'The League' Creators on 'Terrible Things' That Inspire Them (Q&A)
Husband and wife team Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer talk about the perks of working with one's spouse, how long the show might last and the Andre scene that had the entire crew cracking up.
FX’s The League is nearing the end zone for season four, and true to form, the latest spat of episodes have ventured into some rather — dare we say it? — shocking comedy territory. A pregnant character masturbating shortly before giving birth and a risqué use for a breast pump are among the show's recent topics.
But the husband and wife team of co-creators Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer say to shock is not their intention. They just go with what they find funny.
“We’re trying to tell stories, some of which you don’t usually get to tell on TV,” says Jeff Schaffer. “Whether it’s using a breast pump as a penis pump or that kind of stuff. We’re just very thankful we’re on basic cable.”
With just under two weeks left until the season finale, the FX show will perform double duty, airing two new episodes each Thursday starting at 10:30 p.m. through Dec. 20. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the two as they worked to complete the final episodes of the season.
The Hollywood Reporter: What has been your favorite moment of this season?
Jeff Schaffer: In "The Hoodie,” when they actually pulled that turtleneck up over Andre’s (Paul Scheer) head and started to work it and clean it and talk about it. [The scene made Andre resemble a penis, but Jeff was unsure if the audience would get it.] It was the first take and we stopped in the middle because the crew was just laughing. We were like, “Oh. This is good. This will work.”
Jackie: Jenny (Katie Aselton) masturbating in her Volvo, nine months pregnant — I think that’s a hilarious scene. When she is literally getting off to Jason Witten and DeSean Jackson‘s punt returns. She did an amazing job making that feel really believable.
THR: Maybe that scene is an example of this — are there limits to what you can do on the show?
Jackie: One of our close friends is Melissa Francis, who is an anchor on Fox News. The comment that we constantly get from her is, “We are both on basic cable. If we say the word vagina, I get phone calls. How are these two things both considered basic cable?” But we don’t write to shock people. We write what we think is funny.
Jeff: We’re trying to tell stories, some of which you don’t usually get to tell on TV. Whether it’s using a breast pump as a penis pump or that kind of stuff. We’re just very thankful we’re on basic cable.
THR: Does real life seep its way into the show?
Jackie: I just had a baby four months ago, and a lot of that was the inspiration for the season premiere and Jenny having her baby. We were on our way to a Dallas Cowboys/Giants game in Dallas. I was traveling with my breast pump, which was the inspiration for the “Breastalyzer” episode [in which Jenny’s breast pump is commandeered and used as a penis pump.]
I said to the TSA agent — who asked what’s in the bag — “it’s a jerk-off machine.” That is an inflated ego to believe Mr. TSA agent is a fan of the show. But that’s just our sense of humor. We don’t mean to be like this. We’re not attempting to shock anybody. We’re just being authentic versions of who we are. Thank God FX is more tolerant than the TSA at LAX.
THR: What is it like to be married and making a show together?
Jeff: It’s fantastic. If we weren’t working together, you’d work for 17 hours on the show and come home and your significant other would go, “How was your day?” and you wouldn’t’ know where to start. You don’t have any energy to talk about your crazy day and you need to get a few hours of sleep. We avoid that awkward “how was your day” because she was right there with me.
Jackie: For the network it must be very frustrating. They trust us more now with season four, but at the beginning, when we’d write these insane scripts, there was a little bit of divide and conquer. They thought they would come to one of us to get the other one to take that out of the script or tone it down. [But] we’re so unified that they literally can’t separate us or try to divide and conquer. We are both, unfortunately, two people who are together because we have the same, sick sense of humor.
THR: We got to see Kevin and Taco’s mom [Julia Duffy] this season, and it explained a lot about how Taco views the world. How did you create her character?
Jackie: You’re thinking people would be proud of Kevin, their son who is a lawyer, and be apologizing for Taco. We love the idea of a mom who is a total enabler and is completely charmed by her ne'er-do-well son. Parents do have favorites, and it’s not always the one that conventionally you'd expect.
Jeff: And it’s so fun to see Stephen Rannazzisi get frustrated. He can’t even get a break from his mom.
Jackie: Everybody on the planet thinks Jenny MacArthur is the perfect girl. Guys want to marry a girl like jenny. Girls say, “I want to be like Jenny when I grow up.” It was time somebody told Jenny off. Who would be better than Kevin and Taco’s mom?
THR: If you had your say, how many more seasons of The League could you make from a creative standpoint?
Jeff: As long as there is an NFL, there will be fantasy football. As long as there is fantasy football, there will be a League.
Jackie: People always say, “Where do the stories in the show come from?” There are so many horrible people we know that do horrible things. Our friends, our families, people we work with. As long as those people exist and continue to behave absolutely terribly, we need an outlet. The League is kind of the perfect outlet.
Jeff Schaffer: The creative well is very deep, because the NFL isn’t going anywhere, and terrible people doing terrible things aren’t going anywhere.
Sundance: On the Scene