10 Winning Facts About The League

Matthias Clamer, FX Networks
Matthias Clamer, FX Networks

On October 29, 2009, FX premiered a semi-improvised show about six Chicago suburb-based friends in a fantasy football league. Husband-and-wife team Jeff and Jackie Schaffer originally pitched the idea to HBO, and they ordered a pilot. But the catch was the Schaffers had to wait at least a year to develop the show. They didn’t want to wait a year, so they took the idea to FX.

Jeff Schaffer worked as a writer and executive producer on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld, so he wanted to create “Curb’s younger, rowdier cousin.” For each episode, he and Jackie created a loose outline and then the actors filled in the dialogue through improvisation. The Schaffers cast actors from the independent film world (Mark Duplass as Pete Eckhart, and Duplass’s real-life wife Katie Aselton as Jenny MacArthur); comedians Steve Rannazzisi (Kevin MacArthur, married to Jenny), Paul Scheer (Dr. Andre Nowzick), and Nick Kroll (Rodney Ruxin); and a French-Canadian musician (Jon Lajoie as Taco MacArthur, Steve’s brother).

Over the years several celebrities made cameos, including Jeff Goldblum, Brie Larson, and Seth Rogen. Sports figures like Deion Sanders and quarterback Jay Cutler played themselves. Every football season, the winner of the Shiva Bowl received a trophy called the Shiva—replete with a photo of a girl named Shivakamini Somakandarkram (Janina Gavankar), a woman Kevin lost his virginity to in high school—and a worst-player-in-the-league trophy named the Sacko. After seven seasons, the Schaffers decided to end the show; the final episode aired December 9, 2015.

“We wanted to finish the show with people going: Wait, why are you ending? And I think seven seasons felt right,” he told ESPN. “Like we’ve been on longer than World War I. We’ve been on longer than World War II. We’ve been on longer than the Civil War. Hell, we’ve been on longer than Ken Burns’ The Civil War. And that thing was endless.” Here are 10 winning facts about The League.


The Schaffers spent Christmas Eve skiing in the French Alps, and Jeff was in the middle of managing his fantasy football leagues. “This is 2005, pre-Skype, pre-smartphone,” Jeff told ESPN. “So I keep telling Jackie that this French food is making my stomach go a little haywire and I need to go to the bathroom. But I don’t go to the bathroom. Instead, I walk out the hall and into a snowdrift to call, at great expense to myself, back to the United States to see how I’m doing in my league. I just had to know.” Jackie walked in on him and surprisingly wasn’t too mad. “Here was this man, my darling husband, standing in the snow and screaming on the phone,” she said. “It was ridiculous ... but also entertaining to watch.” They agreed a show about obsessive men in a fantasy football league would make a good show.


Because he didn’t know enough about fantasy football, Paul Scheer didn’t even want to audition for the show. “And so to opt out of not embarrassing myself, I said, ‘I won't do it. I’m not auditioning,’” he told ESPN. “It’s not like they offered me the show, but I thought it was not the show for me.” Eventually, Nick Kroll called him and told him to audition, saying the show wasn’t just about fantasy football. “He told me about what the show was like, and I called up the casting director, Jeanne [McCarthy], to see if it was too late ... It’s crazy to think that if I'd been left to my own devices, and I didn’t know Nick Kroll, I would never have auditioned for it.”


Kroll told The Daily Beast the origin story of the woman on the Shiva trophy. He said she was an actress “who got called in a random casting, and they took her picture and we just started using it throughout.” One night the cast was doing stand-up in L.A., and a woman walked in and said she was Shiva. “She’s a doctoral student at UCLA and she came and hung out, and we bought her drinks,” Kroll said. “And the craziest part was she brought a friend of hers who’s a big fan of the show, and he didn’t realize that his avatar for his fantasy football team was the Shiva, and did not realize that she was her.”


On the show, Kevin and Jenny’s daughter Ellie (Alina Foley, daughter of The Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley) is attached to an Elmo-like stuffed animal named Mr. McGibblets. During the fourth episode of the first season, Steve has Taco dress up in a Mr. McGibblets costume to try and frighten Ellie into not liking the toy anymore. However, Ellie loves the life-size toy, but Foley didn’t have the same reaction. “Honestly, it was very scary for me,” Foley told ESPN. “I was very confused as to what was happening. And Jon had to take off the mask a few times just to prove to me that he wasn’t actually a weirdo purple monster thing. Because I had a major fear of Barney at that time, so Mr. McGibblets was definitely, like, bringing out my phobia.”


Because the show centers around real-life football players and teams, the showrunners had to anticipate possible changes. “Every time we shot people’s computers, we see the roster and all that stuff,” Jeff Schaffer said during a Paley Center for Media talk. "We also shot a green screen so we can go into change it if we really need to, if someone’s injured or out. We’re trying hard to make it accurate.”


