“The League” star Steve Rannazzisi made headlines last month after The New York Times discovered that he had lied for years about being in the World Trade Center during 9/11.
The comedian issued an apology after the news broke, but he hasn’t spoken at length about the subject until yesterday, when he went on the Howard Stern Show to come clean about the bizarre and offensive fiction he concocted.
"The hurt and the pain and the nervousness that you hear now comes from — because I know what I did was terrible," said Rannazzisi, explaining that he chose to come on Stern's show because so many of the radio host's audience were intimately affected by 9/11. "I know that I hurt a lot of people, people that lost people, people that helped people survive. And those people, those are the people that I truly am sorry. That’s why I wanted to come on here because I wanted to talk to you and your audience. You are personified with New York, and your audience, those are the people I truly in my heart feel awful that my dumb mistake created a story that just hit a wound that should never have been touched.”
Looking visibly shaken and emotional throughout the interview, Rannazzisi attempted to explain himself, saying that the lie was not a calculated thing and it just “slipped out” following his and his wife Tracy’s move from New York to LA in late fall of 2001. Rannazzisi had actually been working in midtown during the attacks, but he told people that he had been working in Merrill Lynch in the South Tower at the time.
"It's as simple as sitting at the Comedy Store," he explained, "and everyone's like, 'Hey, you're from New York. Were you just there? You were around?' Yeah, I was downtown. 'You worked there?' Yeah, I did.”
Once it was out, Rannazzisi said, he couldn’t go back. "You have like 15 seconds, I think, to kind of go, hold on, I'm sorry, that's not true. And if you pass that 15 seconds... it becomes a thing where now I have to be the guy who's very strange and weird and says that I just lied about 9/11.”
Rannazzisi says he is seeing a therapist and is coming to terms with the roots of his lie. When Stern asked if he considers himself psychologically disturbed, Rannazzisi said he’s “not sure if that’s the way to put it,” but he is "starting to figure out more about [himself]. Co-dependency, and wanting people to like me and make people happy. That's a big thing”
Eventually, he had to tell his wife, who Rannazzisi says then had “no choice” but to support him in his fiction. He says his family (including his brother, a priest, who also knew about the lie) and his “League” costars have been supportive of him in the past month. FXX is continuing to air “The League’s” seventh season, although Buffalo Wild Wings recently dropped Rannazzisi from their ad campaign.
While Rannazzisi feels deep remorse for his actions, he hopes to be able to move on and eventually return to stand-up, although he expects he will be heckled. He says he doesn’t plan to talk about any of this in his act because it’s a “very touchy subject matter.”
"The relief is that I don't have to live with the lie anymore," he continued. "But it does come with a lot of baggage and a lot of feelings of embarrassment and being ashamed and going through that process... I'm ashamed of what I did. I'm ashamed of telling that lie, that horrible, immature lie, that's what I'm ashamed of.”
The comedian also said he got in touch with “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson shortly after the story broke. Davidson lost his father during 9/11 and derided Rannazzisi for his remarks on Twitter, writing "It's ok @SteveRannazzisi people make mistakes ... Can't wait to meet my dad for lunch later."
"We spoke that day and I apologized to him and the thing that he said to me was that people make mistakes," Rannazzisi said. "I can't even say thank you enough to Pete Davidson. That guy, he's top notch.”
Watch the full video of Rannazzisi’s confession below: