Middleditch & Schwartz Shows How Radical Improv Can Get When It Gets to Go Really Long
Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz, referred to as Middleditch & Schwartz when performing together, have pushed themselves into rarefied air as comedic improvisers. Most people who perform improv, even at a high level, do not get to tour or make money directly from doing improv live. On top of that, a good percentage of the general public only know of the short form improv juggernaut Whose Line Is It Anyway? Though popular, short form improv can be incredibly limiting and restrictive compared to the open field that long form improv can be (improvising scenes merely from an audience suggestion or story/experience).
Yet, the improv prowess of Middleditch and Schwartz has gotten them to the point into making three whole comedy specials for Netflix (now streaming) that really do capture how purely funny Thomas and Ben can be at any given moment, from any angle, and in front or behind the fourth wall.
Playing Carnegie Hall and touring all over the place for Middleditch & Schwartz has really given them an almost unlimited canvas to really bend and break the rules of improv however they see fit.
Generally, a set of long form improv goes about 10-30 minutes. Even if a group is set to do an hour show, they usually take break in the middle and reset. Thomas and Ben push themselves by doing just under an hour’s worth of improvising. The result is that you get to see a bit of the methods behind the madness when they’ll step in and out of the artifice of their performance. They’ll make fun of the entire cast of characters they created, their fluid relationships between said characters, and push each other into more and more absurd situations/choices and then only wiggle their way out, often in a hysterically daft manner. Throughout all these performances, the duo puts on a clinic of how to use and break form in improv for the biggest rows of laughter.
Whether you’re a self-identified improv nerd or someone who has been rather on the hesitant side of watching improv, Middleditch & Schwartz is absolutely something you should get into (again, all three specials are streaming now on Netflix).