How Ben Schwartz Landed A Career-Launching Job On Letterman


Sonic the Hedgehog is currently the number one film in all of America. In fact, over the weekend, it scored the biggest opening weekend ever for a movie based on a video game. The title character in Sonic, of course, is voiced by Ben Schwartz, probably otherwise best known for his work as Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation and Showtime’s comedy House of Lies with Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. Schwartz — who counts Happy Ending’s Adam Pally among his closest friends — is also set to star in Space Force, the Netflix workplace comedy inspired by the sixth branch of the United States armed services, established by Donald Trump (while ripping off Star Trek). In addition to Schwartz, it stars Steve Carell and John Malkovich.

Believe it or not, however, Schwartz’s career in movies, television, and improv comedy may have never happened had he not managed to secure a job as a page on The Late Show with David Letterman. That gig eventually led to him writing jokes for Letterman’s monologue, as well as writing jokes for Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” on a freelance basis. Those writing gigs helped launch his career.

How Schwartz came about that career-starting internship, however, is an amusing story in and of itself, as he relayed to Marc Maron on this week’s WTF Podcast. As Schwartz tells it, way back in the early aughts, he was unemployed, and he wanted to get his foot in the door by getting a job in entertainment. So, one day he puts on a suit and tie and he goes to the offices of MTV, because “in my head, MTV hires young people.” With him, Schwartz had 20 resumes in his backpack printed on “my Dad’s fancy paper.”

Schwartz said he conned his way into the building by telling the security guard that he was an intern for Viacom and that he was late for work. That lie got him up into a higher floor in the building. When he got to the other floor, he spoke Spanish to the janitor to find out what floor MTV was on. Schwartz lied and said he needed to be on that floor, so the janitor unlocked the elevator and let Schwartz go down five flights.

When Schwartz finally got onto the floor with MTV, he walked into an office and told the woman working behind the desk, “I’m here to talk about a possible internship. Someone told me to come to this floor.”

The woman said, “I think you’re on the wrong floor.”

“This is MTV, right?” Schwartz asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but this is the President’s office.”

“And I go,” Schwartz said jokingly, “well, surely he can get me a job.’”

Disarmed, the assistant sent Schwartz down to another floor, where internships were handled. Schwartz handed over his resume, and the person who took it said, “OK, we’ll give you a call,” and then opened up a huge file cabinet that was filled to the brim with resumes and threw it on top.

“They’ll never call me,” Schwartz quickly realized.

“So, I’m walking back down Broadway, feeling dejected,” Schwartz continues. “I walk by Letterman’s building and they come up to me, because — as I learned when I worked there — that they need to fill seats, and if you look like you’re wearing a nice suit or something, they might want to get you in the crowd. And they were like, ‘Hey, you want to see Letterman?’” Schwartz says, “Of course.” While he’s in line, he sees the pages cheering up the crowd and doing what they do.

“This is my dream job,” he says to one of the pages. “Who can I talk to to get this job?” So, the boss comes over and tells Schwartz, “I’m sorry. I can’t help you unless you have a resume.”

And it just so happened that Schwartz did! “I took out all 20 resumes from my backpack, and he laughed, set up a meeting, and that’s how I got that job, which led to me writing jokes for Letterman’s monologue, which started the whole thing.”

The moral of the story? If you’re unemployed and looking for a job, it’s always good to wear a suit and carry your resume around with you, no matter where you’re going. You never know what opportunity may lead you to voicing the title character in one of the biggest video-game movies of all time.

(Via WTF with Marc Maron)


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