Sometimes you never know who's watching. That's a feeling that Jeff Schaffer probably gets a lot.
Schaffer and his wife Jackie co-created the television show The League back in 2009, which is currently airing its sixth season on FXX. If you're unfamiliar, it's a show about six friends in a fantasy football league together and chronicles the terrible things they will do to each other in order to win. The show isn't just popular with us regular folks though, but serves as a reminder that famous people and athletes are regular folks too.
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Through nearly 70 episodes, The League has had countless NFL guest stars (check that, you can count, but I'm gonna pass) and it turns out that almost all of them beg to be on the show. (As if I would ever do something like that, psh.) Well tonight, the latest guest star just happens to be Seahawks living mythological hero-legend Marshawn Lynch, and it turns out that his cameo on the show was about as hectic and crazy as a Beast Mode appearance should be. How do I know?
Sometimes you never know who's watching.
It turns out that not only is Schaffer a die-hard fan of the Seahawks, but has also been an avid fan of this website for years, going back to early in the John Morgan era. He reached out to myself and Danny this week to let us know how much he loves the site, and asked if we wanted to talk about Lynch's time on set. "Uh, chyeah." "Yes, please." "I'll have what she's having."
But we weren't interested just because of Marshawn; Schaffer has had a hand in some of the greatest comedy most of us have grown up with over the last 20 years. His writing credits include Seinfeld (episodes written include The Chicken Roaster, which is my favorite episode of all-time, and Summer of George), Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bruno, The Dictator, Clear History, as well as writing and directing EuroTrip with partners Alec Berg and David Mandel.
"A nickel! I open up my own hotel."
Schaffer and I talked for awhile about Lynch's appearance on the show, his efforts to get other Seahawks on The League, and asking Vernon Davis what it felt like to get knocked out by Kam Chancellor.
You've got Marshawn Lynch on the show (FXX, 10PM, Wednesday) tonight. How did Lynch's appearance come together?
We've been calling Andre "Yeast Mode" since show three of this season and we were hoping to get Marshawn then, and he couldn't do it then because that was right before camp. So, he couldn't do it right before camp, and then we thought we were going to get him a little later, and he was gonna come in on a Tuesday after the Rams game because he usually gets Tuesdays off. But, he tweaked his back and needed treatment in Seattle and his agent's talking to Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider), and they said "He can't come in, he needs treatment."
I tell his agent, "Don't get the coach and the GM of my favorite team mad at me! You're putting me in a very awkward position. These people that I really like are cursing me because they think he needs to go to L.A. for this stupid show." Though John Schneider apparently really likes the show and that's our goal for next year.
So, we don't think we're gonna get him and then we wrapped on a Thursday morning. Friday, we get a call that he can do it and we're like "Fine. We didn't wrap. We'll do it." And we're talking to FX and they're like "Do you really need the scene?" and I have to lie and say, "Yeah, it's really important to the story."
"Are you under budget?"
"Uhh, I don't really know, I'm driving right now."
Finally the head of FX, Nick Grad, who's super cool, says "Fine, you can do it, but I want a hat for my son."
So, great, he's going to come in on Tuesday (a week ago yesterday) and we had to have the whole picture locked on Saturday, and air it on Wednesday. So he's going to fly in on Monday night, his agent is going to fly him in from San Fran, and he's supposed to be on set at 11:45 AM on Tuesday morning.
At 6 AM, Tuesday, I get a text from his agent saying that that he missed his flight and that he got him a Tuesday flight and he will be in at 9:20.
Around 9:20, I'm asking "Is he on the flight?"
His agent says, "Well, my other client -- Cooper Helfett -- was supposed to drive him. I'm trying to call Cooper, I haven't heard from him. Marshawn's phone is off, so I assume he's on the flight."
Now at 9:30, I'm driving downtown towards the shoot and I call his agent and ask, "Is he here?" and the agent says, "I don't know where he is. His phone is still off and I got one missed call from him at 5:30 in the morning and I don't know what to tell you."
I get to the set, everyone's excited to be there, we're back and I'm just thinking of all this money that I made the network spend. And there's nothing. I have a sinking feeling that I haven't heard anything and I don't know where he is. And then I get a text from his agent, and it says:
"Jeff, on the phone with him now. His uncle got in an accident on the way to the airport this morning. They're both okay but as a result his phone was in the car and the car was towed, that's why it was off. He called me from the accident and that was the missed call from 5:30 AM. He just got the phone out of the car now, he feels terrible.
"Also, it's a long story, but he's still in Seattle. Totally sucks. Can't apologize enough."
So now, I'm like "Ohhhh Fuck!"
I don't have the guy. I made a big party, and he's not coming. I don't know what to do. My wife (Jackie Marcus Schaffer, co-creator of The League), is trying to get other flights going, Paul Scheer ("Andre") is going out on a flight, because again, we're wrapped. He's leaving with his six-month-old baby to go to New York and there's no window (if Lynch is late). So, can we write something for Taco (another character on the show, played by Jon Lajoie)? We just need to get (Lynch) here, where is he? It's about a half an hour of me being fairly miserable.
