Steve Rannazzisi and Howard Stern Dissect the Intentions and Psychology Behind the 9/11 Lie


Steve Rannazzisi — the comedian most known for his role on FX’s The League, for his Buffalo Wild Wings ads, for elaborately lying about having escaped 9/11, and for subsequently losing the wings ads over said lie — appeared on Howard Stern yesterday to address the 9/11 controversy.

His tale came to light as false last month — though he’d been telling it for years. On the Marc Maron podcast in 2009, for example, it had expanded from the statement that he “was sort of the party starter of Merrill Lynch…until [their] building got hit with a plane.”

Though he’d tweeted a series of apologies, this was the first time he’d spoken to such an extent about the lie, which happened to surface just before his Comedy Central special aired. Stern made no attempt to cushion his questions: it was clear to everyone why Rannazzisi was there.

In the first of 40 minutes, Stern says, “I thank you for coming in, because I know it aint easy. I’m sure you’re nervous…I want to understand this whole thing, I can’t wrap my head around it. Did you out yourself or did somebody bust you?” Stern posits that it must have been either a friend or a family member who outed him to the Times, since the news came about so abruptly, after years (14, in fact) of it being a nonissue. Stern attempts to parse the psychology behind the lie, asking if Rannazzisi did it because he “wanted to be loved.”

Rannazzisi explains: after he relocated to Los Angeles about a month after the attacks, he was onstage at The Comedy Store, and someone had questioned him about whether he’d been in New York on September 11, and what his experience of it was. That was when he said he’d worked downtown (though he’d actually been working in Midtown).

Once he’d begun spinning the lie onstage, he seemingly couldn’t stop — neither that night at the Comedy Store, nor in later interviews. “You have like 15 seconds to go, ‘Wait, hold on, stop, wait, I’m sorry, that’s not true.’ And if you pass that 15 seconds, 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,'” he told Stern. He explains that after that, it seemed a good way to cushion himself, as a fledgling comedian in LA, against other comedians’ judgment. He’d thought, “maybe people will not be as mean to me or not make as many jokes about me.”

He responded to Stern’s question about psychology, saying he’s currently “seeing someone to figure out more about [himself]” and his “co-dependency” issues and the “need for people to like” him. “It’s not like I moved to Los Angeles with this story… it wasn’t calculated.” He’d tried to wean himself off of the lie — speaking of it less and less — and had succeeded recently in making it disappear altogether, until it arose in the Times.

His interview with Stern was meant more to be an explanation than a defense, and then from there it became an apology. “I know that I hurt a lot of people … that’s why I wanted to come on here. Because I wanted to talk to you and your audience,” he said, emphasizing that he chose Stern because he’s a New York figure. “And your audience, those are the people that truly, in my heart, I feel awful that my dumb mistake created a story that just hit a wound that should never have been touched.”

Watch the full interview:

[Via The Washington Post]