Dating, for men who are not handsome or rich, is the process by which a man slowly tricks a woman into sleeping with him. Blame evolutionary biology. Women are attracted to good-looking men who look like they will produce healthy offspring or rich men who can provide lives of safety and comfort. Every molecule in a woman’s body has evolved to resist the poor, average-looking guy. As a result, the average guy must resort to trickery so that he can remain in a woman’s life long enough to prove that he has value. (The average guy often proves to have more value because a man who has been rejected repeatedly is more grounded than someone who seldom hears the word no. At least, this is what I learned from every 1980s movie that resolved its central conflict with a ski race or a regatta.)
There are many tricks a man can use to gain a woman’s interest and some of the best come from the world of improv. I know from experience. I have performed improvisational comedy since 2006, having studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles. Last year I noticed I was, unconsciously at first, employing many of the lessons I learned from improv while on dates. I should not have been surprised. A good improv scene contains many of the same virtues as a good date – agreement, spontaneity and fun.
This is the first rule of improv. (OK, there are no rules of improv – they can all be broken – but there are choices that produce, in basketball terms, high-percentage shots. Consider each rule a high-percentage shot.) Yes-and means that you take whatever the other person says, agree with it, and add a piece of information. It is a great way to keep scenes and conversations moving, and it inevitably leads somewhere unexpected. That does not mean you should agree with everything your date says. Just remember that if you disagree, you are going to have to reset the conversation and bring it somewhere fun again. That takes effort. You can do it, but wouldn’t it have been easier to keep the original conversation ball rolling?
2. Remember the and
The and is the important part of yes-and. It is your imprint on the conversation. If you just keep saying yes, you’re going to bore her. If you add interesting ands, she will see that you have your own point of view, and since you just agreed with her, your point of view in some way corresponds with hers. The conversation flatters her. (I know Mystery Method says you should tease or “neg” women. There is a time for that. But you need to back off when you are building trust. The hard part — meeting her — is over.) The great thing about and is that you can use it to make yourself look strong, smart or altruistic. Remember, you are trying to trick her into thinking you have value until she realizes that you do, like when Beth finally chooses Lane at the end of “Better off Dead.”
3. Avoid questions
It’s a date. You have to ask questions, right? Sure. But not too many. Every time you ask a question you create a personal void in the conversation. A man who asks too many questions does not create a solid impression of himself. His date does not know what he is about. If he cannot communicate on the first date – when people are eager to please – what will he be like on date 15? Ask only the most essential questions. Otherwise, offer information about yourself and leave opportunities for her to do the same. Think of it this way. A woman who answers repeated questions is doing all of the heavy lifting, just like an improv actor in a scene is doing all of the thinking. Do you think that is fun for her? Or do you think she would have more fun laughing at your stories?
4. Focus on the moment
In improv, it is a poor choice to talk about characters who are not onstage. The higher-percentage shot is to explore your relationship with your scene partner. It yields more gratifying results. The same holds true on a date. Rather than talking about other dates you have been on, or other women whom you have dated, or people whom she has not met, focus on what makes the date that you are on unique. Because it’s a date, something weird is bound to happen. In improv we call that weird thing “the game of the scene.” On a date, that weird thing becomes your first inside joke. It’s your go-to when the conversation drags and possibly the joke your best man will tell at the reception if you get married. You will recognize the game of your date if you are focused on the present moment.
5. Be specific
The biggest laughs in improv stories often come from the details. The first scene partner says, “Hi, officer, was I speeding?” The second scene partner says, “Yeah, you were doing 85.” The first scene partner says, “I had no idea I was going that fast.” Then the second scene partner says, “That’s because you’re driving a horse and buggy.” The punch line is in the detail – the horse and buggy. (I know that example is not funny. There are few things less hilarious than describing an improv scene. My apologies.) My point is, provide details. It is how she will remember you, especially when she talks to her girlfriends. And yes, you want her talking about you to her girlfriends. It means she is thinking about you. So give her details. They’re hilarious and endearing. Handsome, rich regatta-losers, like Teddy from “One Crazy Summer,” are neither.