The second season starts in Vegas, where the group is assembling their draft picks. The episode was filmed on location. Mantzoukas ate a yogurt from Starbucks only to find out it had eggs in it. Apparently allergic, he fell sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. “It was a disaster,” Mantzoukas told ESPN. “I was supposed to shoot that whole day, but I wound up in the hospital for like seven hours. And then when I came back I was all pumped full of crazy drugs and had to shoot all of my scenes in like 90 minutes. Which was crazy. It was all the nightclub stuff in the episode, like when I say, ‘Chicks dig it when dudes kiss and bump stuff.” And I have no recollection of any of it.”


In season 2, Mantzoukas joined the cast as Ruxin’s brother-in-law, Rafi, who has a friend named Dirty Randy. In season three, Seth Rogen made his first of six appearances as Randy. “I remember being told that there was a character that was always alluded to as the grossest and worst person ever, so it seemed pretty natural that I play it,” Rogen told ESPN. Instead of one of them playing the straight man and the other playing the crazier person, Rogen said their dynamic “turned it more into a game of idiotic one-upmanship. Instead of arguing, we were always building on each other's jokes, making them bigger and more elaborate and gross.”


One of the glorious things about The League is how the characters created their own slang words. In addition to the Shiva Bowl, the series is full of words and phrases that are unique to the series and its characters. Frittata is one example, which is a term Kroll used to bypass FX’s Standards and Practices when making reference to a less-than-intelligent person. “That was never a word before this show, but now I hear other people saying it," Scheer told Esquire. "It encompasses a lot of different words and a lot of different insults.”


In the pilot, the friends are gathered at Ellie’s birthday party. Taco sings a sexually explicit birthday song about how she came to be. Turns out, the song existed when the Schaffers cast Jon Lajoie to play Taco. “We met Jon Lajoie and told him about this character,” Jackie told ESPN. “And we told him that in the pilot Taco will sing an inappropriate song about how the child was conceived. And Jon Lajoie was like, ‘I’ve already written this song!’” He licensed the song to them. Currently, the clip has more than 4.6 million views on YouTube.


During the fourth season, league member Ted (Adam Brody) wins the Shiva, and he finally makes an appearance in the first episode of the fifth season. He’s a friend from high school who the guys have always been jealous of. The Schaffers revealed to Slate why Jackie gave the character such a harsh disease. “I was literally making a chopped salad for dinner as our baby is asleep, and I said, ‘Let me just throw something at you: Ted has AIDS,’” Jackie said. “Because what is more insane that a bunch of guys trying to figure out if somehow the AIDS has made him more successful and more focused. Is it the drugs? Because that’s what our characters are like. They’re completely obsessive.”

“I do think that a lot of shows wouldn’t touch this, and we’re very happy to,” Jeff Schaffer said. “We’re not looking to shock, we’re just looking for what’s funny, but this is a real thing that you don’t see a lot of stories about.”

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 


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If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44


You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64


Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160


Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60


Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212


Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18


LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120


Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120


The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100


Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120


Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Surprising Facts About Richard Pryor

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Richard Pryor, who was born on December 1, 1940, is considered by many to be the greatest stand-up comedian of all time. Jerry Seinfeld referred to him as “the Picasso of our profession.” Chris Rock has called him comedy’s Rosa Parks. Yet the indelible mark Pryor made on the world of comedy only tells part of his story.

Like his career in the spotlight, Pryor’s world offstage was also highly compelling and full of shocking turns. He’s one of those people whose real life was so off-the-wall at times that it becomes tough to separate fact from fiction. Here are just a few stories about the brilliant and chaotic life of the great Richard Pryor.

1. Richard Pryor had a tragic childhood.

Richard Pryor had a tragic early life, experiencing things that no child should have to endure: Born to a prostitute named Gertrude on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois, Pryor’s father was a notoriously violent pimp named LeRoy Pryor. For much of his childhood, Pryor was raised in the actual brothel where his mother worked, which was owned by his own no-nonsense grandmother, Marie Carter. With his mother periodically dropping out of his life for long stretches, it was Marie who served as Pryor’s central guardian and caretaker.

In 2015, The New Yorker published an article to mark the 10th anniversary of Pryor’s passing, which offered further details on his turbulent early life, noting:

Pryor said that one of the reasons he adored movies as a boy was that you were never in doubt as to why the women in them were screaming. As for the sounds that Richard heard in the middle of the night in his room on the top floor of one of Marie’s businesses, he had no idea what was happening to those girls. A number of times, he saw his mother, Gertrude, one of the women in Marie’s employ, nearly beaten to death by his father. Gertrude left when Richard was five. He later registered no resentment over this. “At least Gertrude didn’t flush me down the toilet,” he said. (This was not a joke. As a child, Pryor opened a shoebox and found a dead baby inside.)

2. Richard Pryor walked away from a successful career.

Early in his career Pryor found success by modeling his comedy largely on the work on Bill Cosby, which led to many comparisons being drawn between the two—a fact that Cosby reportedly grew to dislike.

