GTJ Interviewed Jared Waks from the JewDate Web Series!

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Noah. played by Jared Waks

How did you come up with the idea for JewDate? 

Aaron had the original idea: a guy hits rock bottom as a result of unrequited love but then finds a way to slowly drag himself back to the surface via the tumultuous world of online dating. It came from the realization, from past discussions, that so many of us had an experience where we became so obsessed with a “first love,” or, more accurately, the idea of that person, that we shut ourselves off to new people and, thus, were stunted. A lot of people have that experience and realize 5-10 years later that they wasted all that time; but what if someone intervened? Hence, we introduced Aaron’s character, Adam. If Kara is yin then Adam is yang.

Noah’s character is supposed to be relatable – we think a lot of people relate to Noah in many ways, though in many ways they wish they didn’t. Kara is obviously using him, pulling him back and making him inactive. Adam comes in at the other end of the spectrum and pushes Noah forward. In the end, we want Noah to reclaim his agency and become an active character. Adam is exactly the kind of over-the-top, stubborn and persuasive influence Noah needs in order to do this; however, we also don’t want Noah to become like Adam, whose ability to avoid leaches like Kara is a side effect of his inability to form any sort of real attachments.

The push and pull of Adam vs. Kara will, hopefully, propel Noah through his own journey towards self-awareness and, as a result, make him able to form a genuine, mutual romantic bond with the right girl. That’s the idea of the show: to explore how a person (male or female) who has become inert due to an unhealthy romantic obsession, can be propelled back into the journey which, though it has its unrelenting ups and downs, is the point of life.

So is the series based at all on personal experience?

Personally, I was never stuck on anybody for years and years, but I know (we know) lots of people that met someone in high school or college and got completely, utterly stuck on them. Then later they feel like they wasted their “golden years” waiting for a phone call from someone who didn’t reciprocate their feelings – it’s really depressing. While I can’t relate in a long term situation, I have experienced it on a smaller scale. I would be interested in a girl who would get out of a relationship with a guy who treated her poorly, and she would talk about how she was finally ready to be with a “good guy,” then I’d watch her go for the same kind of a*hole she broke up with and repeat the cycle. It sucked.

In terms of the dates: yes and no. When I graduated college and moved to a new town I tried some of the dating sites and did not have great success; however, I’m glad I did it. I was in a new place, wasn’t thrilled with my job or living situation, and was having a hard time meeting friends.  The dates were mostly disappointing, but the idea of having them kept me going: I was on a journey, like Noah. But, for better or for worse, none of my dates were as eventful as Noah’s. The dates are fiction but we do draw inspiration from a number of sources.

The ADHD date.

The ADHD date.

Years ago I launched a dating site with friends called DuoDater.com. We got a lot of press and were subsequently hired by the former CEO of Match.com to work on a mobile app … all of which led to me spending a lot of time on different dating websites for structural research. And some of the questions and categories on these sites are ripe material for comedy.

The generic-ness of these profile components makes me laugh out loud.  For example, JDate asks you how active you are but restricts you to a drop down menu of options, the top two being “active” and “very active.”  I’m a pretty active person. I play soccer and go to the gym, and snowboard, waterski, hike, etc. But there are some people who are in the gym 3 times a day and are doing extreme sports like skydiving and five-day mountain climbing camping trips.  So I’m like, “If I put ‘very active’ in my profile, will people think I want to spend a week camping out? Because I don’t. I really don’t.

When I used to see “very active” on a girl’s profile, I would wonder, “Does she do yoga every day or does she jump out of helicopters and practice krav maga?” So when we write we play with these ambiguities and always go for the extremes. The idea is that if Noah is going to go out with a “very active” girl, she’s going to be the one jumping out of the helicopter and scaling Everest. Same with the girl who is very ADHD.

And yet, we think it’s all still somewhat relatable. And the “somewhat” is what makes it funny. All of us who date have been on a date with someone who couldn’t get off their phone, who couldn’t disconnect, who is scattered; and it sucks. No one would want to watch a show that simply played back to them that horrible date. But, to portray a very extreme version of that, where the date is so disconnected they could accidentally sit down at the wrong table, I think that’s hilarious. Take something relatable and then take it to the extreme, so that somebody watching can say, “I was on a date like that … sort of.”

The girl who invites all her dates to fill-out her concert, that’s not based on anything. That was just one of those strokes of genius where we thought, “Hey, somebody COULD use online dating to do this, but probably never has.” Maybe we will inspire someone.

JewDate does not rely on tired Jewish stereotypes for its humor. When writing the series, were there things you tried to avoid?

Absolutely. I try to avoid all stereotypes, not just Jewish serotypes. For example, I don’t think Rob engenders black stereotypes, nor Kara female stereotypes. The ADHD girl could easily be an ADHD guy. Rob is narcissistic and egocentric but in a juvenile, oblivious manner, like he never grew up to realize that the world doesn’t actually revolve around him. That’s the character and we cast Willie because he’s hilarious.

He comes back in a big way in the next four episodes. There are jokes that will rely upon his ethnicity, but not as stereotypes. Just like we use Noah’s Jewishness to make jokes, but we don’t use Jewish stereotypes to make them. We write characters and we want those characters to be funny and interesting.

