Steve Rannazzisi talks to Howard Stern about his 9/11 lie

“The League” star Steve Rannazzisi appeared on “Howard Stern” this morning (video embedded below) to give his first interview since the New York Times revealed that he had lied about being in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center when it was struck by a plane on 9/11. According to the actor, it was a lie that he first told after moving to Los Angeles shortly after the terrorist attacks, and continued to grow as word of his story spread through the comedy community.

“It's not like I moved to Los Angeles with this story, with the thought of like, 'I'm gonna go out and trick everyone out there […],” he said on the show. “It wasn't calculated at all. It was as simple as sitting at the Comedy Store and everyone like, 'Hey, you're from New York?' 'Yeah, yeah.' 'Were you just there? You were around?' 'Yeah, yeah. I was downtown.' 'You worked there?' 'Yeah, yeah, I did.'”

“You have like 15 seconds, I think, to kind of go, wait, hold on, stop, wait, I'm sorry,” he continued. “That's not true. And if you pass that 15 seconds, it's sort of like now it becomes a thing where you're like — 'now I have to be the guy who is very strange and weird and just said I lied about 9/11.' And Howard when I tell you, I truly in all of my heart wish that I had that voice that I feel like I have now that said hey man, take a breath, relax, people are gonna like you. People are gonna understand who you are when they get to know you. You don't need to lie about that. Take that back. And I don't have it.”

It's actually pretty fascinating the way Rannazzisi describes the spread of the lie, which gained steam through a combination of his own insecurities (“Codependency and wanting people to like me and to make people happy — that's a big thing [for me]”, he said) and word of mouth. Indeed, it wasn't long before some big-name comedians caught wind of the story.

“It's sort of like when you tell a couple of open mic comedians, they start to talk to other people, and then — at the Comedy Store, it was like, you had open mic comedians, you had successful comedians, and then you had stars come in,” he said. “Like Pauly Shore was there all the time, and Dice. And then those guys hear it. …Dice would be like, hey, how are you? He started calling me T2, a nickname. And I'm like I don't know, now I don't know how to ever tell anyone that this is not true.”

Indeed, it was during an interview segment for Pauly Shore's 2009 Showtime standup special that Rannazzisi first related the fabricated story for a mass audience.

“When I did the Pauly Shore standup special, he came to my house to interview me,” Rannazzisi recounted. “And he was one of the people, like I said, that had heard the story, so I wasn't sure he was going to ask, but I had a feeling that he might…and then when he did, I was like 'okay.' I just told the story the way that I thought that he may have heard it. And then after, I was just like, 'I have to ask him not to put that in.' And I don't know how to do that. And that, I should have demanded that he not put that in.”

Rannazzisi already apologized once in a statement provided to the New York Times, but the comedian reiterated that apology this morning on Howard, saying:

“I know what I did was terrible. And 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…those are the people that truly in my heart I feel awful that my dumb mistake created this story that just hit a wound that should never have been touched.”

Here's a clip from Rannazzisi's appearance: