Middleditch & Schwartz performers Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz keep it on the down-low in this music parody game about hidden things.
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Our next two contestants are on the line. You know Thomas Middleditch from HBO'S "Silicon Valley" and Ben Schwartz from NBC's "Parks And Recreation." And they star together in a series of improv comedy specials on Netflix called "Middleditch And Schwartz." Thomas, Ben, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.
BEN SCHWARTZ: (Vocalizing).
THOMAS MIDDLEDITCH: We sing the "Friends" intro.
EISENBERG: You know, I'm really impressed that you guys have a improv comedy special because I will say that the idea of pitching an improv show is really hard. I've even heard, like, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", they tape three hours or something, like, just a huge amount...
SCHWARTZ: Oh, wow.
EISENBERG: ...To bottle it down.
SCHWARTZ: The pitch itself was difficult - just the idea of going to studios and try to pitch. And we talk about the reason why, you know, improv could just have, like, a stamp in the whole world of streaming, because for standup, you have to work on material for, like, six months, eight months. And then you get one shot...
SCHWARTZ: ...At doing a special. And you probably shoot two shows and take the best of those shows and make your thing. For us, every single show is its own special because there'll never be a show...
SCHWARTZ: ...Like that again. But when you go...
SCHWARTZ: ...And you explain that, that part - the business model is very exciting. But the part of, like, oh, but what's the show about? Like, oh, we have no idea.
SCHWARTZ: Like, yeah. But you got to tell us what's going to happen. Like, we honestly...
EISENBERG: Yeah. Exactly.
SCHWARTZ: ...Have no idea. And that was a very big hurdle. It took us a very long time to try to sell it, right, Thomas?
MIDDLEDITCH: Yeah. It was hard not to make some kind of concession where they would be like, OK. But, well, you know, we'll shoot an hour and a half. And we'll whittle it down to, like, 20 minutes or, like, a best-of...
MIDDLEDITCH: ...Or, like, put some kind of strange framing device on it or be like, yeah. It's you guys. And here's three other special guests each week. And it's like, no, no. No, no, no. We've been doing this show (laughter) for, like, 12 years. It's this show.
SCHWARTZ: It's like, you know, the medium that we've been doing for 20 years each. Thomas has been doing it for over 20 years because he started when he was a little baby. So it's like...
JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Just a little baby boy.
SCHWARTZ: He was a baby. He was Yes-and-ing (ph). He was zip-zap-zopping (ph) right after he was born. But I was...
COULTON: I did Crazy Eights in order to get out of the womb.
SCHWARTZ: Look at these specific improv references. But it was...
COULTON: Deep cuts. Come on.
SCHWARTZ: It was a big one. It was a big one. And Netflix giving us the opportunity is like - it could not have been better because they are worldwide. It's insane that we're getting tweets today from people in different countries that we've never even been to in our lives being like, we were watching and reading the captions. And it was amazing. And I was, like, oh. This is incredible.
EISENBERG: That's awesome.
EISENBERG: All right. Do you guys want to - speaking of improv, do you want to play some games...
EISENBERG: ...With us?
SCHWARTZ: Could you imagine? The whole idea of improv is to yes-and (ph). The first thing you ask us, we both say...
MIDDLEDITCH: I'm out.
SCHWARTZ: ...No. Out. See you. Peace.
SCHWARTZ: Let's do it. Grab your tote bag. Let's go for a ride.
EISENBERG: That's right. So...
MIDDLEDITCH: Come on.
EISENBERG: ...We're going to start off with a music parody game called Nothing To Hide.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, this is me.
COULTON: Oh. I'm going to love this.
EISENBERG: This is you. Yeah. You get live music.
SCHWARTZ: Jonathan plays song?
COULTON: Oh, boy.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, heaven.
COULTON: I know, right?
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
COULTON: We rewrote songs about secrets to make them about things people hide. So just tell me the thing I'm singing about and/or the original song's title or the artist who made it famous - three ways to win. Oh, my - (laughter).
EISENBERG: Or. Or. Or.
COULTON: Here we go.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, it's just Thomas and I now.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
COULTON: (Singing) There's a book where I write down my secrets like my crush...
SCHWARTZ: Diary. Diary.
COULTON: ...(Singing) He's so hot. You got to wait until I'm done (laughter).
SCHWARTZ: Oh, sorry.
COULTON: Thank you.
SCHWARTZ: You're nailing it. You're nailing. Keep going. Jonathan, you're nailing it. Go. Go. You're crushing it.
