by Michael Reistetter
Steve Rannazzisi, 38, wouldn’t normally make headlines nor jump out to the average person unfamiliar with his body of work as an entertainer. But Rannazzisi has slowly risen higher in the ranks over the years, establishing himself within the Hollywood circle of respected comedians. His claim to fame was in 2009, when he began starring in the hit FX comedy, “The League.”
A Long Island native of Smithtown, New York and graduate of St. Anthony’s High School, Rannazzisi operated just slightly under the bubble of name recognition for several years. However, Rannazzisi still cruised along the fast lane to lucrative paychecks, albeit by extremely extending the truth. A certain, “past-experience” of his helped him thrive in many job interviews and auditions. With a conscious consumed by guilt, Rannazzisi finally fessed up last week about the lie he had continuously told for the majority of his adult life.
On September 11. 2001, the nation was rocked by a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. The country began to unify and rally together in the aftermath of the attacks, demonstrating patriotism, dedication to community, and refusal to back down from adversaries.
Those with connections to the immediate impact received the utmost intention. People with relatives or close friends who perished or escaped were empathized with, comforted, and praised for their courage. It took the shallow instincts of the population, to exploit a national tragedy for their own personal benefit. Whereas many were known to use variations the pickup line, “I escaped from the Twin Towers on 9/11,” a struggling comedian working in the city saw the opportunity to boost his clout in his desired business.
“I worked on the 54th floor of the second tower,” Rannazzisi once told fellow comedian and podcast host Mark Maron in a 2009 interview. He added further detail of his escape from the building, saying the Port Authority advised his department to remain stationery. He claimed he had violated these orders, fleeing to the pandemonium-filled streets, where he looked on as a plane struck the second tower.
This fabrication was a lie Rannazzisi consistently and successfully used for nearly a decade to advance in his career.
“As a young man, I made a mistake that I deeply regret and for which apologies may still not be enough,” Rannazzisi tweeted in a statement also sent to ABC news on Sept. 16. “After I moved with my wife to Los Angeles from New York City in 2001 shortly after 9/11, I told people that I was in one of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. It wasn’t true.”
Speculation of doubt behind the trivia-fact long associated with Rannazzisi’s likeness picked up steam when The New York Times reported several inconsistencies in his claims, including his never being employed by Merrill Lynch.
“I was in Manhattan but working in a building in midtown and I was not at the Trade Center on that day.” Said Rannazzisi. “I don’t know why I said this. This was inexcusable. I am truly, truly sorry.”
This shocking revelation comes one week after Buffalo Wild Wings launched their promotional campaign for their restaurant and the new NFL season, featuring Rannazzisi as their spokesperson in television commercials.
The following day, on Sept. 17, Buffalo Wild Wings officially dropped Rannazzisi as their client, and announced they would stop airing television commercials featuring the comedic actor.
According to Entertainment Weekly, FX stated they would continue to air their new episodes of “The League” as according to plan. FX further added although they were disappointed to learn Rannazzisi lied about surviving the tragedy, they believed he was sincere in his apology and would do everything he could to make amends making forward.
The League is in their seventh and final season, and they have filmed all but two scheduled episodes up to this point. It will be interesting to see if the controversy surrounding Rannazzisi affects the chemistry of the show’s leading cast, which has been described as “flawless” by television critics during the show’s run.
As for Rannazzisi’s re-entrance and acceptance into the business beyond The League, it will take his audiences to decide. His pre-recorded comedy special, “Breaking Dad,” aired amidst the height of the scandal on Saturday, September 19th.
On this twitter account, Rannazzisi said the fear of embarrassing his children first drove him to silence. But he knew he could not bury the lie forever. It was time to come clean.
“It only made me more ashamed. How could I tell my children to be honest when I hadn’t come clean about this? It is to the victims of 9/11 and to the people that love them–and the people that love me–that I ask for forgiveness.”
No apologies can excuse Rannazzisi lack of character and honesty earlier in his life. Once an unrecognizable name, Rannazzisi’s notoriety is now immortally preserved via the Internet. Search engines will forever provide infinite access to his cleansing, but image-crushing admission.