When you think of a stage production, a perfectly polished show may come to mind, in which you can sense the hours of rehearsal that has been put in by the cast. This is not the case with Netflix’s new trio of long-form improv specials, “Middleditch & Schwartz.” The nearly hour-long two-man shows offer charm, spontaneity and plenty of raw comedy.
The improv comedy special is the first of its kind on Netflix’s platform. What is improv? It’s all made up on the spot, continuously ad-libbing and riffing off each other to create a story based on an audience suggestion.
Viewers may recognize Thomas Middleditch as Richard Hendricks from HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and Ben Schwartz from “Parks and Recreation” where he plays Jean-Ralphio Saperstein. The comedic duo and co-creators of the show have been doing improv for around 20 years each, said Schwartz in various interviews.
“Everything tonight will be made up on the spot,” Schwartz said in the opening episode. “Every character, every word, every sentence, everything in the universe. This is long-form improv, and we’re very excited to bring it to you in this special form.”
Each episode is a fast-moving carousel of characters in dysfunctional situations such as a parking lot wedding where all of the guests barely met each other at a music festival in 2015. Full of offhand comments, misunderstandings and swapping of characters, Middleditch and Schwartz hilariously play off each other causing the audience to erupt in laughter.
The show’s charm builds from a mess of characters and the actors constantly mixing up the names and situations. Each slip-up and real-life conversation between the pair, like Schwartz taunting Middleditch before a game of rock, paper, scissors, makes the special all the more humorous.
With jokes landing left and right as Middleditch and Schwartz run around the stage, moving chairs back and forth and even walking through rows of the audience, you want to stop and pause so you can contain your laughter without missing what happens next.
Middleditch and Schwartz’s chemistry is undeniable throughout the three episodes. They bring the purest form of improv comedy to life in the specials. Whether laughing at their own jokes, forgetting character names, playfully antagonizing one another and using quirky voices, the duo makes it incredibly hard not to crave for more.
While most comedy shows are full of jokes and bits, “Middleditch & Schwartz” breathes new life into what funny is. Whether you’re a fan of improv or not, these two comedic master’s will surely turn you into one.
“Middleditch & Schwartz” is a delightful watch full of memorable jokes and carefree spirits. All three specials will leave viewers laughing hysterically unlike any other scripted comedy could. We can only hope Netflix picks up more episodes to release in the near future.
Air Date: April 21, 2020