COULTON: (Singing) His name's Scott.
SCHWARTZ: You got it?
MIDDLEDITCH: Yes. I stole it.
COULTON: Diary. Now you can say it. Diary is correct.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, sorry. Diary.
MIDDLEDITCH: I stole it.
EISENBERG: There you go.
EISENBERG: That's right.
SCHWARTZ: Thomas cheated. But he'll take it.
COULTON: Yeah. He'll take it.
MIDDLEDITCH: Oh, yeah. I'll take that cheating slop.
COULTON: Do you know the song or the artist?
SCHWARTZ: That was "I Want To Be An American Idiot (ph)" by Green Day.
COULTON: Oh, that's a good - it's a good guess.
COULTON: Right neighborhood.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, no. I was kidding. I was kidding. I don't know what that is.
COULTON: Oh, OK (laughter). Really? That was "In My Room" by the Beach Boys.
COULTON: Little band called the Beach Boys.
MIDDLEDITCH: Yeah. OK. I think I heard of those guys.
SCHWARTZ: Jonathan, I apologize for interrupting your art. And I won't do it again.
COULTON: Oh, not at all. I wouldn't call it an art, by the way.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SCHWARTZ: (Singing) I want to be an American idiot. Imagine if that's the next song.
COULTON: All right. Here we go. Thomas, this one's for you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
COULTON: (Singing) Oh, oh. What do I do with this blemish? Why's it right there on my chin? Oh, no. It's bleeding. This concealer's looking weird. Now it's worse than it appeared. I should grow a beard.
MIDDLEDITCH: It's talking about, like, zits and pimples.
COULTON: Yeah. Pimple, that's right.
MIDDLEDITCH: And is that the Zombies?
COULTON: It is not the Zombies.
SCHWARTZ: Is that the Beatles?
MIDDLEDITCH: The Beatles.
COULTON: It's the Beatles. It's the Beatles. That's right. "Do You Want To Know A Secret" (Singing) Do you want to know a secret?
SCHWARTZ: The Beatles.
COULTON: Tired of those guys?
SCHWARTZ: I'm tired of the Beatles.
COULTON: Yeah, enough already. We get it.
MIDDLEDITCH: I know it's a controversial statement, but, yeah, we get it.
EISENBERG: The Zombies, though - more Zombies.
MIDDLEDITCH: More Zombies, man. That's the real...
COULTON: More Zombies, less Beatles.
SCHWARTZ: (Laughter) What world do we live in? Is this real life?
EISENBERG: That's a very kind of...
COULTON: All right. Ben, this one is for you.
SCHWARTZ: Jonathan, I'm loving this.
COULTON: Oh, I'm glad. I'm glad. Here we go. (Singing) Well, I might want some booze when I'm somewhere they don't sell it. So I keep this in my pocket, take a sip when no one sees at the diner, at the gym, on the street or in my office. Do you think I have a problem 'cause I drink from one of these?
SCHWARTZ: Are you ready to see - this is what I call a royal flush. You ready?
COULTON: Yeah, I'm ready.
SCHWARTZ: Billy Joel, "The Stranger," hiding alcohol in a flask.
COULTON: Yeah, yeah. You got all three of them. Well done.
SCHWARTZ: And you may want to hit that chorus 'cause you're right there, just to get it out, Jonathan.
COULTON: I know I do. I desperately do.
SCHWARTZ: These are teases. Just do it.
MIDDLEDITCH: At least the lick.
SCHWARTZ: I can't believe - it's making me so furious that you stop right when, like, the biggest part of the song is.
COULTON: Yeah (laughter), I know.
SCHWARTZ: By the way, "The Stranger" - one of the best front-to-back albums of all time, right next to "Still Bill," which is one of the best front-to-back albums of all time.
COULTON: Right on. Are you a - I am also a Billy Joel fan. I have encountered many Billy Joel haters, and I'm not having it anymore.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, I love Billy Joel.
COULTON: The man is a national treasure.
SCHWARTZ: And that particular album, if you see how many hits are on that one album, you will be blown away.
COULTON: It's unstoppable.
SCHWARTZ: It's unstoppable. Anyway, this was our podcast called "Billy Joel's Unstoppable."
SCHWARTZ: See us next week when we talk about Elton John and we're OK about it.
EISENBERG: (Laughter) Just medium.
COULTON: All right. Thomas, here's one for you. (Singing) It's my cat's name, my year of birth. With 1s for I's, it's capitalized. Punctuation - a symbol or two. It's uncrackable. My account's unhackable. If you guess it, that's OK. I use two-factor anyway.
