There kind of aren’t enough hyphens out there to string together a professional identity for Lane Moore. She’s a stand-up comedian. A humor writer. A producer. A sex and relationships advice giver. The hilariously deadpan shopgirl in that one episode of GIRLS. The frontwoman of rock band It Was Romance, whose shot-for-shot tribute to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” video lit up the queer blogosphere last summer. So she’s got a lot going on, and for the past three years, one of her most notable things-going-on is Tinder Live!, a traveling comedy event that brings people together on a stage to scroll through the famously straightforward dating app. Past shows have featured everyone from feminist author/activists Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Lux Alptraum to cast members from Orange Is the New Black (if you haven’t seen Sister Jane and Yoga Jones assessing dudes, get there fast).
Tinder Live! touches down in Washington, DC this Valentine’s Day—is there a better place to scope out the hookup potential right now, really?—and we thought it’d be a good time to talk with Lane about the many hats she wears, and what they all have in common. (Spoiler: it’s human decency!) Take it away, girl.
Tell me how Tinder Live! got started.
Tinder Live started about three years ago, the first time I got on Tinder. I signed up for Tinder and realized: this is so ripe for comedy. My roommates and I were all on Tinder at the same time, and I said, “This should be a comedy show. We could project onto a screen, and I could go on Tinder, in front of everybody, in real time, and it could be a great comedic experience. People could be using Tinder while I’m doing it! I emailed every comic I knew, and worked up a treatment. People assume that I was on Tinder for a long time before coming up with this, but it was more like I set up a Tinder account and my whole brain exploded.
It seems cathartic. Even if people don’t use Tinder or other dating apps, the comedy of bad dates is so universal.
I see a lot of couples [in the audience]. There’s a lot of Tinder first dates. There are a lot of married people who have never even been on a dating app. It’s about online dating, it’s about how we date now, it’s about how we communicate with each other online and the way that people often don’t know how to market themselves very well. One of the things I’m really proud of is that a lot of the people who’ve been to the show or wrote press stuff on it will say that they expected something that was really trolly and mean, and they were happy that it was actually a really positive show.
They thought you were just going to be making fun of people’s profiles the whole time?
Yeah. And it’s not like that at all. The show doesn’t punch down; I try to make sure that that’s the case. It’s not interesting to me to mock someone’s physical appearance. But, like, there was a white guy whose profile said “Hip hop dies with me.” Or, like, guys who neg you in their profiles before you’ve even met them. There are so many more [things] out there that are more interesting than calling somebody mean names. Men will tell me that they love coming to the show. Either it makes them feel better about themselves—because they’re like, “I don’t do that stuff, thank god”—or it’s educational, because maybe they do do some of that stuff, but they don’t know how it comes across.
I try to assume that most people on Tinder aren’t awful. I’m not a cynical person; I don’t want to believe that everyone I’m talking about is just a jerk. I want to know, like, what do you really want, Guy Who Just Sent Me a 12,000-word Sex Message that You Copy-Pasted? What’s your actual deal? Who are you when you’re not on Tinder? Because you’re a person! You have a job, you have friends, you’re in the world. There’s no way you’re just a guy saying these ridiculous things.
You also do the Tumblr called Male Feminists of Tinder, which is a snapshot of guys who seem to understand in some way that feminism is part of the zeitgeist, and they should get on board. Have any of the guys recognized themselves in the posts and gotten in touch to be like, Well, actually…”?
It’s only happened, I think, twice. And not necessarily in a “well, actually” way, but they’re the type of dudes you’d kind of assume they are, earnest guys. When they approached me, they were like, “Hey. I saw myself on MFOT and I just wanted to know, why is this problematic?” And they actually wanted to figure out why [they] sounded so bad, why they were perceived as awful. I give them credit for that. At least they’re trying to learn. But it’s a rock and a hard place that a lot of people know, when you’re put in the position of having to educate others. Well, yay, you want to know, but also you didn’t want to use Google or ask your friends or, you know. But I’m happy that I’ve gotten emails that are like, “Hey, I saw myself on there, how can I do better?” As opposed to, “I saw myself on there, screw you.”
Is there a way for a straight guy to express feminist politics that doesn’t seem thirsty? What would be the ideal way to do that? Is there an ideal way?
I have heard from guys who are like: These are my politics; how do I tell a woman about them?. I always just say that it’s more about your actions, the way that you speak. Women will know. It’s not something you have to say right out of the gate. But that’s where the comedy of that Tumblr comes from. You’re not including the fact that you’re a feminist in, like, a 50,000-word essay. You’re doing it in a 10-word Tinder profile. “I love bacon, I’m a DJ, and I’m a feminist.”
What if those are really the three most important things to him?
