Born in Queens, NY, Schwimmer was raised by his father, Arthur, an appellate lawyer, and his mother, Arlene, a divorce attorney who over the years handled the divorces of celebrities like Roseanne, Julianne Phillips and Elizabeth Taylor. After moving with his family to Los Angeles when he was two years old, Schwimmer had his first taste for acting at age 10, when he was cast as the fairy godmother in a Jewish version of "Cinderella." He continued to appear on stage at Beverly Hills High School, where his classmates included Jonathan Silverman. Schwimmer went on to attend Chicago's Northwestern University to earn his bachelor's in speech; during his senior year, he co-founded The Lookingglass Theater Company. After graduating in 1988, he returned to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, landing the role of a Long Islander who murders his girlfriend's abusive father in "A Deadly Silence" (ABC, 1989). The actor returned to Chicago and devoted the next few years continuing to work with his theater company.Heading back West, Schwimmer began to find roles on television, landing a recurring role as Olivia d'Abo's hippie boyfriend in the waning seasons of "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993). Following his feature acting debut in the coming-of-age drama, "Crossing the Bridge" (1992), he had recurring roles as an ambitious lawyer on "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994) and an unstable mugging victim on "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). Schwimmer had his first regular series gig as the liberal son of a conservative talk show host in the failed Henry Winkler vehicle, "Monty" (Fox, 1993-94). In hindsight, the fast cancelation of that series proved to be fortuitous, since the following season he began his stint as Ross Geller on the long-running hit, "Friends," one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. Schwimmer successfully used his hangdog looks to portray Ross, the hopeless romantic of a group of six tight-knit friends who wile away in each other's apartments and the local coffee shop, Central Perk. Schwimmer's anxious delivery coupled with the somewhat nebbish manner made him a standout on the show, while his on-again, off-again relationship with Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), became the most talked-about storyline on the show. Though not as decorated as his co-stars, Schwimmer did earn an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 1995 and some of the biggest laughs, including his disastrous date in leather pants, when he said the wrong woman's name at the altar, and when he over-whitened his teeth to glow-in-the-dark effect. He also appeared to be the de facto leader of the bunch, being the one who insisted the entire cast negotiate their contracts together for the same amount, thereby avoiding no any ego clashes or early exits from the show. While he played Ross on camera, Schwimmer also helmed a few episodes of the iconic show.During his run on "Friends," Schwimmer had his first leading role in a feature, playing an architect asked to deliver the eulogy for a high school friend he doesn't remember in "The Pallbearer" (1996). Critics dismissed the dark comedy as a pale imitation of "The Graduate" (1967) while audiences virtually ignored the film. He did have a rather unique turn in "Breast Men" (HBO, 1997), a docudrama in which he played one of the doctors responsible for introducing the world to silicone breast implants. But like most of his "Friends" castmates, Schwimmer struggled to translate his small screen appeal onto the big screen. But based on the strength of the show's success, he was signed to a multi-picture, non-exclusive deal by Miramax under which he directed "Since You've Been Gone" (ABC, 1998), a comedy about a 10-year high school reunion. Perhaps attempting to reposition himself in the marketplace, Schwimmer began accepting supporting roles in major releases like Bryan Singer's "Apt Pupil" (1998), based on a Stephen King novella, and Ivan Reitman's comedy "Six Days/Seven Nights" (1998), in which he played the noncommittal boyfriend of Anne Heche.Schwimmer subsequently appeared opposite Woody Allen and Sharon Stone in Alfonso Arou's straight-to-cable comedic misfire "Picking Up the Pieces"(2000), had a terrific uncredited cameo in the underrated indie "Love & Sex" (2000), and took smaller roles in the ensembles of "The Thin Pink Line" (1998), "All the Rage" (1999) and Mike Figgis' "Hotel" (2001). He fared better on the small screen with roles as an Army captain in Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' acclaimed HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers" (2001), and as a Jew in the Warsaw ghetto in the cable network's powerful film, "Uprising" (2001). Also on HBO, he had a fine recurring stint playing an uptight version of himself during the 2004 season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2001-), where he was cast opposite Larry David in a stage version of Mel Brooks' "The Producers" and soon engaged in a caustic rivalry with his badgering co-star. Then after 10 highly-rated seasons, "Friends" finally came to close in 2004, with Ross' long-running relationship with Rachel ending with their reunion after what appeared to be their inevitable and permanent split.With the show firmly in the past, Schwimmer set his sights on the future, directing episodes of the show's spin-off "Joey" (NBC, 2004-06) starring "Friends" co-star Matt LeBlanc. In 2005, he made his London stage debut at the Gielgud Theater in "Some Girls" opposite Lesley Manville and Saffron Burrows. He also voiced Melman the Giraffe in "Madagascar" (2005), Disney's animated adventure about four zoo animals who escape and inadvertently find themselves in Africa where the city slickers struggle to survive in the wild. After making his Broadway debut in a revival of Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" (2006), Schwimmer made his feature debut as a director with "Run Fatboy, Run" (2007), which starred Simon Pegg as an overweight man who tries to win back the fiancée (Thandie Newton) he left five years before by running a marathon. Following a guest episode of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-13) as an out-of-control environment mascot, he revived the voice of Melman for "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (2008), the Christmas special "Merry Madagascar" (NBC, 2009) and "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (2012). After taking time off from acting to direct the independent movie "Trust" (2010), Schwimmer appeared in the acclaimed mob drama "The Iceman" (2013) and portrayed attorney Robert Kardashian in Ryan Murphy's retelling of the O.J. Simpson trial, "American Crime Story" (FX 2016-).