Ben Schwartz on House of Lies Live! Special: This Hasn't Been Done on TV Before
by Kate Stanhope
House of Lies
After two seasons, the chemistry between the four stars on Showtime’s comedy House of Lies has been well-documented. But that chemistry will be put to the test in a new special airing on Tuesday at 10/9c.
House of Lies Live! features the series’ four stars, Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Josh Lawson and Ben Schwartz, along with upcoming guest stars and comedians Lauren Lapkus, Ryan Gaul and Eugene Cordero. They all performed long-form improv in front of a live studio audience earlier this month at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif.
“I would be so terrified if someone said, ‘Come! We’re going to go on stage and we have no idea what we’re going to do and we’re going to film it,” Schwartz tells TVGuide.com. “I could not believe that they had the balls to do it. They were so good. I’ve been doing it for a long time and there are people who have been taking classes that aren’t as sharp as they are.”
Indeed, it was Schwartz who studied at Upright Citizens Brigade, the famous comedy group which boasts alums such as Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari, and who pitched the idea of doing a live special at UCB. In his weekly show there, “Snowpants,” Schwartz and a rotating cast welcome someone untrained in improv, which in the past has included Oscar winner Jane Fonda and Dexter alum Michael C. Hall.
After having seen what Cheadle, Bell and Lawson could do on stage when they each appeared on “Snowpants,” Schwartz pitched the idea to Showtime President David Nevins, who was looking to do a comedy special featuring the cast. “He saw it and he was totally game. We just worked on it from there,” Schwartz says. “I thought it was pretty amazing because the idea of putting long-form on TV is like a huge, huge deal for me.”
Schwartz’s cast mates were also up for the challenge. “They had been on stage before so it wasn’t the most foreign thing in the world to them. But, of course, you can do improv for years and years and years and still not be as sharp but they were so good,” Schwartz says.
Watch a clip from the special:
Similar to “Snowpants,” nothing was discussed or practiced before the back-to-back live shows, and suggestions for the subjects to improvise were taken from the audience. “I don’t want them to get in their heads at all. I say, take as many risks as you want and you can’t make a mistake,” Schwartz says. “I think the second they’re not in their heads and they’re just living in the moment of that scene is when you get the best stuff from these guys.”
However, the way Schwartz tells it, it wasn’t too hard to get quality material from his cohorts. “All three of them shine so bright,” Schwartz says of Cheadle, Bell and Lawson. “It’s like, ‘F— you guys! You’re good at this also?!’ They’re so good at everything they do and then they come and do this thing that I’ve been doing for a long time, and they do it so well that it just makes you put them in an even higher regard.”
Schwartz is also hopeful that the special will shine a brighter light on long-form improv and get him closer to, hopefully, making “Snowpants” into a TV show one day. “That’s like a huge, huge dream of mine,” he says. “But the biggest thing was to try to get any form of it on television because it’s difficult to do, and it’s also an avenue that hasn’t been seen in that form on television. Maybe if people dig this and like this, it’s something we could talk about, but it hasn’t been talked about at all yet.”
In the meantime, Schwartz just hopes that the special, which premiered online Monday on SHO.com, Showtime’s YouTube channel and the House of Lies’ Facebook page, will get more eyeballs on House of Lies. “I’m hoping that people will watch us and see us and see the chemistry with us and it will lead them to get Showtime and watch the show.”
House of Lies Live! airs Tuesday at 10/9c on Showtime. Season 3 of House of Lies premieres on Sunday, Jan. 12 at 10/9c.