Most dating apps can be depressing. But Tinder, in all its swipe-based simplicity, is a digital landscape with perhaps the most potential to expose how absurd humanity can behave when it’s looking to get laid. Someone who knows this well is comedian, musician, and writer Lane Moore, who has been delving into the weird world of online dating through her comedy show Tinder Live, which will be celebrating its fifth year of existence tonight.
Rather than just riffing on past dating experiences, Moore’s show depicts her swiping on the app in real time, projecting her phone screen for all to see and revealing an often-harrowing portrait of modern heterosexuality. She swipes right on memorable (and real) profiles, messages the men she matches with in increasingly absurd ways, and they message back, while comedian guests provide commentary and suggestions. Sometimes it even leads to a phone call. It’s part voyeurism, part prank, part improv comedy, and part genuine human connection.
As it’s ultimately a comedy show, it doesn’t necessarily reflect her own romantic taste—Moore identifies as queer, but only features men’s profiles on her show, “primarily because straight men’s profiles are the weirdest by far.” And yes, she’s often drawn to profiles that people looking for a genuinely fulfilling interaction may swipe left on, but it’s not wholly mean-spirited either.
“The main goal of Tinder Live is to be super funny and super kind, she explains. “I really make sure I’m always punching up,” hence the focus on straight men. “I like to think even if most of these guys were in the audience, they’d still get laid after, and often people do get really psyched for some of the guys on the show because they play along and are so funny and fun themselves.”
Plus, spotlighting rude, scummy, or clueless dudes can have a bright side: Moore tells Bedford + Bowery that the show has actually inspired people to change the way they behave on dating apps, whether that be the content of their profile bio or how they phrase a first message.
Though it started in New York, Moore now tours Tinder Live all over the country. And while dating in New York is often framed as a harder nut to crack than dating pretty much anywhere else in the world, Moore says her experience doing the show in other states has been more or less the same. “Dating is truly difficult everywhere, which I kind of love,” she says.
She notes that five years of doing the show has made her more pessimistic about dating apps, especially as their novelty continues to wear off. She does still use them in her personal life, though, saying she goes through phases of swiping often and phases of taking breaks just like anyone else would.
“As disappointing and lonely as dating can be, I have this great monthly—sometimes nightly if I’m on tour—outlet to say, ‘So here’s the fresh hell that happened this month!’ and I can laugh at it and so can the hundreds of people who come every month,” she says. “It’s extremely cathartic and just really really funny. I laugh more during Tinder Live than anywhere, and I love hearing people in the audience say they do too.”
Moore says she’d be content to do Tinder Live in its current form for the rest of her days, but also likes the idea of it becoming a TV show. It’s come close, in a way: an episode of The Ellen Show this past October showed DeGeneres inviting guest Sarah Silverman to play a game called Tinder Live, prompting online backlash about how the show didn’t credit Moore or note an event with that exact name already existed. DeGeneres ultimately apologized in a tweet, but the original Tinder Live’s television debut is still waiting to become a reality.
“We don’t have this generation’s big dating show yet, and I’d freaking love for it to be Tinder Live,” Moore says. “That’s the biggest goal for sure.”