The jokes come from funny characters. Jews being cheap is a cheap laugh and too easy to do. Anyone can do that; it’s not impressive. Stereotypes are cliché. Everyone knows them so anyone can make those jokes. It takes talent to create a unique character that says unique things.

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Willie as Rob

I think what is lacking from the first 4 episodes is a strong female protagonist. A female Noah, if you will, that most people watching can relate to. If we get to do a second season there will be a plot-centric, relatable female protagonist.

When will we see the next episodes?

Well, we’re filming them now. Part of it depends on funding; we’re running out of money. We’re going to start a Kickstarter soon to raise money for production, editing, and music. The short answer is that we’re aiming to release the episodes in October. With any luck it will be sooner.

What made you interested in film/web series/television?

Our entire fantastic team all grew up in LA around the industry. Stevee is the only non-Jewish Executive Producer (hence Some Jews and Stevee). Her family industry connections are huge for us as is her incredible talent with designing and making costumes. She also designs her own lingerie line called Drop Your Panties which is so awesome!All of us had been very exposed to the entertainment industry and I’ve personally been working in the film marketing industry since college.

I’ve worked for 20th Century Fox and I currently work for IMAX. While at Fox I was almost an extra on How I Met Your Mother because my office was actually part of the set. They are supposed to put caution tape on the back door of the office when they are filming, and one day they forgot to. I went outside and saw cars (which was unusual), people with briefcases walking with purpose, and then I saw Josh Radnor and Neil Patrick Harris coming right at me. Security starts miming at me that I need to act casual, like a normal person on the street, so I sorta stared up into the sky as they walked by me. They must have used a different take though, because I didn’t see myself in the episode. So that was the closest I had come to production; I had lots of entertainment marketing knowledge but no production experience. I simply try to stay open to new opportunities, so when Aaron and Jason came to me and said, “Do you wanna write this show with us?” I said, “Heck yeah,” and the rest became JewDate.

The opportunity was too good to pass up, even if I was in way over my head. I mean the idea for JewDate just seemed so brilliant because it fills a real void in thematic content. According to Reuters out of the 54 million single people in the US 40 million have tried online dating. That’s huge and there was no show about it! Everyone is having these new experiences and it’s so relatable. Lots of people are finding their spouses through online dating and many of them have told me, “I was about to give up on online dating when I messaged this one last person … and the rest is history.” That’s the idea of JewDate.

Noah has to go through the trials and tribulations of online dating, similar to but different from any other kind of dating, to get over Kara and finally find the right person. And it’s all a growing experience. Even the worst dates have something very important to teach Noah, something he needs to know or work on before he can be a ready to meet his “beshert” (which means soul-mate in Hebrew). So yeah, I really strayed from the question again…

Jason Mittleman works on various productions in different capacities and is currently a Writer’s Assistant on the MTV show “Ridiculousness.” Like I said, we all had experience in the industry, so we put all our experience together and said, “Screw it, let’s do it.” I thought it’d be like some other YouTube series I’d seen, but I think it’s much more quality. I had no idea how much time and effort it would require; but it’s a ton of fun and so rewarding.

Who is your Jewish celebrity crush?

Allison Brie. She was on “Mad Men” and played Trudy Campbell, Pete’s wife. Then she got big on “Community.” She’s also in tons of Funny or Die videos and is hilarious in every way. She can play everything and she’s adorable in everything she does.  She does this one Funny or Die video where there’s a government committee to patent sex positions. She comes in and she’s pitching various new positions to be patented. It’s one of the vilest 8 minutes you can watch, and you hear her say these things, and she is still adorable.

Is your Jewish mother proud?

Very. She’ll be an extra in the next 4 episodes – we needed a lot more extras for these. You’ll see members from all our families. Stevee’s family has been on the set helping us the entire time. Noah and Adam’s apartment is actually Stevee’s Mom’s house. She moved out for three days so we could use it. One of our Producers, Jason Ellefson, hooks us up with restaurants for filming the dates and also some amazing talent – including Willie James Warren Jr. who plays Rob – so we owe Jason huge thanks as well. The host from the ADHD episode wasn’t really in the script originally; we had a waiter written in for a very small part, pretty much just to seat them. Jason introduced us to Danny Gomez and, when we saw how funny he was, we made him keep popping in and it makes that date exponentially funnier.

Mrs. Webman (Aaron and Ethan’s mother) is proud, but she isn’t too happy about the dominatrix scene. She’s the most conflicted, due to the moral ambiguities of the Adam character; but, in all seriousness, she is super proud and we owe her a gigantic thanks for all of her help with all of the episodes and especially for letting us film a large part of the next four at their home. And, to be clear, we are NOT our characters. Aaron is not Adam. I actually had a friend tell me, “My friend watched the show and she wants to date Noah; are you single?” I said, “Yes, but I’m not Noah, so I hope she’s not disappointed.”

Jason’s Jewish mother is proud. Stevee’s gentile mother is very proud too. Our entire families are proud and incrediblely supportive, and we owe them all a huge deal of gratitude.