'The Fix-Up Show' at ACME Comedy Theatre aims for laughs and love

J. Keith van Straaten hosts 'The Fix-Up Show,' a new kind of dating game in which friends and a celebrity guest join in to match couples.

February 11, 2011|By Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times
  • Lenz Andre of Los Angeles meets Robin Phelps, his chosen date, for the first time after a panel of two of his friends and comedian Doug Benson chose her from three contestants on the Fix-Up Show at the ACME Comedy Theater. Comedian J. Keith van Straaten is the host of the show, right.
Lenz Andre of Los Angeles meets Robin Phelps, his chosen date, for the first… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

If the thrills of online dating have become dull to you — stocking your profile with witty anecdotes, winking at a stranger after a late-night riffle through the 25-32 set, meeting dates for coffee in a neighborhood where you won't run into anyone you know — there is now "The Fix-Up Show," a live-theater matchmaking spectacle that is at once gutsy and surprisingly tame.

Hosted by J. Keith van Straaten of "What's My Line? — Live on Stage," "The Fix-Up Show" sets up a single man or woman with one of three suitors who must answer questions — funny, intimate and everything in between — from a panel consisting of two trusted pals of the single and one celebrity guest. Sort of like that old TV show "The Dating Game" but with new twists.

First tested with a successful 13-week run in New York last year, "The Fix-Up Show's" celeb matchmakers have included Jeff Garlin, Dick Cavett and Drew Carey. The current season — its second in L.A. at the ACME Comedy Theatre — will feature Henry "the Fonz" Winkler, Hitchcock blond Tippi Hedren and sitcom papa Alan Thicke.

Unlike "Blind Date" or other comedic TV dating shows, the show retains a polite but dedicated interest in maximizing the potential for two people to eventually, you know, get it on.

"I have nothing against shows that are naughty or exploitive in some ways, but I wanted people to have a legitimate chance at finding a good date," said Van Straaten, who screens his pool of singles through online applications. "And I don't think that can happen with stunts or hot tubs or people eating bugs."

Not on "The Fix-Up Show", anyway. After the panel votes for a winner, the two go next door to the Italian restaurant Amalfi for dinner, after which they are videotaped about the date and whether they'd want to meet for a second.

What they do on the second rendezvous is up to them, but it's safe to say that most wouldn't want to score an anecdote for their future online dating profile that begins with the phrase "After the hot-air balloon crashed…." At the kickoff show for the second season this month, guest panelist Margaret Cho told a story about getting dragged through a field of cow dung after her love balloon was cruelly rejected by the skies. Shockingly, her date did not want to make out with her afterward.

For Seth Hendrix, 31, who has appeared on the show as a suitor (who wasn't picked but he made friends with his fellow contenders) and on the Cho appearance as a single with three ladies vying for his affections, "The Fix-Up Show" is just another adventure in the proverbial jungle of the dating world.

"I feel like the more things you expose yourself to, the more you meet people you'd want to date or at least become friends with," said Hendrix, a creative director at an advertising agency. "I love meeting new people and putting myself through unusual experiences."

Van Straaten sees the excitement in the experience too. He has a girlfriend, but hey, life is long. "On the 100th-show anniversary, if I don't have a girlfriend or a wife, I will get a substitute host and they can fix me up. I love blind dates; you know exactly what you're there for, the context is clear."

'The Fix-Up Show'

Where: ACME Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave.

When: 8 p.m. every Wednesday through March 30

Price: $12 to $15

Info: (323) 525-0202;

Los Angeles Times Articles