And then I get a call from Doug (Hendrickson, Lynch's agent) and he says, "Well I guess if you're a client for 10 years, you're allowed to fuck with your agent. Marshawn's been here the whole time. He just walked up and met me in the lobby."
So Lynch had gotten in the night before, didn't tell his agent, decided to fuck with him, made up a whole story, and walked up right when he knew that the car from our production was going to pick him up and go to set. Just like nothing had happened.
I'm so happy that he was just playing a prank on his agent, but he had almost given me a heart attack. So that's how Marshawn came to set.
He could not have been nicer. He was super friendly, super fun, just taking pictures with everyone in the crew. Other people from other productions were walking up, he was happy to take pictures with them. Super nice, had a blast, and very natural, very "in it" and had fun. It was like a dream come true. He couldn't have been nicer.
Although, he scared the living fuck out of me for a full 18 hours.
I recently spoke to someone at Microsoft that had done an X-Box commercial with him (will it air tonight on FXX at 10 during the show? Tune in to find out!) and he said pretty much the same thing. That he was friendly and very nice but not afraid to fuck with people.
Yeah we were like, "Let's get you into makeup" and he's like "Nah, I'm good."
"You don't want anything?"
"No. Everything I do, I don't wear anything."
And we're like that's fine, he didn't need it. He loved Jon Lajoie, asking him, "You high right now? You high?"
But one thing that scared me a little bit...
We couldn't afford a Lamborghini, but we had a very nice car, this Mercedes, that he was supposed to get into and it was roped off (like Lynch is known to do) and he had to get into that and it's a smaller car and he's kinda crammed in and after the shoot I see him kind of rubbing his calf and I'm like, "Are you okay?" and he's like "Yeah, I'm good."
And then on Thursday, he didn't report (to practice) for a calf injury and I'm like, "Oh no, if that little car had re-aggravated his calf injury, I was going to screw up the entire game plan against the Giants."
Phew. Clearly he was fine. (As fine as watching the show tonight!) Have you ever had such a timely appearance by an NFL player, considering the Lynch just had a career game and is the "taco" the town?
Well, we had JJ Watt before but we've never had someone who's at that moment, "The Coolest Guy On the Planet."
(As if it weren't enough that Watt is arguably the best player in the NFL, Schaffer also says he's the best, most natural actor that they've had on the show, from a player standpoint. The regular actors on the show apparently say that "He looks like a normal guy that's been put in a "125-percent Machine," which is why they're professional comedians.)
In past interviews you've said you don't usually shoot for specific players, but was Lynch a target for you?
I've been trying to get "Yeast Mode" versus "Beast Mode" all year. I've tried in show three, we tried again, this was our very last time to sort of get him into a show. It was the last thing we shot and we were able to slip it into the 11th show.
Beast Mode was our Great White Whale.
It seems like Russell Wilson has said "Yes" to everything since winning the Super Bowl (say "Yes" to finding FXX on your cable box and if you can't watch it tonight at 10, DVR it and watch it within three days) so have you not asked Russell to be on The League?
We talked to his people, his guys were huge fans of the show. We actually talked to him a little bit at Super Bowl XLVII, but after he won Super Bowl XLVIII he was too busy. His dance card got really full.
We almost got Richard Sherman and had a part that we wrote for him but he couldn't do it.
The League is heavily based in improvisational comedy, do you let the players improvise a lot of their lines?
Marshawn -- I literally had no idea what to expect. I was talking to my wife the night before and I said "I think this is gonna be great. I don't know what it's gonna be but it's gonna be something and it's gonna be exciting."
And he came on and he blew away every expectation. I had no idea how he was going to be, but he was talkative and fun and rolling with it. Rolling with everything.
Scheer was throwing lots of strange, strange stuff at him and he was actually a super, super pleasant surprise.
You've had a few enemies on The League, namely NaVorro Bowman and Vernon Davis
We were doing a scene with Watt and Bowman's people reached out to us and said, "He loves the show, he wants to be on the show." In the story Watt had been drafting for Ruxin and he was taking all kickers and defenses so it made sense to have a few more defensive players around. So we said, "Great, you're going to get in the pool with JJ and Gerald (McCoy) and float on a little floatie and start shitting on Ruxin." and they're like, "Wait, what?"
NaVorro was super nice. He was there because he wanted to be there and he and Gerald were like "Woah, is that Andre? Can I get a picture with him?"
"Yeah, you can get a picture with Andre. You can pick Andre up and bring him to your room if you want! Do whatever you want with Andre."
Vernon is actually a very good actor. He's been taking acting lessons and had recently done a scene from Hurley Burley and it's like "Alright (laughs) I think you might have more acting experience than our entire cast."
I'm on the set with Vernon and I'm like, "I have to tell you, I'm a huge Seahawks fan" and I just had to ask him about the Kam Chancellor hit, and he said "That was one of the hardest hits I've ever felt."
You've had a ridiculous amount of great guest stars on the show that aren't football players at all, so when can Danny and I get a cameo?
We just went to a mental institute this season, but if we go back to the mental institute next year, you're perfect.
(I'd be crazy to not watch The League on Wednesday's at 10 PM on FXX, and if you're worried about having not seen any of the show yet, the first five seasons are available on Netflix.)