"The purpose of comedy is to make you laugh, but good comedy will make you think and feel as well," Thomas Middleditch says.
And that's just what he's doing on B Positive, Chuck Lorre and Marco Pennette's new CBS sitcom about an almost-divorced dad who gets a new lease on life when his renal failure unites him with an unlikely donor.
"The only person who agrees to donate her kidney is this whirlwind mess of a woman he knew in high school," Middleditch explains. And even as his cranky Drew tries to help ground Annaleigh Ashford's wild Gina, she's opening his world and teaching him to, well, be positive.
Growing up in Nelson, British Columbia, Middleditch wasn't exactly a comedy kid. "I was a weirdo that got bullied," he says. "So I watched movies where tough guys 'didn't take no crap.'" Then he stumbled into improv and found a weapon more powerful than Van Damme and Stallone combined.
"The minute you become the funny guy, the bullies realize you have a use in their society of terror and you kind of get a pass."
Comedy led him to Chicago's improv scene, which led to TV and movie roles and, in 2016, an Emmy nomination for Silicon Valley. The HBO series, which wrapped last year, was "a special thing," Middleditch says. "It was helmed by legends like Mike Judge and Alec Berg, and it's rare that you show up to set on day one and not only know the people, but have worked with them for years. That was the case for a lot of us."
Next, Middleditch returned to his roots and went on tour with Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation). Their long-form improv, which was taped for Netflix's Middleditch & Schwartz, "is my Patronus of comedy," he cracks, referring to a spirit-animal charm familiar to Harry Potter fans. "If I could do that with Ben for the rest of my career, I would be so happy." Meanwhile, his voice work as Terry on Solar Opposites streams on Hulu.
And now, Middleditch is reveling in multi-cam comedy on B Positive. Having shot the pilot in front of a studio audience before Covid upended production, he is looking forward to working before live viewers again. For now, he's thrilled B Positive is airing in CBS's coveted Thursday night lineup.
"I hope people dig it and have fun," he says. "As if we don't all need a positive show right now, right? Give us the good vibes!"
This article orginally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 12 2020