Jaylene Tran was certain of two things: her schedule as a comedian was driving her to burnout, and dating these days is just as exhausting.
Thus, the Harvard University student became creative. She said, “Instead of chasing after stage time, how about creating some stage time for me?”
Thus was born “It’s a Date!”, Tran’s interactive comedy dating show, where audience members engage in activities that make typical icebreakers that much more fun. As Tran saw, a shared sense of humor is an essential ingredient for compatibility. The comedian produced his first performance of “It’s a Date!” in February, and now hosts shows in downtown Boston, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and Brookline.
“My goal is to have a show in every neighborhood and slowly become the dark mother of dating in Boston,” Tran said.
During each performance, Tran rotates between different themes and audience members are given an assignment that determines who they can be paired with that night. In one of his most popular shows, the walls of the room are lined with memes ranging from wholesome comic book photos to dark tweet screenshots. Audience members write their names on the meme they find funny, and Tran plays matchmaker – calling out pairs with similar tastes in memes on stage and grilling them about their love lives.
“Okay,” she said at a recent gig, “this person and this person both find this [expletive] top Tweet funny. Let’s bring them here and find out what’s wrong with them!
Tran created this show in an effort to alleviate the stress and anxiety that comes with dating in your 20s and 30s. But as a live show, sometimes life gets in the way: once she invited an audience member to talk about a recent breakup, only to find the ex in question was there — a surprise.
“People like to see the unscripted, the unexpected,” she explained. “If I don’t see it coming, they don’t see it coming either. It’s the best part of the show.
On Tran’s dating show, anyone can be involved. Viewers are encouraged to ask the spotlighted daters questions and, as Tran explained, the weirder the questions, the better. It can get awkward, but the show’s spontaneity is designed to cut down on the (sometimes equally awkward) small talk that comes with singles mingling.
“It’s no longer ‘hi, what are you doing?’ We actually get to what’s most important,” she said — the deactivations, the activations, and other secrets that might not be revealed on a first date. The shared and unique experience is the important part, she added, and if someone ends up with a phone number at the end of the night, that’s an added bonus.
The in-person opportunity to meet someone new, for some singles, is also a welcome respite from dating apps and online dating.
“Dating apps just don’t do it for me right now. I’m a lot more of a person in person,” Hillary Lynch, a high school teacher, said after Tran’s Oct. 27 show at Turtle Swamp Brewing at Jamaica Plain.
Audience member Jin Hao Lin agreed that dating apps aren’t “really serious.” “If people are looking for a relationship, this kind of event would work,” Lin added.
Tran said she is always looking for new ways to improve her performance. For now, she’s taking one show at a time. If people are laughing and bonding, Tran thinks she’s done her job.
“Yeah, we laugh, but we don’t make fun of each other,” Tran said. “We laugh with each other because we know we’ve all been there.”
It’s a date! at Hideout Comedy, Thursday, 8 p.m., White Bull Tavern, 1 Union St., Boston. Tickets $20, eventbrite.com. For more upcoming performances, follow Tran on Instagram @jaylene.tran.