By Barbara Vitello
First published in the Daily Herald Chicago Suburban Chicago’s Information Source
People intrigue comedian Greg Schwem, they always have. That’s partly why the Arlington Heights native became a reporter. He liked telling people’s stories.
Some 30 years after he left his job at a Florida TV station to pursue stand-up full time, Schwem’s still intrigued by strangers’ lives. About four years ago, the Prospect High School and Northwestern University graduate turned that passion into “A Comedian Crashes Your Pad,” a combination comedy/travel web series now streaming on Roku and Apple TV.
It works like this: Wherever Schwem has a corporate or club gig, he scans websites offering home sharing — a kind of single-serve Airbnb where owners provide guests a room in their home for a night or two. A two-person crew films Schwem interacting with the hosts, learning about their lives, and touring sights not necessarily listed in the travel guide, places only the locals know.
“At a hotel, you know what to expect,” said Schwem, but with home-sharing “you never know what you’re going to get when you open the door. That’s what I want people to see.”
Since the series’ introduction, he has crashed about 40 homes. (Excerpts are available on his YouTube channel.)
Schwem, who adopts the role of straight-man, promises hosts he won’t tick them off or make them look bad. Only a few have been camera shy, and most welcomed him and the crew. Filming continued during the COVID-19 pandemic according to health department guidelines, said Schwem, with hosts and crew members sanitizing, using face coverings, and practicing physical distancing.
One of his favorite “crashes” took place in San Antonio, Texas, at a home belonging to a family of musicians. The couple’s son and daughter dropped by the night Schwem stayed there.
“The next thing you know, I was in the middle of a jam session outside on their front porch. That’s what I love about doing this,” said Schwem.
He has learned that if you’re going to share a stranger’s home, it’s best if you love animals. He once awoke to find a pet pig waiting outside his door.
One of his most memorable experiences involved a smart home where Schwem spent the evening arguing with virtual assistants Alexa and Google, forcing him to call the owner for help controlling the lights, TV, and toilet.
When it comes to reality TV, “A Comedian Crashes Your Pad” is a bit of an anomaly. Most reality shows show people in the worst light, says Schwem.
“I don’t want to do that,” he said. “I want to create a (series) that shows you can trust people.”
That’s what Schwem’s experiences taught him. He says those experiences confirmed, “there’s a lot of very good, caring people in the world.”
“If you’re going to open your home to a stranger, you have to be a good person,” he said.
For more information on Schwem and the series, see gregschwem.com.
Arlington Heights comedian Greg Schwem’s comedy/travel web series “A Comedian Crashes Your Pad” is available on Apple TV and Roku. Photo Courtesy of Brett Tuttle