If Tolstoy were to share his philosophy on dating, he might have said something like, “Good dates are all alike; every bad date is bad in its own way.”
It’s why the best stories about dates are often stories about dates that have managed to go horribly, horribly wrong — each in their own way. There’s the one who blew up at the people sitting next to you because they asked to use your saltshaker; the one who kept using your Netflix account even after you stopped dating; the one who was actually pretty great until, mid-date, you recognized them to be your good friend’s ex.
These are the kinds of stories Emi Soekawa, 33, and Jessie Male, 30, found themselves regularly swapping over many beers at their neighborhood bar back in 2009. One night, after a particularly bad date, Male immediately called Soekawa to debrief. “It’s such a bad date,” one lamented. “But it is such a good story,” the other replied.
Something about that phrase — bad date, great story — stuck, and the two created a blog where they would post anonymous tales from the dating front line as they and their close friends endured a constant stream of terrible dates in their search for love in New York City. Not long after, Soekawa and Male began receiving unsolicited bad-date stories from people they’d never even met, people who also wanted to share their own tales of dates gone awry.
In 2011, the women decided to bring their stories to the stage and put on their first Bad Date Great Story live storytelling event, at a low-key restaurant in the East Village that has since shut down. Since that first show, the two have brought Bad Date Great Story to different venues around the city, attracting an impressive array of performers such as Mara Wilson and current Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata. They celebrated their third birthday this Tuesday with an anniversary show at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village.
“Bad dates are universal,” Soekawa and Male told me via email. “Almost everyone in the city of a certain age has been on one, so when someone shares theirs with you it’s a mixture of emotional intimacy, empathy, and we hope laughter that gets stirred up inside of you.”
Despite their years of bad date stories, Soekawa and Male have since found serious (and seriously happy) relationships. (By the way, that was Soekawa whose ex continued to hijack her Netflix account after they broke things off — “I could tell because my ‘Just Watched’ section started to look bananas.”) And not all the stories Soekawa and Male have collected over the years have been bad. The woman who ran that now-closed East Village joint where they staged their first show, for instance, told them about meeting the love of her life (and future husband) on her way to Woodstock. The pair also told me more than one couple has met at a Bad Date Great Story event.
But with every happy date story come a dozen bad (great) stories, and for those truly unsalvageable dates, it’s useful to have a predetermined bailout plan, even if it means inventing an early business meeting or having a migraine on the fly.
“You cannot let bad dates be like the Death Eaters in Harry Potter and suck all your dating powers away,” Soekawa says. “You can do it — shake the Advil bottle around in your hand and get the hell outta there!”
Bad Date Great Story’s next show will be August 5.