Fans of both Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz are no doubt aware that the two actors are incredible improv comedy performers. Whether you’ve seen bloopers from Silicon Valley or Parks and Recreation, it’s clear both of these guys know how to craft hilarious runs out of thin air. But what may surprise you when you watch Middleditch & Schwartz, three individual comedy specials taped for Netflix, is just how quickly these two guys can create entire characters and then essentially write a beginning, middle, and end to a story involving those characters in real-time.
Middleditch and Schwartz have been performing improv together for years, but Middleditch & Schwartz allows Netflix subscribers to be in the audience for three of their entirely improvised shows. Premiering on Netflix on April 21st are three one-hour live specials, each of which finds Middleditch and Schwartz performing a pre-show interview with an audience member, then using that interview to create a story and characters that they’ll perform through improv from beginning to end.
The process is fascinating to watch play out, not to mention hilarious, and as I mentioned it shows the range of talent both of these guys have in their arsenal. You look at Jean-Ralphio and suddenly it’s no surprise Schwartz was able to turn that character into something iconic almost immediately.
Which is why I was thrilled to get the chance to talk to Middleditch and Schwartz about their special via Zoom recently. Given that there’s a global pandemic happening and all, the three of us connected from our individual houses, and Middleditch and Schwartz opened up a bit about how these improv specials work, the challenges they faced along the way (in total, they’ve done hundreds of these performances together), what they do when the audience interview gives them mundane material, and how having cameras in the room for these Netflix specials affected their performance. I also asked Schwartz how much freedom he was given to create Jean Ralphio on Parks and Rec, and asked Middleditch if he’d be willing to return for more Silicon Valley somewhere down the road.
And last but not least, since Schwartz recently took to Twitter to voice the controversial opinion that Back to the Future Part III is better than Part II, I asked him to explain himself.
The Middleditch & Schwartz shows are a ton of fun, and as I said will probably make you see these two performers’ onscreen work in a different light—seeing how quickly and how well they’re able to create entire story arcs on the spot is wildly impressive. Not to mention funny, and with most of the world under some form of quarantine right now, Middleditch & Schwartz couldn’t have come at a better time.
Check out the full interview in the video above. Middleditch & Schwartz is available on Netflix Tuesday, April 21st.