Schwimmer was born in Astoria, Queens, New York, to Jewish parents, Arthur Schwimmer and Arlene Colman. They lived in Valley Stream, Long Island, til he was 2. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, where he attended Beverly Hills High School.
Having attended Northwestern University's summer "Cherub" program (the National High School Institute) in 1983, he subsequently enrolled at the university as a theater major, joining Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and Arts Alliance in addition to acting and directing. In 1988, along with seven other Northwestern graduates, he co-founded Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company.
Schwimmer is best known for his role as paleontologist Dr. Ross Geller in the television sitcom Friends. The program was hugely successful and Schwimmer, along with his co-stars, gained widespread and worldwide recognition among television viewers. He earned an Emmy Award nomination in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series" category for the role in 1995. This made him the first cast member of Friends to receive such a nomination.
Aside from acting, he also directed 10 episodes of the series:
- "The One With The Birth Mother" (2004)
- "The One With Phoebe's Birthday Dinner" (2002)
- "The One Where Joey Dates Rachel" (2002)
- "The One With The Stripper" (2001)
- "The One With The Red Sweater" (2001)
- "The One With The Truth About London" (2001)
- "The One With All The Candy" (2000)
- "The One With Ross' Library Book" (2000)
- "The One With Rachel's Assistant" (2000)
- "The One On The Last Night" (1999)
During the show's 10-year run, Schwimmer appeared in numerous movies but perhaps gained most recognition outside of Friends playing Captain Herbert Sobel in the dramatic mini-series Band of Brothers. He was the first Friends character to host Saturday Night Live in 1995, with all the other main cast members to follow in his footsteps over the rest of the seasons in the '90s, apart from Matt LeBlanc who never hosted.
Schwimmer played himself on the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. He also appeared in the TV series The Wonder Years.
In 2005, Schwimmer portrayed the main protagonist in the independent drama Duane Hopwood, and received positive reviews for his role as an alcoholic looking to turn his life around. In 2007, David directed his first film, the British comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run, produced by Robert Jones, where he teamed up with British actor Simon Pegg. A film about a man training for the London Marathon after running away from his pregnant fiancé on their wedding day. The movie starred Hank Azaria who had starred as David In Friends. He had previously starred with Pegg in the movie Big Nothing and briefly in Band of Brothers. He was talks to direct Simon Pegg's and Nick Frost's new project Paul.
He also voiced Melman the giraffe in Dreamworks' animated feature, Madagascar and its sequels.
In 2016, Schwimmer portrayed the late Robert Kardashian in the first season of American Crime Story, subtitled The People v. O.J. Simpson, which garnered him an Emmy Award nomination.
Schwimmer dated Natalie Imbruglia and Mili Avital, (broke up in 2001) and Carla Alapont. After they broke up in 2003, he was linked to Emmanuelle Perret among others. He is said to be related to Benji Schwimmer, second season winner of So You Think You Can Dance (America).
In 2007, Schwimmer started dating English photographer Zoe Buckman. In March 2010, Schwimmer and Buckman announced their engagement they were married in a small private ceremony the following June. On May 8, 2011, Schwimmer and his wife welcomed a daughter, Cleo Buckman Schwimmer.
The family splits their time between Los Angeles and Chicago, where as of 2008 they own homes.
- David Schwimmer is allergic to cats.
- In 2018, a "David Schwimmer" lookalike stole food from a store in America, leading many to think that David was the offender. David later told the public that he was in London. The lookalike was later arrested.
- David Schwimmer at the Internet Movie Database.