MIDDLEDITCH: Oh, OK. It's about having a really good password for...
COULTON: It's about a password. That's right, yeah. Do you know the song or the artist?
MIDDLEDITCH: (Singing) Ay (ph) - I know that part.
COULTON: It is "Our Lips Are Sealed" by the Go-Go's.
MIDDLEDITCH: There you go. I know that - I've heard that song, but OK.
EISENBERG: It's OK. It's all right.
COULTON: OK. Ben, here's what...
MIDDLEDITCH: I'm trash.
COULTON: No, no. You're doing great. You're doing great.
SCHWARTZ: You're doing great, Thomas.
MIDDLEDITCH: No, I'm trash and you've got to throw me in the dumpster. And don't even recycle me. Put me in the dump.
COULTON: We're not going to do it.
MIDDLEDITCH: Throw me in the dump.
COULTON: All right, Ben, here's one for you. (Singing) When I'm at work and I want a treat, keep your baby carrots; I want something sweet. My weight loss plan I will just ignore, reach into the bag in my right desk drawer.
SCHWARTZ: (Singing) Talking in my sleep - is it that?
MIDDLEDITCH: Oh, I know this one.
COULTON: Yeah, "Talking In Your Sleep" by?
SCHWARTZ: "Talking In My Sleep" (ph) by Notorious B.I.G. And the - it's about eating snacks when you should be on a diet, it seems like.
COULTON: Yeah, exactly. We're looking for candy, but I will absolutely take snacks.
MIDDLEDITCH: Hey, what is - who sang (singing) talking in - who sang that?
COULTON: That was The Romantics.
MIDDLEDITCH: Oh, yeah.
EISENBERG: Hey, side question - is anyone here having, like, crazy vivid dreams recently?
SCHWARTZ: Yes. I've been having terrible dreams and also weird - like waking up and remembering everything and then it going away.
EISENBERG: Yeah, I'm just having weird ones where I'm beside someone. And then I have to go, aren't we supposed to be far apart? That's really (laughing) anxiety dreams.
SCHWARTZ: (Laughter) Are you really? You're having dreams about being too close to a person?
EISENBERG: Yes. I'm in a dream just doing whatever, but I'm around a lot of people. And I'm going, like, why are we doing this? We're not supposed to be doing this right now.
SCHWARTZ: I've had that same thing.
SCHWARTZ: It's a dream that's like a totally normal dream. And then my brain in the dream realizes we're too close.
MIDDLEDITCH: Oh, bummer. I'm just having, like, greatest hits dreams, you know? I'm doing classic flying dreams. I'm doing dreams where I'm super strong. I'm getting a million super gratifying, like, intimacy dreams. It's just like - it's pretty crazy. It's just - yeah, it sucks that you guys are having such a tough time. But I'm literally - like, it's a highlight reel.
EISENBERG: Nailing it - you're nailing the quarantine. You're nailing isolation.
MIDDLEDITCH: Yeah. More like quaran-dream (ph). All right. Next question.
COULTON: All right. Thomas, this is the last question. It's for you. (Singing) They've got a map to follow. Pirates go on a trek to an X.
MIDDLEDITCH: They're pirates on a treasure hunt.
COULTON: Yes, treasure.
MIDDLEDITCH: And (vocalizing) - I don't know (laughter). It's not the Foo Fighters. I have no idea.
COULTON: It is not the Foo Fighters. It is Queens of the Stone Age. That's "No One Knows."
MIDDLEDITCH: Oh, yeah. Of course.
SCHWARTZ: Feels like a great Guitar Hero song.
MIDDLEDITCH: Yeah, you're clicking the buttons on that one. You can probably play that on medium. And then there's the hard part. Then you've got to...
COULTON: Yeah, give it to your younger brother.
EISENBERG: We did keep score. Do you guys want to know, or do you want to just know that you did great?
SCHWARTZ: I feel like we did great.
MIDDLEDITCH: No, let's know. I want to know 'cause Ben...
EISENBERG: (Laughter) I like that you're just out of screen. You're just out of - Thomas is lying down.
SCHWARTZ: We did great. We don't have to look. We love it.
MIDDLEDITCH: Ben, come have your day in the sun.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
EISENBERG: Coming up, we'll see how Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz fare when we turn from competition to cooperation with a game of Fact Bag. And Natasha Rothwell joins us from HBO's "Insecure." And we'll check in with you about the weird things you've been eating while in quarantine. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.