How to be neurotic, with Schmidt

Posted: October 29, 2012 in How to... (Writing Tips), TV Shows, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s the next post in this series where I discuss TV shows and movies and the knowledge that we can gain from watching them. We can apply that knowledge to our writing. As always, I never pretend to be an expert. I just like exploring my own thoughts on the matter as I write these blog posts! I welcome all comments and would love to hear what you think about this topic.

Make sure you check out my previous post, titled, “How to be inhuman, with Cas and the Doctor.”

Schmidt from New Girl is one of the best characters to ever grace my television screen. He is completely obnoxious and ridiculous, yet entirely loveable. You care about him at least as much (if not more) than the main characters Jess and Nick.

But why?

How can you create a character who is a total basket case, yet still make your audience love him and cheer for him?

First of all, let’s see how you make someone completely crazy. We have to start off by praising the actor who plays him, Max Greenfield, because the way that he talks and his mannerisms are something that brings so much life to the character. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Schmidt so perfectly.

Schmidt is a germaphobe. He’s vain and insecure. He’s an attempted ladies man/womanizer, but most of the time just comes off as creepy. He talks a lot of game but can’t always deliver. He’s offensive and disgusting, but doesn’t realize he’s offensive and disgusting. He tries so, so hard at life, but usually ends up either failing miserably or alienating the entire household. He has a recurring habit of saying douchey things and has contributed more money to the Douchebag Jar than anyone else on the show (or anyone else in the history of the world, to be honest).

It’s so hard to capture how brilliantly the role is written and played, so if you haven’t seen this show yet, just tune into a single episode. Schmidt is something else entirely and I’ll bet you won’t be able to decide if you think he’s annoying or amazing for at least the first few episodes. (I vote for the latter, obviously.)

So, how do we make this person likeable? How do you make the most exasperating character on the show someone that everybody loves? It’s not an easy feat.

It helps that Schmidt is hilarious and that Max Greenfield’s comedic timing is right on point. Everyone likes a good laugh and I’ll bet that he’s the reason many people keep coming back for more of this show.

Watch Schmidt in action:

But it mainly comes when Schmidt is being vulnerable. When he finally stops trying to put on a certain face and when he admits what kind of person he is. When he finally admits his loves for CeCe (awww!). When he finally takes a breather and says something that is totally honest and not offensive in anyway.

We cheer for Schmidt because he has at least one (if not several) of the traits we hate about ourselves. Despite his numerous shortcomings, we want to see him succeed because we feel that he should. He should have someone love him no matter how crazy he is. He should have friends he can rely on, no matter how awkward he makes their lives. He should be respected and liked because Schmidt, despite everything, is a good person.

And a good friend. He understands people, even if his advice isn’t always delivered with the right amount of tact. He sees things in people that they don’t see in themselves (ie. CeCe). And despite the fact that he is a little overzealous sometimes, he tries so hard because he cares so much.

As for our own writing, it’s important to note the wide spectrum here. Having a character who fluctuates from one end to the other at such a rapid rate can be difficult, but if you can balance the laugh-out-loud-at-how-completely-insane-he-is moments with the heartfelt, totally stripped down and honest moments, you’ll have a funny, interesting, and relatable character on your hands.

Have you seen New Girl? Do you like Schmidt? What’s your favorite Schmidt moment?

  1. i totally love schmidt’s character. i think you have a great point when it comes to writing a character like him – you can’t be too cliche; you have to make him a complete person, and he is. that’s what makes you like him in the end, i think.

  2. I love Schmidt so very much… and I agree with you, so much of his neuroses stems from being insecure and vulnerable. I think it’s interesting that they put him in a “fat” suit in all of his flashbacks.

    • Karen Rought says:

      Poor fat Schmidt. But it’s important to understanding why he is the way he is today. He’s such a complex character. I could’ve done whole study on him, to tell you the truth. This just sort of scratched the surface.

  3. […] Make sure you check out my previous post, titled, “How to be neurotic, with Schmidt.” […]

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