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They’re looking to feel a spark — in the spotlight.
Singles are flocking to a roving weekly comedy show called UpDating, which puts two love-seeking locals onstage for a first date in front of a live crowd. For the participants, it’s literally blind dating — their eyes are shrouded by a blindfold. Launched in 2018, and paused due to COVID-19, UpDating returned in April to enormous, post-pandemic demand.
In the last month, the show — which requires would-be daters to go through an online casting process that involves sharing their Instagram handles and telling the organizers about their last first date with humor — has amassed a 600-person waitlist of singles vying to be featured. Then the show’s organizers match those with the most interesting stories, or those who they predict will be more open and outgoing.
“The demand is even higher than I expected — [it’s] fulfilling what everyone needs right now,” said 26-year-old stand-up comedian Brandon Berman, an UpDating co-creator and show host.
And flirting isn’t just reserved for the pair onstage.
Recent events have attracted crowds of over 100 people who buy the $15 tickets via UpDating’s site — many of them single themselves — and often hang around after it’s over to chat with other viewers.
“I met someone at our last show who brought a first date to watch a date,” said 29-year-old comedian Harrison Forman, the other co-creator as well as the show’s sidekick who fields questions from the audience.
“Hopefully the date worked out well,” said Forman, who added, “if not, you could look around the room and leave with someone else.”
So far, the show — currently held on Thursdays through June at Lower East Side bar Sour Mouse, operating at 35 percent capacity due to COVID regulations and requiring masks for unvaccinated guests — has a pretty good track record for jump-starting romance.
Becca Weisz is a 28-year-old Hell’s Kitchen resident who works in social media and took the stage on May 13. She said she went in with low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised when she first “met” her date: 35-year-old real-estate agent, and Upper East Side resident, Luc Vareilles.
“As I [approached] the stage, I may have needed to get my footing and happened to put my arm out … and I ended up touching his six pack, so that was definitely telling information,” said Weisz of her first impression. Later, during the program, “The host did have him make a muscle and I could feel it,” she added. “I was seeing with my fingertips.”
Vareilles was also impressed.
“The biggest thing that I picked up on about her … is that she’s very outgoing,” he said of Weisz. “I could tell if I brought her out with me, she wasn’t going to be sitting around quietly. She seems to be the driver of the fun.”
When the blindfolds came off, the two were far from disappointed.
“I was very pleased,” said Weisz, with Vareilles adding, “I was very impressed by what she looked like — very happy on that front.” They’ve since been on two, more traditional, dates.
Berman said the blindfolds are a key part of the UpDating recipe. “When you’re blindfolded, you can’t avoid being yourself,” he said.
Forman added, “You’re solely connected with someone based off of personality alone, and vibe and energy.”
UpDating began when Forman, while living in San Francisco, started streaming his dates on Facebook Live (with permission from all the participants). He’d get his viewers involved, popping into the bathroom to ask for feedback like, “My date ordered a Guinness — how do you feel about that?”
After watching a few dates, Berman — a fan of Forman’s broadcasts — had an idea for taking those digital episodes and putting them in front of a live audience. They decided to collaborate and became fast friends.
Now, the pair pride themselves on their ability to bring people together.
“Are we the best matchmakers in the world? Not particularly,” said Forman. “But I think we’re doing a better job of making sure someone leaves with a date.”
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