'The Earliest Show' Star Ben Schwartz Reveals The Origins Of Jean Ralphio's Constant Singing
For die-hard fans of NBC's Parks and Recreation the last couple of years have been tough. It's been nearly two years since Pawnee's eclectic residents have graced the small screen, and since the show's seventh season wrapped in February of 2015, we've been in dire need of a dose of Knope, Swanson, and of course — Saperstein. Jean Ralphio, the sing-songy sidekick of Tom Haverford played by Ben Schwartz may be one of the more outlandish and inappropriate characters in the small Indiana community, but that's also why fans love him. While JRS isn't coming back in a spin-off series of his own, Schwartz' latest offering, Funny or Die The Earliest Show (co-produced by Cap'n Crunch), delivers plenty of irreverent laughs to tide Parks & Rec fans over — and some of Jean Ralphio's signature sing-song delivery.
While the actor admits that his Earliest Show character isn't necessarily a nod to Tom Haverford's bestie, the singing-in-place-of-talking thing is something he "does a lot," whether he's on or off camera.
"I love making up songs," he says. "The first time I did it as Jean Ralphio, all it said in [the script] was 'sing-songy,' so I just made up a little thingy. And then after I did it once they were like, 'this is what you do now.'"
Luckily for Schwartz, no fan seems to be immune to the charm of hearing the actor croon lines like "I got run over by a Lexus," and "technically I'm homeless." But it had to start somewhere and when I ask Schwartz to recall the first line he ever sang on Parks & Rec, he pauses for several moments, then sings "student loans are a bitch."
"I did that line like ten times, then they chose their favorite version," he adds. "Parks and Rec put together a blooper reel of just me signing that exact thing, so you can hear all the different ones."
Of course, his new series is a bit different from the world of Pawnee, swapping small town politics for the beloved early morning news show. And the series takes that role very seriously: the fictional Earliest Show (a parody of a host of early morning shows, per Schwartz) is so early that it airs in the middle of the night.
"Early morning people are the happiest in the world," the 35-year-old explains. "I cannot imagine waking up that early and having that much energy. The characters are so bubbly and so excited and so happy and they like everything. It's such a weird human being to me... it was ripe for parody."
As for the potential return of Jean Ralphio, and not just his singing style, Schwartz says that "someone brought up the idea of a Jean Ralphio spin-off," but — don't get too excited — because Parks and Rec creator Michael Schur quickly quashed the idea. "Mike was like, 'I don't think you can take Jean Ralphio for more than 10 seconds at a time. If you do you'll just get so annoyed, so it has to be just little spurts.' And I was like 'Yeah, you're probably right.'"
Well, at least they tried.
Luckily, we now have The Earliest Show, where Schwartz has far less mousse in his hair as a morning talk show host, but still delivers yet another another hilarious character. And really, what more could Jean Ralphio enthusiasts ask for?
Image: Funny or Die ; Giphy