They might be! But I had a guy who, in his profile, was like [tough-guy voice] “Don’t even message me if you’re a woman who’s not a feminist.” And I was like, What? That’s super aggressive. Here’s an angry guy who’s going to be mad at a woman if she doesn’t identify as feminist? Maybe they’re just trying to say, “Hey, I’m not a piece of crap,” but it’s no different than saying, like, “Good dude.” You know? Don’t say it, just be one.
So you do Tinder Live!, you do stand-up, you do acting, you do music. When you envision your audiences, are they the same audiences for all of those things?
Everything I do I do because it’s interesting to me, and I see a throughline in all of it. It can be difficult. We think of comedy as kind of inherently cynical, and inherently too cool for feeling, you know? And when I’m writing or performing It Was Romance songs, there’s no cynicism there. It’s very earnest. It’s not that they’re all love songs or all super sappy. Some of them are really angry. Some of them are really heavy rock songs. But in all of it, there’s an emotion there, there’s a passion, there’s something to say that’s serious. It’s not trying to be chill. For a long time, I wrestled with that, doing stuff on Twitter and in standup and wondering, Is it okay to have feelings as a comedian? Is it okay to express more genuine emotions? Or do I have to be really above it all and like [sarcastic voice] “Whatever. Everything sucks, everything’s awful? Because I don’t feel that way!
You were the sex and relationships editor at Cosmopolitan for about two years, and you won a GLAAD award for making the site more LGBTQ-inclusive. Was that a thing that you were hired specifically to do, or was that a lack that you identified once you were hired?
When I applied for the job, I remember thinking, All right, I know what I want to do. I had a very clear vision for LGBTQ inclusivity, for sure. But also I wanted to focus on consent. I wanted to focus on mental illness. I wanted to focus on body image. One of the articles that I was proud of was—I had an idea to do clickbait, in the most positive sense. It was coming up around summer, and wrote an listicle called “12 Things Every Twentysomething Woman Needs to Do To Get a Bikini Body.” And once you click on it, it’s like, “Put on a bikini. Eat food, because your body has caloric needs. Look at a photo of yourself as a child in a bikini, and look at how beautiful that kid is. You wouldn’t treat that kid like crap.”
I wanted these women who would click on that headline and sigh and roll up their sleeves like, “Oh, crap, what do I have to do now?” to realize, “Nothing. I have to do nothing.” [The piece] blew up, and I was so glad they let me do it. I wanted to create content that I really needed when I was younger, and that I wish had existed then. I have felt so happy that I’ve gotten so many letters from women, and men. I got an email from a guy who was like, “You helped me lose my virginity!” or one who was like, “I’m really really skinny and sometimes I wonder if I should be more muscular and you’ve made me realize that women find skinny guys attractive,” or, like “I’m not sure I believe you, but I want to believe you because I want to accept myself.” So it’s not just women. But so many women, like, “I broke up with my boyfriend because he made me feel really bad about myself, and you made me realize that it’s okay to want more.”
I know you don’t really want to talk about women in comedy, but I’m interested in talking about feminist comedy, because I feel like we’re at a place where those two things are conflated. Especially in media, we tend to talk about “feminist comedy” like it’s something we’ve all agreed on. And that opens the door for anything and everything to be labeled feminist comedy.
I know why we have them, and I respect people who want to use them, but I’m trying to remove as many labels as possible. I get [that] people who are covering comedy, they want a way to explain it easily. I don’t know if I’d want to be described as a “feminist comic,” and it’s not out of any sort of shame. It’s the same reason I don’t want to be labeled a “female comedian.” Why can’t I just be a comedian who maybe doesn’t do the types of jokes you thought I’d do? Because that’s really what they’re saying.
A lot of my jokes could be done by someone of any gender. I’ve never been interested in, like, “I’m a woman, as you can see, and here are my ladyjokes.” When I go on stage, I don’t think about my gender; when I’m writing jokes, that doesn’t inform it. I have a joke where I talk about having a crush on a woman and, like, that could easily be told by a man, straight or gay.
The problem is that so many people still don’t know what the word “feminist” means; no matter how many times you explain it, our culture’s understanding is still “WHAT AGENDA DO YOU HAVE?!” And I’m like, I just want everyone to feel safe, and loved, and to be able to hear things that don’t reinforce negative crap for any gender. I think my mission as a comedian, and a writer in general, is just to create some understanding. I wrote something for GQ a while ago that was about why men get so mad about posting their height on dating apps. So many guys are like [pissed-off voice] “It’s so messed up that that’s all women care about.” And it’s so much more complicated than that. It’s so much about how we’ve been told that [men] have to be taller than us so we can be tiny little pixies. We don’t like this either, dude. We’re both frustrated with the same patriarchy, so let’s destroy it and talk to each other like people. That’s all I’m trying to do. That’s all a lot of people are trying to do.