There are conflicting tales of just how Pryor made the 180-degree change in style that led to him becoming a comedic legend. One of the most well traveled tales, and one that Pryor himself confirmed on more than one occasion, states that Pryor was performing his clean-cut act in Las Vegas one night when he looked out into the audience and saw Dean Martin among the crowd. If you believe the story, seeing the legendarily cool Rat Packer’s face made Pryor question what exactly he was doing and caused him to abruptly leave the stage mid-performance. Around this time Pryor moved to the San Francisco Bay area, dropped out of the comedy limelight for several years, and later reemerged with the more pointed, in-your-face style that made him an icon.

3. Richard Pryor won an Emmy for writing.

Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Pryor in Tomlin's 1973 TV special, Lily.CBS Television, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Though Pryor was better known for his work in front of the camera than behind it, the only Emmy he ever won was for writing. In 1974, Pryor won the Emmy for Best Writing in Comedy for Lily, a comedy special starring Lily Tomlin (in which he also appeared). He earned a total of four nominations throughout his career, two of them as an actor and the other two as a writer.

4. Richard Pryor made Lorne Michaels quit Saturday Night Live.

Back in 1975, Saturday Night Live was brand new, so at the time the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels, wasn’t yet a powerful TV icon. Therefore, when Michaels stuck his neck out and demanded the right to have Pryor on as a guest host, he was really risking a lot. It took Michaels handing in a fake resignation to convince NBC executives to allow the famously foulmouthed comic to appear. Michaels himself had to implement a secret five-second delay for that night’s episode to be sure that any off-the-cuff, unscripted choice language didn’t make its way out over the airwaves. The delay was kept from Pryor who, upon later finding out, confirmed that he would have refused to do the show had he known about it

The episode, the seventh one of SNL’s premiere season, contained one of the most memorable and edgy sketches ever to appear on the show: (the NSFW) Word Association. Chevy Chase and Pryor’s personal writer, Paul Mooney, have each claimed to have written the sketch.

5. Richard Pryor lost the starring role in Blazing Saddles.

Pryor and Gene Wilder made four films together (Silver Streak; Stir Crazy; See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and Another You), but there could have been at least one more. Pryor was one of the credited writers on Mel Brooks’s classic Blazing Saddles and the plan for a time was that he would also co-star in the film, playing Sheriff Bart alongside Wilder as the Waco Kid. In the clip above, Wilder explained how Pryor’s infamous drug use caused him to end up in a remote city and subsequently lose the starring role to Cleavon Little.

6. It wasn’t a drug mishap that caused Richard Pryor to set himself on fire.

One of the most retold stories about Pryor centers around the incident on June 9, 1980 where he set himself on fire and took off running down a Los Angeles street fully engulfed in flames. Though he wasn’t expected to survive the episode, he eventually pulled through and spent the next six weeks recuperating in the hospital. At the time it was often reported that the cause of the accident was Pryor freebasing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that in a drug-fueled psychosis he had actually attempted to kill himself by dousing his body in 151-proof rum and setting himself ablaze. A friend of Pryor’s at the time has gone on record as saying that the idea for the act likely came about that evening after the two of them watched footage of Thích Quảng Đức, the Vietnamese monk who famously burned himself to death in 1963 as an act of protest.

7. Richard Pryor was married seven times.

Pryor was married seven times—to five different women. In the 2013 documentary Omit the Logic, a friend of Pryor’s—who served as the best man at one of his weddings—recounts how Pryor showed up at his hotel room door just a few hours after marrying Jennifer Lee, insisting that he already wanted a divorce. Pryor would get divorced from Lee the next year, only to remarry her 19 years later; the two were still together when Pryor passed away in 2005.

8. Richard Pryor had a soft spot for animals.

In 1986 Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that ultimately left him confined to a wheelchair. Pryor was such an avid supporter of animal rights, however, that he actively spoke out against animal testing of any kind—even when that testing meant getting closer to a cure for his own condition. The biography on RichardPryor.com provides more insight into this part of his private life:

He's been honored by PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for saving baby elephants in Botswana targeted for circuses. In 2000, as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was preparing to open at Madison Square Garden, Pryor gave the Big Top's first African-American ringmaster, Jonathan Lee Iverson, something to think about when he wrote him a letter in which he stated: “While I am hardly one to complain about a young African American making an honest living, I urge you to ask yourself just how honorable it is to preside over the abuse and suffering of animals."

9. Richard Pryor won the first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Beginning in 1998, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts began awarding its annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which "recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain." Pryor was chosen as their very first recipient. In the more than 20 years since, he has been joined by an illustrious group of comedy legends, including Carl Reiner, Bob Newhart, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Carol Burnett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Dave Chappelle.

10. Despite his deteriorating health, Richard Pryor never stopped performing.

Even while MS continued to rob him of his mobility, Pryor’s comedic mind continued cranking. Throughout the early 1990s Pryor would often show up at Los Angeles’s famous standup club The Comedy Store to take to the stage in his wheelchair. In the above clip from The Joe Rogan Experience, a few comics discuss what it was like to watch the all-time great perform in his diminished state.

This story has been updated for 2020.