Most people know Ben Schwartz for his hilarious and layered performance as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein on Parks & Recreation. But he’s been doing comedy, especially improv, for years now. He currently voices Leo in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and appears in Bojack Horseman as Rutabaga Rabitowitz. Right now, we’re all awaiting his first starring role in a big studio movie: Sonic the Hedgehog.
We won’t know enough to rate his performance as Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog until the film is (finally) released a few months from now. Until then, here are Ben Schwartz’s top ten roles, so far.
10 BB8 — Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Hardcore Star Wars fans might have looked this up by now, but for the rest of us who didn’t know, the initial work for BB8’s personality and conversations with the other characters was first acted out by Ben Schwartz. In initial run-throughs, he worked with actors like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, responding to their lines in English, and then those lines were translated into the beeps and boops that make up BB8’s lines.
It took a lot of rounds of trying to get the sounds just right. Apparently, the initial try sounded too human. Schwartz has said he isn’t sure how much of his voice is in the movie and how much of BB8 was digitally created, but he will always be one of the people who helped create BB8’s persona.
9 Bill Hoyt — Undercovers (2010-2012)
This comedic take on undercover spies was created by J.J. Abrams and Josh Reims. It only lasted for 13 episodes, 2 of which didn’t even air until years after the first 11. It was canceled pretty quickly, before it was really given a chance to breathe, and Abrams has taken the blame for that, saying he was trying to do something light and frivolous when that’s simply not in his wheelhouse.
Nevertheless, Schwartz is hilarious as the awkward computer nerd Bill Hoyt. Bill worships the leading male spy, Steven Bloom, and is so into the whole spy gimmick that he insists on using all the “lingo.” If you’ve ever wanted a comedic James Bond, this is the right show.
8 Milk Man - Jake & Amir (2009-2014)
There are several episodes of CollegeHumor’s web comedy show Jake & Amir that Ben Schwartz has guest-starred in over the years. His role as Milk Man (and doctor) in 2012 is probably his most iconic episode though. He comes in as a milkman who pours rotten milk all over Amir then helps him deliver a shoe. Schwartz does a lot of improv comedy and it really shines through in his Jake & Amir appearances.
Because Ben Schwartz kept making up his own hilarious character names in Jake & Amir, Redditors have actually created a Ben Schwartz Name Generator inspired by the insane combinations of phonemes he’d put together.
7 Josh Bath — The Earliest Show (2016)
In this miniseries, Ben Schwartz stars with Lauren Lapkus as two co-hosts of an early morning TV show. Guest stars on the show include comedians like Jake Johnson, Eugene Cordero, Reggie Watts, and Thomas Middleditch.
Josh Bath gets dumped live on air, and he and Samantha Newman (Lapkus) have to struggle through the rest of the show as he deals with the seven stages of grief. They hilariously harass, comfort, and are comforted by the guests that take a risk on this weird morning talk show. Schwartz is hilarious and heartfelt. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series.
6 Rutabaga Rabitowitz — Bojack Horseman (2015-2017)
This fluffy bunny is not at all that he seems. Schwartz plays Rabitowitz, a scheming, sarcastic, and relentlessly cheerful agent on Bojack Horseman. The character has a romantic relationship with another agent, Princess Carolyn, who he then hurts by not divorcing his wife. He also has a tendency to steal roles for Princess Carolyn’s clients right out from under her nose, something which drives her crazy.
For people used to the high-pitched sing-song voice he’s done for other roles, Schwartz’s voice is almost unrecognizable here. But he brings so much life to this character that we’re glad the part didn’t go to someone else.
5 Clyde Oberholt — House of Lies (2012-2016)
Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell also star in this comedic take on a group of management consultants who get the job done, no matter the cost. Schwartz plays a consultant who specializes in marketing and spin. He is often cruel, jealous, and beyond arrogant. One of the only emotions he ever shows is anger, but he’s always down for a good time. He can read people like a book and uses their weaknesses against them.
Schwartz’s normally silly brand of comedy works surprisingly well with a darker spin. His presence pulls the show toward a helplessly darker while the rest of the characters largely pull him back from the dark side.
4 Leo — Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018—)
The new remake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was greeted with skepticism, but has been steadily getting better and better reviews as the shows continues. The show’s brighter colors accompany a lighter adaptation, something a bit more fun and humorous than previous versions.
Leonardo is normally the taskmaster of the turtles, but in this new take on the characters, Leo actually gets to have fun as a teenager. He still retains his leadership and analytical qualities, but he isn’t annoying or domineering. It’s that fun-loving spirit that Schwartz brings to the voice. He gives Leo the brevity he needs to be a fun teen once again.
3 Dewey Duck — DuckTales (2017-2019)
In this adaptation of DuckTales David Tennant stars as Scrooge McDuck and Ben Schwartz plays his grandnephew Dewey, the adventurous and funny triplet. He’s a classic middle child, always trying to stand out from the crowd, including starting his own internet talk show. As always, Schwartz brings depth to the role. We see hints of Dewey’s deep-seated fear that he’s just an ordinary duck. He is constantly trying to prove himself by throwing himself into dangerous situations.
This role and Schwartz’s role as Leo (see previous) only rank as 3 and 4 on our list because so much of the hilarity of Ben Schwartz is the physicality he brings to his comedy. While these roles are great—and he deserves every leading role—the next to let us see the full spectrum of Schwartz’s comedic talents.
2 Rabbi Charles “Boner” Grodner — This is Where I Leave You (2014)
This movie is a powerhouse of comedic talent. Ben Schwartz plays Rabbi Charles Grodner, who was friends with Adam Driver’s character in high school and earned the nickname Boner, for obvious reasons. After the four Altman siblings moved away to start their lives, he stayed behind and became a rabbi. When he handles their father’s funeral, they struggle to take him seriously and he falls back to his old high school insecurities as he tries to earn their respect.
Even though he’s a side character, Schwartz does so much with the time he’s given. He has heart and brings so much warmth to a role that would have come off as pathetic in the wrong hands.
1 Jean-Ralphio Saperstein — Parks & Recreation (2010-2015)
This is the role Ben Schwartz is most recognized for, and deservedly so. Every time Jean-Ralphio appears on screen as Tom’s ridiculous, grossly sexual, and trouble-plagued friend the comedy soars to new heights. He is outlandish and ridiculous, but also has so much heart. Jean-Ralphio always thinks he’s killing it and never seems to realize that he is his own worst enemy. He’s basically a puppy, and no matter what terrible thing he does, it’s impossible to be mad at him. He’s maybe not the best friend anyone wants to have, but everyone needs a Jean-Ralphio in their corner to cheer for them and encourage them to let loose sometimes.
Schwartz appears in 21 episodes of the show and each one is a brilliant performance. In anyone’s hands, the character would be frustrating, but Schwartz makes him a memorable and amazing character.