Dating As A Stand-Up Comedian Makes Me Feel Fetishized — Here's Why
I started doing stand-up comedy about three years ago. The first time I got up on stage and made an audience laugh, I experienced an enormous rush like no other. I wanted to keep coming back every single night. The only hiccup? I was single and doing a lot of online dating. I was worried I wouldn't have time to devote to both my love life and my career. After all, stand-up can take up hours of every night. I didn't want to give up either, so the only option seemed to be combining them and experimenting with dating as a stand-up comedian. This meant dating people I met at stand-up shows, mostly other comics or audience members.
My stand-up routine is pretty raunchy, particularly because I make a lot of jokes about sex (and what it's like to have sex with me). I was described many times as a "sex comic" in my first year, which I felt was dismissive, since I also had a very long joke about menstruation. Still, there was no denying that someone who watched my stand-up routine probably assumed I was having a lot of sex (I was!), and this certainly informed the types of people I'd meet after shows.
Most of the time, even though it felt convenient, I learned that I wasn't all that interested in talking to guys I'd meet following a performance. However, I was open to the idea of meeting someone at a show (even though in practice, I often avoided it), because I wasn't meeting a ton of people elsewhere. One time, two months after doing a show, I got a Facebook message from a guy in the audience asking if he could come see me again. His message wasn't particularly flirty, so I assumed he genuinely wanted to watch more of my stand-up. As it turns out, he was hitting on me (although I still maintain that he also liked my stand-up comedy). I invited him to my next show.
After my set, we slept together, and then continued to do so a few times a week for the next few months. I developed feelings for him, but I couldn’t help but feel like his excitement at getting to know me didn’t match his excitement at meeting me the first time. He had developed a strong impression of me from my set, and the whole time, I felt like my IRL personality was a let-down. He seemed to want the banter to move faster than it did, and I never felt like I had a high enough energy for him. I developed a fear that I wasn't as interesting in person as I was on stage, almost to the point where I wanted to date someone who assumed I was going to be on the quiet side.
I became weary of going out with guys who only know me from my stand-up. I’d learned that men who specifically want to date stand-up comics (without knowing anything else about them) are usually those who think they’re funny and want approval for their jokes. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to date someone funny, and I myself look for it in a partner, but most of the men I was meeting wanted me to entertain them and make them feel funny. I attend so many open mics where I have to fake laughs just to ease the discomfort, so I really don’t have the energy to do it on first dates. I would prefer people restrict themselves to funny jokes only, which a lot of the guys I've met seem disinterested in doing. Even though I was spending every night performing stand-up comedy, I still felt like it wasn't a good way to meet a potential partner.
So, I returned to an old lover: dating apps. I had used dating apps many times in the past, and I've almost always found them to be a really great way to meet people I might not get to know IRL. At this point, I had left a tech job in San Francisco and was living in New York City. I wrote in my bio that I was a comedian, which was probably my first mistake. Much like meeting people after shows, I was immediately inundated with messages that started either with, "Tell me a joke," or, "Do you want to hear a joke?" I appreciated that they were trying to connect with me, but it was not what I was looking for. On first dates especially, I like to ask a lot of questions and really get to know someone before jumping right into the banter. Furthermore, I don't think of myself as someone who makes a ton of jokes in conversation (and I certainly don't make jokes on demand), so I didn't feel like I was what they expected.
Still, I did go on a few dates with men I met on dating apps. It took me a while to realize what types of people to avoid. Specifically, if someone didn't ask any questions about anything other than comedy, they usually weren't a match. If someone seemed to want to explain how funny they were (or, worst of all, tell me that they "intended to start doing stand-up"), I knew I was in for a bad time. I think humor is important, and it's something I'm looking for in a partner, but it's not the only thing I'm looking for. The fixation on humor on most of my first dates prevented us from really getting to know each other.
On one particularly bad date, a man asked 12 different variations of, "Do you think this could work as a bit?" Basically, every time he said something that so much as made me smile (and I smile when I'm uncomfortable), he'd ask, "Do you think you could use that in your stand-up?" The answer was — almost universally — no. He also didn't seem interested in getting to know me or seeing me again, which made me wonder if he'd even wanted to go on a date, or if he just wanted someone to validate his jokes. I'm embarrassed to say that I did, in fact, tell him some of his jokes could work as bits, but it seemed like the easiest option at the time. We never spoke again.
I then thought maybe the best option would be to date another stand-up comedian, because they'd get where I was coming from. Plus, stand-ups, contrary to popular belief, don't actually like making jokes in conversation as much as you'd think. If anything, the fact that we do it for work means we're less likely to do it for fun. The downside of dating stand-ups, however, is that I see them all the time. In fact, I had experienced a bad breakup with a comic and still ran into him constantly. This was especially stressful because when I saw him, I had to perform in front of him. It's like dating your coworkers — I appreciate that they have context for my life, but I don't like how intertwined our professional and social lives are.
The final challenge of dating comics is that I often talk about my love life on stage. Not only am I performing in front of them and therefore, want to impress them, but I also don't want to offend them. My joke may not even be about them, but I can understand why someone I am having sex with might make that assumption. I've been offended in the past when an ex made a joke about asking another woman out, and I don't like the discomfort of publicly discussing my love life in front of someone I was or had been intimate with. This turned me off dating comics for a little while, though I would be open to it in the future.
I'm single right now and not actively trying to meet anyone. I'm still open to all ways of meeting people — at stand-up shows, other comics, dating apps (are those the only three?). While I've felt fetishized as a stand-up comic, particularly by guys who also want to be in comedy, I still believe that there are other people out there who are interested in getting to know me better. My sense of humor is definitely important, but so is my serious side. All jokes aside, I hope to find someone who appreciates my comedy but sees me for the multi-dimensional woman I am.