A series of unfortunate first dates

UB alums create web series about first-date failures

The Spectrum

There's little that can compare to the first-date-feeling: the hurricane of butterflies in the stomach, the tight throat, the sweaty palms. It's an undesirable accumulation of doubt, anxiety and self-consciousness, with just enough excited anticipation and hope to make the date actually happen.

And, unfortunately, most first dates are pretty unsuccessful. By the end, the hope and excitement has been stripped away and all that's left is half a check to pay.

But weeks down the line, reminiscing about this awkward love failure can be downright hilarious - and this is where Failed First Dates has found its comically gripping niche.

Failed First Dates is a Buffalo-based web series that provides its audience with the hysterical dating failings of love-hungry protagonist Jon Paul (Bryan Stoyle, who appeared in Vito's Cat). And these are the worst dates you could imagine - a date who steals from restaurants, a girl who can't handle her liquor and a promiscuous girl who seems to have a thing for brothers.

Jon Paul is just trying to get by in life, with the simple dream of successfully finding a loving woman to accompany him, but that wouldn't be half as funny as his failures.

This week marks the end of Jon Paul's dating mishaps, with a regular YouTube upload on Thursday evening and a Valentine's Day special coming on Friday.

Failed First Dates officially started production on Nov. 17, 2013, but this wasn't when the work began. Stoyle, a UB alum, writer, creator and lead actor of the web series, started writing the script and concepts back in 2011.

As the concept got funnier and bigger, Stoyle teamed up with Matthew Nardone, also a UB alum and owner of ND Studios, and Joe Blodgett, a Buffalo director and photographer. Like in any good superhero movie, there's always an alliance - and Failed First Dates found its own.

"No one man is an island - this is a collaboration between the three of us," Nardone said.

While Stoyle, Nardone and Blodgett may have managed, comedy is not an easy genre to crack. And, much like Jon Paul's luck when it comes to dating, it's not a prevalent force, especially within the Buffalo film industry.

But the three men laugh together, they joke and they quip; not two minutes pass without an eruption of laughter from the whole table. Comedy is in them.

"Comedy is a very difficult genre to pull off well," Stoyle said. "You have all these post-production stages that can throw off the timing. So to get that just right is really challenging."`

Comedy is serious business to these men. It's a business that they are constantly thinking about, so much so that some stories from their own friends have been reworked and molded into some of Jon Paul's scenarios.

"The dates are entirely fictional," Stoyle said. "That said, some of the instances that happen in the episodes may be based off real-life events."

While Jon Paul attempts to gain the affections of each of his dates as he accompanies them to some of Downtown Buffalo's attractions, there's a spark of reality that draws you in.

The team's comedic streak was a crucial component to the success of the web series, but it wasn't the only element.

As with everything these days, Stoyle said, "Internet is the key." The episodes routinely attain thousands of views, and one episode is at 5,506.

In their evolution from wandering UB students to professionals in the film industry, the Internet has been fundamental in their learning, production and distribution, and it's there for everybody.

"The Internet is like a whiteboard. You can recreate yourself with each video - you can try them all [genres] and the repercussions aren't that big of a deal," Blodgett said.

Had Stoyle, Nardone and Blodgett not utilized this whiteboard to its full potential, there would be no Jon Paul, no Failed First Dates and no anticipation for the final episode to be released on Valentine's Day.

"We took advantage of a lot of the opportunities that were available to us when we were here [at UB]," Stoyle added. "This is where it starts."

Hard work and determination can sometimes feel a lot like Jon Paul's dating record - a string of failed attempts that gives one little inspiration to go on.

But Valentine's Day begins to look optimistic for Jon Paul, and Stoyle says fansshould "be patient."

If the future looks brighter even for Jon Paul, then hope can be found in any situation.

email: arts@ubspectrum.com