time we’re in New York, my parents, my brother and my sister, my wife’s parents, we’re all just 20 minutes from each other in New York and since we want our kids to grow up around family, that’s the best place for us to be.
Monsters and Critics: You’ve talked about working at The Comedy Store during your time in LA, what’s your impression of the ongoing debate of NYC vs LA comedy scenes?
Steve Rannazzisi: My general feeling is that there is more opportunity to get onstage in New York. I’m sure the open mic scene in LA is good for the young comedian but New York has more clubs and a lot of people going to them – you have to weigh that against the TV and film production in LA. If you are lucky enough to work The Comedy Store in LA, which has 3 rooms, sometimes you can get on all 3 shows in one night, which is a treat.
Monsters and Critics: But you can compare that to New York where you can do a show uptown, take a 10 minute subway ride to do a bunch of spots in the Village.
Steve Rannazzisi: Exactly! I even have comedian friends in NY who are using the CityBike, they’re jumping on bikes to hit spots.
Monsters and Critics: With all your projects, and standup, being involved with your family, and splitting time on the coasts, how do you manage your time?
Steve Rannazzisi: When I’m working, I’m working – that’s my focus, it’s my priority. But when I’m off, I apply that same passion, in the same volume, and intensity. I try to block off big periods of time to be with the kids. I may not be a dad that always makes it home just after 5pm every day but there’s not a lot of dads that can take everyone to the movies on a Wednesday. When I’m on set, I make sure that I call home a couple times a day, I use Skype to check in, I do my best to stay on top of things.
Monsters and Critics: How involved were you in making the decisions on what got cut from your hour in order to make the Comedy Central edit?
Steve Rannazzisi: I knew I had to cut 20 minutes. I knew I had to cut out 3 bits right off the start and that took out 12 minutes. Then I thought we could just trim the remainder but there was no way to find just handfuls of seconds here and there, I _had_ to cut more bits, which became a real Sophie’s Choice, it was tough because I was down to my favorite bits, but 2 more bits had to go. But when people buy it and download it, the video or MP3s, you get the uncensored and unedited, full 60 minute set – it’s all there, those bits live on!
Monsters and Critics: And you also have a tour to support the album, right?
Steve Rannazzisi: Yes, I’m hitting some of my favorite venues and a bunch of new ones from November through May of next year, so come on out!
“Steve Rannazzisi: Manchild” now available as a download at CC: Stand-Up Direct.

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