With his costarring role on Showtime’s ribald “House of Lies,” his recurring part as the cult fave wildman Jean-Ralphio on “Parks and Recreation,” plus a couple of big ticket film writing assignments, rising multi-talent Ben Schwartz is busy — so busy, he has literally rushed from one set to another to work on two different shows the same day. And now he’s doing 52 episodes as the title voice role in Disney XD’s “Randy Cunningham, 9th Grade Ninja,” debuting today.
“I don’t sleep much. I get very stressed out a lot,” admits Schwartz, whose credits include writing for David Letterman and “Saturday Night Live.” However, “I started from nothing, I had no connection with anybody in the entertainment industry. When I started I was just doing comedy for five or six years for no money, just trying my hardest to get work. So the fact I have opportunities now just blows my mind, it gets me so excited, you know, like, if I didn’t work as hard as I could, the person I was seven years ago would be so upset at me.”
Why a Disney XD animated show? Schwartz says he’s a long-term animation buff himself. With “Randy Cunningham,” he says, “I get to be a ninja! I get to be this big, funny, broad character and make action sounds like I’m slicing through robots and stuff like that. For me, that’s like the perfect fantasy.” Plus, his niece and nephew can watch it — unlike much of his other work. “Randy Cunningham” also attracted voice talent including Tim Curry and Megan Mullally. “It’s really funny, and it gets funnier as we go along,” Schwartz tells us.
MEANWHILE: Schwartz’ screenplay for Paramount’s planned updated version of the 1991 comedy hit “Soapdish,” with Rob Reiner producing, wound up on Franklin Leonard’s annual Black List of best unproduced scripts, voted on by producers. “I did it as a telenovela as opposed to a soap opera. Telenovelas sometimes get better ratings than American shows, so it’s like this big movement, this beautiful thing, so I wrote it that way,” he says. He’s also writing a comedy called “No Hearts Club” for Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment. “I’m almost done with the first draft of that.”
He has no idea whether he’ll land in front of the camera in either film, but he’s at the point of going for leads. “Independent films have been very kind to me to make me the lead of films,” notes Schwartz, who is remembered as Nathan Meyerwitz, the author who gave away his family’s secrets, in 2010’s “Peep Show” with Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson and Michael C. Hall. “But in $20 million ones, I’m totally aware that if you put Justin Timberlake or Shia LaBeouf in a movie, it’s going to sell a lot quicker than Ben Schwartz.”
The way he’s going, that could change before long.