Three years ago, Lane Moore, a writer and comedian in New York, came home to find her two roommates Tinder-swiping in their living room. Moore was curious about this dating app everyone was talking about. So she downloaded it and made a video of her roommates swiping on Tinder. Then a lightbulb went off. Moore turned to them and said: “This would be the most amazing comedy show. I could just stand up there with a screen and go on Tinder, live in front of everybody. It could be really interactive.”
Shortly thereafter, Tinder Live was born, a comedy show where she projects Tinder profiles in front of an audience and panelists help her dissect profiles before swiping left (no) or right (yes). Tinder Live is coming to D.C.’s Lincoln Theatre for a Valentine’s Day show on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Solo-ish editor Lisa Bonos chatted with Moore about Tinder’s comedic potential, and why married people love dating apps so much. This interview is edited for length and clarity.
Bonos: Why is Tindering in a group so much fun?
Moore: This is something that everybody does to some degree. You get together with your friends and you’re like, “Help me go through my Tinder.” Going on Tinder by yourself, or any dating app on your own, can be so daunting. On all dating apps, people can be flaky or people can be rude. So many guys will yell at you before you’ve even talked. On their profile, they’ll say: “Listen, if you’re any of these things [fat, ugly, a stripper], don’t even message me.” And you’re just like: WHAT? How are we already fighting?
Bonos: When you encounter somebody like that, do you swipe left immediately? What’s your response?
Moore: On the show, those are so the people I want to swipe right on. There’s a part of me that has some level of empathy [for these guys]. I understand what it takes to get to the point where your profile says: “Ohmygod, here’s a list of things I don’t want to have to see again.” I’ve been there; we’ve all been there. I always tell the audience: “Listen, I know you want me to find love and that’s awesome, but we don’t want to talk to the guys who seem like really awesome, earnest guys.” We want to talk to the guy who’s like: “Listen, if you’re a feminist, swipe left.” That’s the guy I’m swiping right on.
Moore: It’s so much more fun. I did do that once with a guy who’s like “no feminists, never.” And so … I swiped right with him and matched. I play a character on stage who’s really drunk and kind of dumb and a little insane. She’ll say things like: “Ohmygod I totally want to hang out with you, but like currently I live in a bar and I’m trapped in the woods. But give me a minute and we’ll totally go out.” Guys will still talk to her. With the feminist thing, I find a way to playfully explore it. I’ll say: “Hey, I saw your profile. First of all, what’s a fermeminist?” I’ll misspell it. “I’ve heard of it, but I’m like: What is that? It sounds so weird hahahaha.” So then he wrote me back: “Are you being serious right now?” And I was like: “Yeah. I hear all these women use it, and I’m like CALM DOWN.” And so he said: “A feminist is somebody who believes in equality among the genres.” Maybe that was a typo, but he typed it again. He said: “They believe both the genres should be equal.” I wrote him back: “Oh, so like sci-fi and horror should be equal? I don’t know if I’m a feminist, because I like horror way better.”
Bonos: What kind of photos do you have in your Tinder profile, and what does your bio say?
Moore: My bio actually doesn’t say anything. It just has a series of odd emojis, which are really a bedrock of the show. I will often send a guy a message that’s just like: “Hey, what’s up? I totally know how to do sex things.” And then I’ll send him [the following emoji: ambulance; a knife; a church; nine children. Nine times out of 10, no dude is freaked out. They’re like: “I’m in! A knife, 9 kids. A ham sandwich, sure — this girl’s awesome." [On Tinder, in real life] I was being smart and funny and starting conversations … and I just felt like that’s not really what a lot of people on Tinder wanted. So I had a theory that if I just went on and I was like: “I love drinking. And I live on a roof. And here’s a knife and a pizza [emoji]” … guys would be like: “Yeah.” In a way, that’s been a little true.
Bonos: Why do you think that is?
Moore: It’s not all dudes. But there are definitely a lot of people on dating apps who are just like: “I don’t care. I just want to make out with somebody. I just want to hook up with somebody.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting that situation. But I believe that most of us want something more out of our relationships.
Bonos: Do you ever have couples who met on Tinder that come to the show?
Moore: There are Tinder first dates; there are couples who met on Tinder. I love those people. Pretty much everybody is on a dating app, and we’re all kind of going through it alone. [Going to a Tinder Live show is] a really cool shared experience of: “Oh we’re not alone; we’re in this together.”
Bonos: Why do you think married people love Tinder so much?
Moore: I think when you’ve been with somebody a long time or you’re married, sometimes it can be really easy to [wonder]: Is being single better? Do I miss being single? A lot of people come to the show and they’re like: “Nope.”
Bonos: I’m good.
Moore: Right. And I think that that’s lovely.
Bonos: The guests for your D.C. show are Washington Post humor writer Alexandra Petri and Heather Matarazzo. What do you look for in your guest-swipers?
Moore: The number one thing that I look for [in panelists], weirdly, is empathy. I don’t have any guests who come on and will make fun of somebody’s appearance or superficial things. It’s so easy for this format to turn into something that would just be: “Oh that guy sucks. He’s so ugly.” That’s not the show I want.
Bonos: Is it hard to make empathy funny?
Moore: No. I’m really good at — and the people I have on the panel are really good at — saying things like: “This guy Photoshopped six of his photos together because he couldn’t choose one, and he spent time on that Photoshop.” That’s so much more interesting, and so much funnier than just some throwaway comment about how you think someone is ugly.
Bonos: You’ve seen a ton of Tinder profiles. What are the biggest mistakes that people are making?
Moore: I have a lot of segments on the show that specifically target and talk about the biggest mistakes — or tropes. One of them I call: This might be my kid. You can’t just put your baby in there … because then I’m going to think that you recently had a baby with your wife and you’re cheating. Just explain it. There’s also a fun game I play with the audience called: Which one is it? That’s when you have a photo … where it’s 10 people and you don’t even know who you’re trying to have sex with. Sometimes, there’s never an individual photo. There’s another segment I call: Women let me touch them. This is when guys have their arms around a bunch of women. Maybe you’re trying to show that hot girls find you attractive, or you have hot female friends … but you don’t want to introduce a weird competition. That’s what women are going to think: Are you involved with those girls? Are you going to compare me to those girls?
Bonos: And what are the things that stand out as totally awesome?
Moore: I love when guys put in their profile either “Not looking for anything serious” or if they put: “No hookups.” There’s a misconception that Tinder is only people looking for hookups, and that’s absolutely not true. But … it can be really hard and kind of time-consuming to figure out what someone is looking for.
Bonos: Are there other apps, aside from Tinder, that are catching your eye right now?
Moore: There’s one that I like, called DragonFruit. It’s for nerds to meet other nerds. I love the idea of that so much. I love the idea that we’re in a dating-app boom. Because it’s so much material for me to be able to do shows; but also because … allowing us to connect more in the world is something we need, especially right now.
Bonos: Our new president is sometimes referenced in profiles. From what you’ve seen, has there has been a Donald Trump effect on Tinder?
Moore: I’m in New York City, where we have some Trump voters, but it’s probably rare that they’re going to put that in their profile, because it’s such a blue state. So I haven’t seen it that much here. But because it’s a thing that’s so polarizing in our country right now, it absolutely acts similarly to if somebody put: “No hookups.” Or “just looking for hookups.” It really tells you from the get-go, here’s where this person’s at. People’s political beliefs are, if nothing else, stronger than ever. It can be something that either immediately binds or repels two people.