It's been said there's someone out there for everyone. Undateable, a new comedy show from Second City Hollywood, tests this adage to the extreme. Running every Friday at 8 p.m. through Aug. 16, the sketch-improv hybrid utilizes real online interactions to examine the inscrutable world of internet dating.
The concept began when playwright Robyn Norris was forced to create an OKCupid account, so she could log on to see a friend's profile. On a whim, she decided to created the weirdest, most undateable person imaginable.
“I made up a whack-a-doo lady who was obsessed with cats and chocolate,” says Norris in an email interview. “I thought it was crazy and didn't expect anyone to respond. But within days there were hundreds of messages to TracyLovesCats. Guys talking in all 'meows' and 'purrs.' It was ridiculous. And hilarious. Incidentally, TracyLovesCats was way more popular with men that I was at the moment and that's what got me thinking. Why is this 'undateable' character getting so many messages? Is anyone truly undateable when it comes to online dating?”
To test her hypothesis, Norris enlisted the aid of several of her comedy friends for a photo shoot and created 38 unique, severely flawed OKCupid profiles. Personae ranged from MarryMeNowStat (a man overly eager to tie the knot) to Old4U75 (a 30-something woman who can't wait to to be elderly) to PioneerInABox (a “living museum” employee who never breaks character and posts messages like, '”Things were better back in 1869. Butter churn 4 Eva.”)
Guidelines were established to limit the variables. No starting conversations with other people; only civilians could initiate. No meeting anyone in person. Most importantly, no leading people on.
“Believe it or not there are lonely people on the internet,” said Norris, “and we shouldn't mess with them or their sensitive hearts.”
The experiment yielded hundreds of pages of authentic online interactions, like this response to Norris' most popular profile, Clean4U, which involved a picture of the writer clad only in a towel and the insistence that she takes 8 showers a day:
dear HEAD & SHOULDERS, eye steel tank hugh R zuh C L E A N IEST girl on OKcupid. just ONCE for ONCE for ONCE, wish you would respond back and TAKE SHAU SHAU with me so we could be C L E A N IEST together. Some kids are M E SSY when they drink milk but not me.
In the stage show Undateable, she states her hypothesis (that no matter how undesirable one may seem, there is still someone out there willing to love them), describes the experiment (the 38 fake profiles), and, most entertainingly, presents the data gleaned, via sketches. As the theater's LED screens display actual quotes from the likes of SexyLilWonton and FlyingToilet, the ensemble (comprised of Chris Alvarado, Rob Belushi, Amanda Blake Davis, Kate Duffy, and Bob Ladewig) embodies these cyber-personalities and reenacts their foibles.
Undateable posits that the majority of the potential daters encountered fall into a handful of basic categories: The Walking Dread (people who cannot resist putting references to the impending zombie apocalypse in their profile), The Most Interesting Uninteresting Men in the World (guys who quote pop culture badasses like the Dos Equis Guy) and Serial Killers (creeps who may literally be serial killers).
Undateable ends the show with improvisation, a comedy form the Chicago-originated Second City is famous for developing. The cast asks for two volunteers, a man and a woman, from whom they glean basic information, such as name, occupation, and the five things they can't live without. Using their answers, the ensemble creates a scene on the fly in which characters based on the volunteers meet and ultimately fall in love.
In addition to utilizing improv, Undateable adheres to Second City tradition in its focus on the emotional core of the material. This emphasis on heart sets SC apart from some of the more publicized L.A. comedic institutions, such as the more character-driven Groundlings. According to Frank Caeti, Undateable's director and a MadTV alum, despite these differences in philosophies, Second City's unique influence on other comedy theaters is undeniable.
“One can contend that none of them exist without the Second City, which in my opinion is the most historic and influential comedy institution in the world,” says Caeti via email. “SC isn't the biggest kid on the block in L.A. and there is something inherently dangerous in being the lesser known. I mean that in the best way possible.”
As for the Norris, this online experiment may have changed her skepticism towards internet dating.
“I never even thought of online dating because I'm a stubborn, old-fashioned romantic at heart,” she says. “But after doing this show, I think I might consider it. For every creepy person we met (and there were a lot), there were so many people who are legitimately just looking for someone to connect with. And that was refreshing and eye opening.”
She adds, “But after reading some of the more bizarre profiles and messages, I'd also have to proceed with caution.”
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