I have this smug and self-serving theory about first dates that my super great friend Sarah Brin (http://dinosaurparty.tumblr.com/) helped me cultivate. Here it is!
First dates are weird. They’re like part job interview, part food tasting, part middle school slow dance. (Maybe that last one is mostly on me.) There are lots of questions to consider. What is the level of dressedupness required? How much do I talk? What questions are out of bounds? How much chocolate cake can I eat before it starts to look ridiculous? It can be overwhelming.
As a comedian, I feel like there are two paradigms of first-date behavior. One is the standup comedy model, and the other is the improv comedy model. Now, as I type this, you have to know three things about me. 1. I am not good at dating. 2. I am a more proficient standup comedian and improvisor. 3. I’m going to get a lot of crap from standup friends about this, maybe. But! I submit that the improv comedy model of first dates is the ideal mindset for maximum fun and enjoyment. Here’s why.
Standup comedy is a dialogue between the performer and the audience. But, the dialogue generally only permits actual speech from one participant. Everyone else is expected to listen attentively and react accordingly, but they are not welcome to vocalize their opinions or offer related ideas. The standup comedy model of a first date casts one party as a performer doing his/her best to entertain or impress the other party. Sure, this works if you’re really into “The Game” and your goal is to hook up with sluts (male or female) with low self-esteem. But if you’re looking to build a more equitable relationship, maybe it’s not the best plan.
Improv is built on the foundational principle of collaboration. Improv players acted based under the premise of supporting one another and respecting each others’ ideas. “Yes, and..” a common improv mantra forces each person to listen to the other’s offers and push them forward rather than introducing themes of their own. This attitude provides a structure of mutual support in an improv scene, and on a date, it creates an atmosphere of excitement and collaboration right of the bat. The night becomes less about interviewing and showing off and more about creating a narrative for the night (or day) that includes both participants in equal measure. Both people can invest equally in the present and future of what’s happening, since both share the responsibility of shaping the story.
Anyway, just a thought. I’d also like to see my fantasy football team make a comeback today. So…go Team Teamwork! (That’s what it’s called.)