Lane Moore sits in front of her laptop, gray granny glasses and blonde bangs just beneath the tie-dyed bottom of a flat-brim hat, and asks her audience a question she normally asks onstage: “How’s everyone doing today?”
Instead of a scattered chorus of woo’s and one or two alcohol-emboldened answers, a river of time-stamped responses floods in via the chat of her live Twitch stream.
“Anxiety is really bad for me today,” says maevalence.
“I started an art journal,” posts kingfisher65.
“I weirdly had more energy today, which was a relief,” ssjayess11 chimes in.
“Had a shitty day yesterday, but got up today and shaved my legs,” says concertgirlliz.
Moore addresses some of the responses, occasionally punctuated by the cha-ching that rings out whenever a viewer digitally tips her—a payment process once more suited to camming than comedy.
“Ooh, someone had more energy today. Can. You. Give. Us. Some?” Moore asks, eyebrows raised. “If anybody has, like, extra hope, too, I’d love some. That sounds amazing.”
The comedian, author, and musician is up-front with the How to Be Alone audience about the fact that she’s not doing particularly well on this, the nth day of COVID-19 quarantine. It’s part of the show’s charm.
Although Moore literally wrote the book on being alone, forced solitude has thrown her for a loop as much as it has anyone else. She offers no false promises that the show will cure what ails viewers, only that it will provide them with some fun, fleeting company. It’s a venue where people can choose to be alone together, and Moore created it as much for her own amusement and mental health as her audience’s.
“I don’t have any answers, I just know how much it helps me when someone else says they’re going through what I’m going through,” Moore says to her viewers a few minutes later. “So that’s what I can offer you.”
This is the seventh time that Moore has offered this service since she went into coronavirus self-quarantine nearly two weeks ago. She decided to create How to Be Alone after current circumstances forced her to postpone an upcoming tour of her popular stage show, Tinder Live. Instead of embarking on the biggest cross-country jaunt of her career, she suddenly found herself with 60 plane tickets to rebook, the same bills and anxieties as ever, a lot of spare time on her hands, and a terrifyingly uncertain future.
“Shout out to people who are like, ‘We’re gonna get through this!'” Moore tells me over the phone. “Because I’m like, are we? I don’t fuckin’ know, man. It’s a huge question mark.”
No longer able to perform onstage, Moore decided to put on a show for people stuck at home who, like her, have already churned through the choicest cuts on Netflix. It was a way for her to do the thing that gives her the most joy in life, while making some extra money and providing some solace to anyone else suddenly trapped inside and feeling squirrelly.
A lot of comedians have been using their newfound indoor time to reach out to fans. There’s a cottage industry of comedy couples recording their efforts to stay sane in podcast form. Meanwhile, Mike Birbiglia has been going on Instagram Live each afternoon with other comedians to work out new jokes and raise money for newly unemployed service industry workers. How to Be Alone is something different, though. It’s a show where the question, “How’s everyone doing today?” is more of an earnest wellness check than an opportunity for crowd work. It’s a congregation of commiseration, disguised as a comedy show, scratching multiple itches for viewers at the same time.
Considering that Moore has both the whip-smart performance background of a seasoned comic and the rough-hewn wisdom of a self-help author, it’s a show that she’s uniquely suited to host.
Once the wellness check up top is finished, Moore moves on to playing a 1980s board game called Heartthrob with her audience. It’s one of those games for tween girls that in hindsight seems reprehensible, where they have to choose the most fitting boyfriend from three hunky potential suitors. While she recites provided factoids about each of the randomly chosen Chads—and sometimes improvises songs about them—the audience votes on which criminally young man should end up as Moore’s steady. (Anyone whose pick matches hers gets “a point,” which is as meaningless as it sounds.)
How To Be Alone is live streaming tonight (and every night) and it's extremely fun. We talk about coping with isolation/loneliness, play weird '80s board games, do karaoke and basically, we're alone together. Tickets are whatever you can afford. 8pm EST.???? https://t.co/DK9mvhC2Kj pic.twitter.com/65EBNshbxH
— Lane Moore (@hellolanemoore) March 24, 2020
After she finishes playing the fake romantic board game, it’s time to play the fake romantic video game that’s proven Moore’s most reliably successful project ever: Tinder Live. Ordinarily, it’s a show where she projects her phone onto a big screen and a panel of comedians assists her and a live audience in teasing Tinder’s more aggressive users. Essentially, it’s non-malevolent comedy catfishing.
The quarantine version of the show works pretty much the same way, with folks in the Twitch chat voting on whom Moore should swipe right or left on. One side effect of the game, though, is demonstrating how dating dynamics are different during this time of mass alone-ness—in a positive way.
Aside from an increasing prevalence of coronavirus jokes in dudes’ profiles, and the horrifying lack of excuses for not texting back anymore, Moore has noticed that the quarantine has ushered in a paradigm shift in pre-hookup communication.
“People who ordinarily might not have wanted to talk a lot before meeting actually have to now,” she says. “And the part of me that loves old-timey romance is like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re, like, courting.’ I’m kind of into it.”
Near the end of each show, Moore takes a few minutes to answer questions about loneliness and isolation and offer encouragement and self-care—but not the kind of self-care that involves jade eggs for one’s yoni.
“I think the reason there’s such a backlash against the term ‘self care’ is that it’s been so heavily commodified. It has become like, ‘I just spent $15,000 on beauty products—self-care!'” Moore tells me. “But for me, it’s being able to say to yourself, ‘Hey, you’ve been checking Twitter all day and it’s really hurting you.’ It’s being your own caretaker.”
She also advocates as another form of self-care not putting pressure on one’s self to use this time of mandatory isolation to write the Great American Novel.
Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear.
— rosanne cash (@rosannecash) March 14, 2020
“If it makes you feel better to throw yourself into a creative project, wonderful. Like, if that’s how you want to cope right now, do it,” she says. “But I just want people to give themselves permission to realize that it’s okay if all you feel right now is exhausted and kind of hopeless and really sad.”
In order not to send her viewers back to their apartments on a low note, she closes out each episode with a song, decided by audience vote. On Monday night’s broadcast, the song ended up being Shania Twain’s “No One Needs to Know Right Now,” which Moore belts out in a lilting twain that causes many in the chat to swoon. The comments come, one after the other—a group of strangers momentarily un-alone.
Then the song is over.
“I love this show,” Moore says to the audience just before signing off. “And I’m glad I did it instead of staying on the couch and crying and wanting to die. This is a lot more fun.”