Middleditch & Schwartz

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Ben Schwartz and Thomas Middleditch in Middleditch & Schwartz.
Ben Schwartz and Thomas Middleditch in Middleditch & Schwartz.
Photo: Jeffery Neira/Netflix


Middleditch & Schwartz




4/5 Stars


Comedy duo Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz turn small ideas into epically funny stories in this completely improvised comedy special.


I stumbled upon this show by complete accident. It just so happened to pop up on my Netflix feed, and I thought, 'Why not?'. Best decision I made that day.

First, a bit of background on this comedy duo.

Thomas Milddleditch is a Canadian actor, best known for his role as Richard Hendricks in the series Silicon Valley. And if Ben Schwartz looks familiar, that's because you've probably spotted him on Parks and Recreation as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein. These two together are comedy gold!

Here's how the show works – Middleditch and Schwartz (they go by their surnames, not sure why) start by chatting to the audience and explaining that the entire show is completely improvised. That means absolutely nothing has been scripted. To be clear, everything is made up on the spot.

Next comes a bit of chit-chat; the audience is asked to throw out suggestions with the prompt: What is an upcoming event that you are either excited about or completely dreading? From there, the pair go on to create an entire episode, around 40-50 minutes long, using the info they have gathered from an audience member.

Here's the thing, I'm very particular when it comes to live comedy. It takes a lot to get a laugh out of me. But with these two, I was both impressed and entertained from start to finish.

The best part about each series is you, just like the hosts, have no idea what's about to happen next. You may be in a pretend classroom when all of a sudden, a zombie appears. Or perhaps you're at a conference when out of nowhere, you make the discovery that your boss is an alien.

Keep in mind that Middleditch and Schwartz are the only ones on stage, which means that they each have to embody every character they create. That's part of the thrill, though – watching them keep each other on their toes by throwing random scenarios in the mix. And we know the golden rule of improv, right? You can't say no. Improv is always "yes, and…".

Middleditch and Schwartz are completely in sync. Their comedy is smart, and they're quick on their feet. That said, there are many moments where they end up breaking character, but it never detracts from the show. In fact, it adds another level of charm and brings about even more laughter.

When I discovered this show, it was one of those tough days for me. Something we've all been familiar with during the pandemic. And then I saw the word "improv", and, not going to lie, I panicked a bit only because it's a craft that is always ridiculed on TV shows. However, after watching this series, I have a newfound respect for improv and everyone involved in it.

There are only three episodes in the first season, released on Netflix in 2020. This is me warning you upfront to avoid any disappointment when you search for the "next episode" tab at the end of the third one (#BeenThere).

Side note: I ended up watching all three episodes on the same day.

If you're looking for a distraction, or just something to make you smile, give this show a try. Even if it doesn't seem like your thing, I guarantee it will generate a laugh or two, and those 40 minutes fly by.


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24