Steve Rannazzisi asked for forgiveness on Tuesday morning, speaking publicly for the first time since being exposed for a lie he repeatedly told about surviving the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
"My dumb mistake created a story that hit a wound that should have never been touched," Rannazzisi told Howard.
Rannazzisi's untruth was initially uncovered in a September New York Times article that detailed how the comedian had for years told people he worked at Merrill Lynch on the 54th floor of the south tower. Rannazzisi admitted he still does not know how the Times was able to figure out that his story was made up.
After moving to Los Angeles shortly after 9/11, Rannazzisi says he first told the lie while working as an up-and-coming standup comedian.
"To be honest with you, it was a completely out of the blue situation," Rannazzisi admitted, describing how he invented his lie in "waves."
"It wasn't calculated."
As the lie spread and more and more people told each other about him narrowly escaping death, Rannazzisi had to come clean to his wife, asking her to go along with the fiction he had created.
"She had to," Rannazzisi said. "She had no choice."
After lying several times throughout the years about his wife working in the south tower on 9/11 as well, Rannazzisi told Howard the truth was his wife was working at the nearby World Financial Center on the day of the attacks and that her experience somewhat influenced him to make up his own personal story.
"The hurt and the pain and the nervousness that you hear now comes from ... because I know what I did was terrible," Rannazzisi said. "I know that I hurt a lot of people -- people that lost people, people that helped people survive. And those are the people that I am truly sorry. I feel awful."
"Saturday Night Live" star Pete Davidson, whose father was killed on Sept. 11, reached out to Rannazzisi after news of his lie broke.
"We spoke that day and I apologized to him and the thing that he said to me was that people make mistakes," Rannazzisi said. "I can't even say thank you enough to Pete Davidson. That guy, he's top notch."
Rannazzisi has avoided social media since the controversy began, except for a tweet this morning promoting his appearance on the Stern Show. While he anticipates anger and ire for his actions, Rannazzisi is hopeful that the public will keep his two children out of it.
"You can yell at me, you can scream at me, you can berate me and I will sit there and listen to it but if anyone ever took something out on my kids, they don't deserve it."
He continued, saying: "My kids don't know. They don't know why Daddy needs to be in his office on the phone or why Daddy's crying sometimes."
Steve does plan on sitting his children down someday and explaining to them what he did and why what he did was wrong.
"If I was your kid," Howard told Steve, "when you have to discipline them and you say, 'Hey, go clean your room,' and they're going to go, 'Hey, you lied about 9/11! Go fuck yourself!'"
Season 7 of Rannazzisi's hit series "The League" began just days before the New York Times published their exposé on him. Rannazzisi described showing up to work that week as "nerve-wracking" but says his co-stars have all since stood by him. His family, including a brother in the priesthood who knew about the lie for years, have also all told Rannazzisi that they will continue to support him.
"It's out now and I don't have to wait and see what's going to happen or be cautious anymore," Rannazzisi said. "I don't' have to live with the lie anymore. I'm an idiot; I made a terrible mistake but this is not who I am and I'm going to move on beyond this."
Part of his moving on process will be slowly stepping back into the spotlight. Rannazzisi says he plans to return to standup comedy eventually but that this experience will not be part of his act.
"The lie that I told and the subject matter is a very touchy subject matter," Rannazzisi said. "I'm just going to go on stage and be myself. I'm expecting some people will heckle me."