Traditional dating advice always seems to scapegoat those among us who are looking for love and failing to find it. In addition to being shudderingly cisheteronormative and just plain sexist, self-help books and other dating advisers often place blame squarely on the shoulders of the lonely hearts out there. If you want a healthy relationship and haven’t found one, they say, that’s because you have work to do. They fail to consider the other person in the equation.
And that’s where Mary Beth Barone comes in. The 29-year-old comedian is intimately familiar with fuckboys; she regularly uses her own painful dating experiences in her material, and one might go so far as to call her a fuckboy scholar. She’s taken her breadth of knowledge and experience in fuckboyology to create a very different self-help program that targets the actual problem, which is the fuckboy behavior that we as a society have accepted for too long. It started as a meme account and live show whose finale is a “redemption” segment where Barone attempts to get vulnerable (and often succeeds) with a self-proclaimed “fuckboy,” starting them, not their victims, off on a path toward healing.
Her new show Drag His Ass: A Fuckboy Treatment Program comes out this month on Comedy Central, and Barone, who is now in a happy, healthy relationship, shares how she defines a fuckboy and the red flags we should all look out for.
Drag His Ass was originally a live show. How did you translate it into something that was more produced and filmed?
The live show is so much fun, and there was always such a great energy, because I think everyone can relate to difficult dating situations. The segment that I liked the best was the redemption, so I was really excited to be able to build out that piece specifically. It was great to be able to cast everyone and have an organized approach to it and know exactly what we were going to do.
Yeah, how do you cast a fuckboy?
We worked with someone at MTV Casting, so they have a knack for finding people who are kind of self-aware and willing to put themselves in the spotlight. There are certain things that I look for, even with the live show, when screening people for the redemptions, because you really want people who are okay to laugh at themselves and are going to be completely honest and very open about their behavior.
People can be really defensive or reactive when you try to probe them. It’s definitely meant to be funny, and we’re definitely dragging people. But I always say it’s not a roast — we really do want to help. So I think we were able to find the balance of having it be funny, but also having heart and conveying that our goal is to make the situation better.
The definition of “fuckboy behavior” has gotten so broad. What does the term mean to you?
A fuckboy is someone who will say and do anything to gain the other person’s trust, and then, when that trust is broken, there’s no accountability. Whether that’s through ghosting, cheating, misleading your intentions with dating, or even just not wanting to commit but stringing someone along, all of those things can be boiled down to, Is there a level of trust? Is there a level of respect? What are the intentions?
I think it really does come from trust, communication, and respect. That’s why it’s gotten really broad. When you think back, you know, we’re not the first generation to have fuckboys; we just didn’t call them that [in the past]. So in the first Drag His Ass I did, I did fuckboy trivia. It was like, Don Draper, Jesus, Thomas Jefferson … they’ve always been around.
Wait, how is Jesus a fuckboy?
Jesus? I feel like he kind of gaslit everyone. And also, he could have probably been more clear about what was going on with Mary Magdalene. Because now her reputation, it’s like, what do we do with that? He could have said one thing that was in the Bible that would clear that up, and now we’re just left to guess. It’s like, if you want to support sex workers, I love that. But you can’t support them if you’re being secretive about it.
True! You mentioned in the show that you consider “fuckboy” a gender-neutral term. Could you talk a little more about that?
In my experience, a fuckboy can look like anything. And it really is related to the behavior, not like, if it’s a heterosexual or homosexual relationship, or whatever it is — there’s so many different types of relationships.
Also, that’s assuming that you can put a label on every relationship. I’ve always struggled, because there’s no term for people that I’ve just had sex with. You can’t call them your ex. But it really just comes down to how people are treating each other. There are definitely red flags you can look out for regardless of how they identify.
What are some of those red flags people look out for?
I think behavior-wise, they hate to commit to plans. So they will vaguely say, “What are you up to tonight?” but don’t ever say, “Do you want to get drinks?” They just kind of want to push you in the corner to think you’re gonna see them, and then maybe they’ll text you at 3 a.m. They only want to hang out on their terms, they’re very flaky, they’ll kind of lead you on and then pull the rug out from under you. Gaslighting is a huge red flag that tends to come up when you’re a bit more involved already. It’s sliding into your DMs and replying to Insta stories, but not texting you back. But then sometimes you still sleep with the person again. And it’s like, okay, that’s tough. But we all make mistakes.
I feel like pandemic fuckboys are on a whole new level. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with pandemic dating?
I’ve had a pandemic romance, so I was lucky to avoid that. I definitely had high hopes that the pandemic would make people take a step back and figure out what’s really important, what their priorities are, and examine their behaviors a little bit, to potentially come out of the pandemic better people. But what I’m hearing from friends is … not that.
There’s the people that wouldn’t want to do FaceTime dates, even though it’s a pandemic, or like, you do a few FaceTime dates and never hear from them again. You could tell when people weren’t taking the pandemic seriously if they were trying to bone down when there were high numbers [of COVID cases]. As hard as it was to meet people in real life before the pandemic, now there’s just truly nothing you can do. I know a lot of people have resorted to apps and I totally get that; apps brought nothing but chaos into my life. So I don’t personally encourage them. But people need a way to meet people.
What are you most looking forward to this year, both on a personal level and a professional level?
I’m really excited to wear a lot of the clothes I bought, because that will be wonderful. Just, like, dust them off and take them out for a night on the town. I’m so excited for Drag His Ass to come out. I think I was even surprised with how happy I was with the final product. It’ll be one new episode each week in May. And it’s my birthday, I’m turning 30. I feel like when you turn 30 people take you a little bit more seriously.
Yeah. The whole 30, flirty, and thriving situation.
Yeah, I’m ready to be thriving.