With more and more cable networks getting into the original programming game by the minute, it seems like there are now more comedy shows on TV than ever before. Cable series typically have shorter seasons, which has allowed for a recent trend to occur involving hyper-productive comedians balancing two shows at once — something that would have been impossible before the rise of cable TV. Let’s take a look at a handful of comedians and comedic actors that are splitting their time between multiple shows.
Paul Scheer — The League and NTSF:SD:SUV
The most recent guy to join the two-show club is Paul Scheer. Since 2009, he’s been a series regular as fantasy football league black sheep Andre Nowzik on FX’s The League, a show that he has written the occasional episode for; but this summer saw the debut of NTSF:SD:SUV, on which Scheer serves as the star and the creator. Both shows run short seasons and NTSF is only 11 minutes long, allowing Scheer enough time to play a major part in both series. As if he weren’t busy enough with two simultaneous comedies on the air, Scheer also sporadically writes for NTSF’s companion show, Childrens Hospital, hosts his own Earwolf podcast How Did This Get Made? with wife June Diane Raphael and buddy Jason Mantzoukas, and performs live comedy weekly at the UCB Theatre in L.A. He may just be the busiest person on this list.
Will Arnett — Todd Margaret and Up All Night
This past season, Will Arnett was working on Running Wilde, in which he played the main character, and IFC’s The Increasingly Bad Decisions of Todd Margaret, in which he was billed as a guest star but appeared in pretty much every episode and most of the promotional material. Running Wilde has been canceled, but Arnett will continue to do the two-show thing when he returns to primetime this fall to star on Up All Night with Christina Applegate, and Maya Rudolph for NBC. Todd Margaret’s abbreviated six episode seasons allow Arnett to shoot during the off-season of his full-time network jobs, keeping the members of Gobias Industries together. As they should be.
Joel McHale — The Soup and Community
Joel McHale’s breakthrough role was as host of the E! network’s pop culture snarkfest The Soup. Unlike previous hosts of the show’s predecessor, Talk Soup, McHale didn’t depart when he started booking bigger roles. McHale began playing Jeff Winger, the central character on Community, in the fall of 2009, but he continues to step back in front of the green screen to host The Soup, which he writes for and produces, when he has the chance. Community’s become his top priority over The Soup, but he’s still very much the face of both shows.
Fred Armisen — SNL and Portlandia
Fred Armisen spent eight seasons on the SNL cast before he used his 2010 summer hiatus to film his own series, Portlandia. Armisen stars in and created the IFC show with musician Carrie Brownstein, but he’s still a big part of the SNL cast, where he plays President Barack Obama and his characters are a constant fixture at the Weekend Update desk. Armisen is the first SNL castmember to star in another show while still on Saturday Night Live, and he’ll continue to do so in the coming year. He’s currently using his summer break from SNL to work on Portlandia’s second season.
John Oliver — The Daily Show, Community, and John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show
One of the longest serving correspondents on The Daily Show, John Oliver has been with the series since 2006 and is also a member of the writing staff. In primetime, Oliver recurs as Professor Ian Duncan on Community, an occasional presence since the show’s very first episode. In Community’s second season, he received a bump-up in screentime when Professor Duncan became the central group of community college students’ instructor. Also placating John Oliver’s seemingly-insatiable appetite for producing comedy are his hosting gigs on the podcast The Bugle and the Comedy Central stand-up showcase, John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, on which he’s MC’d in between performances from some of our best and brightest living stand-ups, including Paul F. Tompkins, Eugene Mirman, and Marc Maron.
Alison Brie — Mad Men and Community
It seems like a lot of members of the Community cast have part-time gigs on the side. Allison Brie has been a recurring guest on Mad Men since 2007, two years before Community’s debut, as Trudy Campbell, the wife of advertising exec Pete Campbell. Brie’s popped up in nearly half of the show’s episodes throughout its run. In addition to appearing in two of the most critically acclaimed shows on television — each of which are from different genres and opposite sides of the tonal spectrum — Brie’s on her way to becoming a movie star, too. Next year, she’ll be seen on the big screen in Jason Segel’s Five Year Engagement and starring alongside Lizzy Caplan and Martin Starr in Save the Date.
Ben Schwartz — Parks and Recreation and House of Lies
Best known to fans as Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation, Ben Schwartz has been keeping busy outside of that recurring role. Last season, he was a series regular on J.J. Abrams’s short-lived spy show Undercovers, but he’ll soon be seen part of an ensemble that features Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell on the upcoming Showtime series House of Lies. Don’t expect to see Schwartz disappear from Parks, though, as last season’s finale left Jean-Ralphio involved in a plotline that will be very important this coming season: the multimedia conglomerate he started with Tom Haverford with money he got from being hit by a Lexus. In addition to his roles on Parks and Rec and House of Lies, Ben Schwartz is a screenwriter in high-demand, currently working on a remake of the 1991 film Soapdish for Paramount, and he performs improv live each week at L.A.’s UCB Theatre.
Jon Benjamin — Archer, Bob’s Burgers, and Jon Benjamin Has a Van
Jon Benjamin’s new show, Jon Benjamin Has a Van, may be the first time many of the comedian’s fans have seen his face, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only program he has on the air. Benjamin voices the title characters in the FX spy comedy Archer and Fox’s fast food family sitcom Bob’s Burgers, making it a grand total of three current shows in which he’s the leading man and his character’s name is in the title. Due to the reduced time commitment that animated series require, Benjamin was able to start up his own live action show, which he also created, in his free time this past year. Benjamin’s three shows makes his Bob’s Burgers co-stars Kristen Schaal and Eugene Mirman seem lazy in comparison, even though they’re both busy live performers moonlighting on other shows, too (The Daily Show and Delocated, respectively).
Bradford Evans neglected to mention Seth MacFarlane on purpose.