Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) and Ben Schwartz (Sonic: The Hedgehog) have been touring the nation (obviously pre-quarantine) doing long form improvisational comedy, as opposed to the standard stand-up theatrics that one would associate with that kind of show. Netflix recorded three different shows from their tour and put them on their streaming platform early last week. Their show, simply titled Middleditch and Schwartz, is based solely around a verbal prompt from a member/members of the audience. They ask the questions they need, get some names, and then, the show begins.
The two utilize the stage and sometimes go beyond it into the audience, but the bare breakdown of it is that the two bounce ideas off each other and expect each other to roll with it. Even then, as one creates a character in the span of seconds, the other one may even revolve their position to be that same character. It’s confusing if you are not paying close attention, so this program is not one where you could just scroll through your phone while it’s on.
For that matter, you are not going to want to. Well, let me rephrase; if the idea doesn’t hook you right away, you may not want to press further. Comedy routines/specials are clearly subjective, and Middleditch and Schwartz’s antics could not be the correct version for someone’s particular mindset. That being said, if you can’t find something to enjoy out of one or all of these specials, I am quietly going to reserve my judgement on that, but I’d be honest if I’d say I wouldn’t be the slight bit concerned.
Each hour-long show creates inside jokes that you will mention to friends later. You will reference character names. You will try to emulate their movement and actions with those with which you watch it. I have discussed these types of things across the board with those that I know that have watched it. I cannot express how much creativity is involved in these specials, but how both of them use their mind to make MEMORABLE FICTIONAL PEOPLE IN A MANNER OF SECONDS. It is insanely amazing! Try to ever not talk about Short Paul, Nigel, Jason the Alien, or Timothy the Third in your daily conversation with those that have seen these two work their improvisational magic web.
I watched the first episode, “Parking Lot Wedding,” by myself the morning after it dropped on Netflix. This was early morning so I was definitely laughing at it, but I was still waking up and couldn’t laugh loud because my wife was still in slumber mode. When she finally woke, I told her all about it and said she needed to at least give it a try. She was in, but it was definitely helped by the fact that both of us adore Ben Schwartz’s clubbin’, money lovin, “open-minded” as hell hilarious character Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation.
We sat together that night, and in my second viewing of the episode, I laughed even harder than before. I picked up on new things. And my wife and I both laugh-cried. We both raved about it. The day after that, we watched the second and third episode back to back (this being the end of last week). Again, we laugh-cried. We made jokes about the characters. We tried to imitate voices and movement. It really became a moment of conversation between us about how great these shows were. On that note, if this quarantine lifestyle ever ceases to be, I will scour the internet for when they go back on the road, because seeing them live is an absolute bucket list item now.
Each of the three specials is completely 100% unique, and you would expect one of them to flounder with the carryout. Their biggest “mistake” made in the whole process is not remembering who is who, because they literally create names after names and when they hop into each other’s metaphorical shoes. Even then, when they are trying to figure out what role belongs to a specific person, it is undeniably hilarious.
I’ve been singing the praises of Middleditch and Schwartz across social media platforms, but I cannot express how much joy this brought into my life and my wife’s life, so much so that we are still talking about several days later. It truly is a great comedy remedy that is just such a great thing to have during these unprecedented times. We all need a little bit of laughter and this is such a wonderful escape from the dark and dreary lockdown lifestyle. This gets a very high, top of the pile recommendation from yours truly.
Also hey Netflix….I NEED MORE!
Parking Lot Wedding: 10/10
Law School Magic: 9/10
Dream Job: 9.5/10
Middleditch and Schwartz is currently streaming on Netflix.