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?