Interview with Ben Schwartz

You may know him from:

- Jean Ralphio on 'Parks and Recreation'

- Bill Hoyt on 'Undercovers'

- College Humor

- ESPN's Sunday Conversations

- Upright Citizens Brigade

(The contents of these destinations do not reflect the opinions of HBO.)


When did people start to recognize you?

It started when I was doing shows at the Upright Citizen's Brigade theatre in New York. From there, people began to recognize me from a short film series I did on College Humor called 'High Times Editorial Office' and another short film called 'Cheating.' Also, I have a site called where I used to post myself doing jokes in front of an audience of zero to purposefully let them bomb, since they weren't picked up by the places I'd been freelancing. The Internet is how I got most of my material out there, since it's hard to get agents in Los Angeles to notice you.

It seems like many comic actors share the UCB path to success.

I didn't have money for classes at UCB so the very first thing I did was work there as an intern. At the time I was obsessed with long-form improv. I didn't even need to get paid for it. I took out the garbage, gave out tickets, stuff like that. The show that I interned for was called ASSSCAT and it had Amy Poehler, Jack McBrayer, Seth Morris and Rob Huebel. That was all about seven years ago. Jesus, that sounds like a long time.

How did you get your start in acting?

I did long-form improv then I created a sketch team with Adam Pally and Gil Ozeri. I started doing commercials-none of which were good enough to air and later embarrass me. After we got into the Montreal Comedy Festival, I slowly started to book movies and get some writing jobs, including 'Robot Chicken.' When I finally had some development things, I came out to LA.

Would it have been impossible to make it in New York?

It's possible but it depends what you want to do. I wanted to act, but if you want to write, there's 'SNL,' Letterman, Colbert, and stuff like that. It's not impossible to act in New York, because there are some incredible people who are doing it. But in my mind, I felt I had to take every possible advantage I could.

Were you always on the path to be a professional comic or did you ever have a day job?

I was an anthropology-psychology major in college, so I had no real training as an actor. I first took an acting class because I wanted to graduate cum laude, then I told my parents that this was wanted to do and they supported me. My first job was working as a page at the David Letterman show. At UCB, I worked as a bartender and a booker, and did anything I could to make money.

How'd you get involved with 'Funny or Die Presents'?

When I came out here I started doing short films for Funny or called "Terrible Decisions." Eric Appel and I wanted to make short, minute-long films in the style of old Warner Bros. cartoons. They'd all feature me making some awful decision. One of the 'Funny or Die' guys saw them and wanted them in the show.

Do you know most of the people putting up the material there?

There are a lot of people there I know, mostly from UCB. They also will have random celebrities like Ralph Macchio in their videos.

Speaking of random celebrities, how'd you like having Gary Cole in the first "Terrible Decision"?

How good is that guy? I'm such a big 'Office Space' fan, I was so excited to meet him. He was totally on board, and played the perfect straight man, which isn't easy to do.

Was it his idea to grab the FBI hat off your head?

We like to work with funny people and see what they bring to the table. When we found out we had hats we knew we had to use them.

Will there be more "Terrible Decisions"?

I hope so. They're so much fun and so easy to do. It's just: Find the funny as quick as you can and get it out there.

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