Schwimmer began his acting career performing in school plays at Beverly Hills High School. In 1988, he graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in theater and speech. After graduation, Schwimmer co-founded the Lookingglass Theatre Company. For much of the late 1980s, he lived in Los Angeles as a struggling, unemployed actor, until he starred in the television movie A Deadly Silence in 1989 and appeared in a number of television roles, including on L. A. Law, The Wonder Years, NYPD Blue, and Monty, in the early 1990s.