Today’s cuppa: Irish breakfast tea
As management consultant Clyde Oberholt in Showtime’s Sunday-night dark comedy “House of Lies,” writer, actor and comedian Ben Schwartz gets to gets to crack jokes, do some drama and chase lots of women.
“I play the arrogant guy who goes after all the ladies,” he says. “At the same time, I’m the guy who can talk his way out of anything.”
On the surface, he appears loyal to the leader of his team, Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle), but Schwartz has another perspective.
“Initially,” he says, “Cheadle’s character considers me a good friend, but I don’t consider him a friend, and maybe I can use that against him. In essence, maybe I’ll look out for him, but the second I can take over his job, I don’t give a f**k about him. Excuse me for cursing.
“The whole idea is, we can do anything we can to get the job, and I think my character’s not above screwing over anybody else in the pod in order to get the job.”
While it’s often said that a lot of comics are dark and tortured, Schwartz doesn’t give off that vibe.
“Dark and tortured … I don’t know if that describes me,” he says. “A lot of times, comedy can come from depression or a dark place. For me, it’s probably the opposite. I’m comfortable with comedy, because I’ve been doing it for 10 years. I’ve been trying to be funny my whole life. I did it with Upright Citizens Brigade, writing jokes for different shows. writing movies and acting.”
A native of the Bronx, Schwartz had doubts about a future in show business.
“Truly, this was all I wanted to do,” he says. “I didn’t really think it was an option. I was a psych/anthro major, and I didn’t think I could make money acting or writing. It seems like one in a million people get to do that, so I was nervous.”
And it’s not like he went to a college famed for turning out comedy writers, but he did know where to find a good time in northern New York State.
“I went to Union College in Schenectady,” he says, “and we went to Chowderfest in Saratoga Springs every year for four years. We would buy the cheesy sweatshirts every year. I love Saratoga. Saratoga, for us, was like going out to fine dining.”
He’s also embraced social media, but in a way that honors his past as a joke writer for David Letterman, at his Twitter handle — @rejectedjokes.
“I write one joke a day,” he says. “It’s just a sentence or a quote that I make up. It’s hard to make it fit within that space, but on Letterman, I learned to write jokes. In my head, I always make it 120 or less, because with ‘RT’ and my long ‘rejectedjokes,’ it takes a lot of space.
“To me, it’d be more interesting if I see a joke every day. Who cares if I eat a tuna sandwich? ‘I ate a tuna sandwich!’ Nobody cares about me.”