Sometimes the best way to approach an awkward situation is to purposely and proactively make it as awkward as humanly possible. That’s the thinking behind the OK Cupid Show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre (UCB) in New York.
What is this, you ask? For those of you sensible enough not to be living in New York or LA, the Upright Citizen’s Brigade is a comedy theater and school that offers nightly improv, sketch, and stand-up shows. For those of you sensible enough not to be on OK Cupid, it’s a free online-dating site much favored by New Yorkers and 20-somethings, and definitely New York 20-somethings. Mixing UCB and OK Stupid is a brilliant move—and not just because it's a recipe for laughs. It also manages to teach helpful things about dating.
The premise of the show is that two comedian hosts invite one brave OK Cupid member onstage to go on three blind dates with matches from OK Cupid. Before a live audience.
Comedy gold? Maybe. Since the dates are not comedians or performers themselves, there’s a risk that you could be stuck watching the worst reality show ever. For that reason, the show is sprinkled with interruptions and comedic bits from UCB performers playing a range of characters like a put-upon waiter and other nosy neighbor types.
Comedians Eli Newell and Julie Klausner start off by greeting the audience and then bringing the bachelor, Peter, onstage. They also broadcast Peter’s OK Cupid profile on a large screen for all to see. Peter, 25, is an aspiring writer who works at a movie-theater concession stand. A bit short, plenty smart, and plenty quirky, he’d be the boy in the teen comedy who's in love with his pretty childhood best friend who doesn’t realize she’s in love with him until the climax in Act III. But in real life, Peter is not in love with anyone, just single and looking.
That’s where OK Cupid comes in—and Eli and Julie. Eli and Julie are the spirit guides/cool kids who coach Peter throughout the show and teach him how to stop being his own worst enemy in his quest to win fair maid. And this component, with all the carefree drama of a John Hughes movie, made up the most interesting portion of the show. Even in a city as diverse as New York, the way to be a good date is surprisingly universal. Peter was cautioned to talk less about himself and ask more questions of his date, to mirror her actions and not jump right into eating before she had started.
After a painful start, Peter did show improvement based on Julie and Eli’s advice. He became more visibly comfortable and at ease with himself with each date. He learned to talk more confidently about where he wanted to be in life (writing), and less defensively about where he was (selling Twizzlers). After Peter became entranced with one date’s woolly mammoth necklace, Eli counseled him to find a more real connection. Does she like to travel? What books has she read that you like? (The blind dates’ profiles with likes/dislikes were also projected for the audience). Eli and Julie showed Peter how to read the profile to get clues for what to ask his date about and had some tips for the audience, as well. After discovering that Peter had a fondness for handling newspaper string (!?), Eli proclaimed that this was exactly the sort of idiosyncratic information one should be posting about themselves to stand out among the OK Crowd.
In the end, much to the audience’s surprise, Peter chose the girl that he had the most quirky things in common with, as opposed to the one he had the smoothest, most successful date with. Which shows that when chemistry—like comedy—is working, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. It just sort of does.
(Photo by Shannon Lee Miller)