Comedian Steve Rannazzisi, in his first public comments since he was exposed for lying he was in the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks, explained how he believed his deception protected him from “cruel” fellow comedians and defined his career.
Rannazzisi, star of “The League,” apologized Tuesday during a 40-minute interview on Howard Stern’s radio show and addressed last months’ New York Times story that revealed he wasn’t working in the Merrill Lynch office on the 54th floor of the World Trade Center south tower when the north tower was hit. Rannazzisi recounted the fake experience to interviewers for years and claimed the ordeal motivated him to follow his dreams of being an entertainer.
“Do you think of yourself as psychologically disturbed? How do you view yourself after doing this thing?” Stern asked.
“Psychologically disturbed — I don’t know if that’s the way to put it,” Rannazzisi said. “I do see someone and am starting to figure out more about myself: codependency and wanting people to like me and to make people happy.”
The “why” is still unclear, he said.
“It wasn’t calculated at all,” he said. “It was as simple as sitting at the Comedy Store and everyone being like, ‘Hey, you’re from New York?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Were you just there? You were around?’ ‘Yeah, I was downtown.’ ‘You worked there?’ ‘Yeah, I did.’”
Within seconds, Rannazzisi said he felt he couldn’t set the record straight.
“You have like 15 seconds, I think, to kind of go, ‘Wait, hold on. Stop. I’m sorry. That’s not true.'” he said. “If you pass that 15 seconds … now, it becomes a thing where you’re like, ‘Now, I have to be the guy that’s very strange and weird and just said I lied about 9/11.’”
Once the fake story gained traction, Rannazzisi said the resulting sympathy gave him security in the brutal comedy community.
“I think it might have been like, comedians are cruel people, especially in the beginning,” he said. “And I kind of was like, well maybe people will not be as mean to me or not make as many jokes about me because they think that this is what I went through.”
When the Times confronted him last month with conflicting versions of his 9/11 story, Rannazzisi responded with a statement confirming that he had lied. The confession may be damning to his career, but he said he feels relief and is glad he can finally apologize.
“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,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to come on here.”
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