As "The League" enters its fifth season, it's getting big with pro athletes, said co-creators Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills on Friday.
"During the first season we had good relationships with a couple of players and agents. But it's amazing now with Twitter and Facebook, they reach out to us and tell us they've been watching and that they're big fans," said Jackie. "It’s a courtship process. We don't chase them anymore."
It's little wonder that athletes have their eyes on the show. By chronicling the outlandish ups and downs of what Jackie calls "the funnest fantasy football league ever," the show brings irreverent, loosely improvised comedy to the very serious business of sports.
And athletes who are looking to expand their presence in the public eye see appearing on "The League" as a great opportunity to do just that.
"The guys who gravitate to the show are fans, but also have a long-term goal with what they want to do with their careers," said Nick Kroll, who plays Rodney Ruxin, a paranoid Jewish attorney who always thinks he's being cheated by other league members. "So a guy like J.J. Watt is a really smart guy, he enjoys the show and he was also really planning for the future. He learned, absorbed and processed so much about how it worked. It was really impressive." Watt will be a guest star in Season 5.
Paul Scheer, who plays the rich, clueless plastic surgeon Dr. Andre Nowzick, added, "We've been really lucky that these guys play in such high-pressure situations that when they come on the show they don't miss a beat. They're really funny."
"The League's" track record is also helpful -- to date, guest stars have included former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, Buffallo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, pro football hall of famer Deion Sanders and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Having sports stars on the show is also fun for the actors, who get to dress them up or down according to how they met or dashed their league expectations.
Kroll said he finds "great joy" in talking smack "to a 350-pound, 6-foot-tall man and there not being any ramifications to it," highlighting the wellspring of much of the show's comedy: Fantasy football players can be crazy nasty.
"If you had access to what fantasy football email chains are like, it would make our show look like 'Little House on the Prarie,'" said Kroll. "What Jeff and Jackie let us do is open a window on what the men and women who play fantasy football are really like. Which is just terrible."
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