Most people try to avoid situations that stretch them beyond their comfort zones, such as dealing with clumsy pick-up lines, staring too long at someone and oddly long hugs.
But one YouTube channel, called “The Daily Dropout,” is facing the awkwardness head-on by springing cringe-worthy situations on random college students. To do so, the channel lets its hosts loose on busy streets and has them accost passersby with awkward questions. The formula is not novel, but the show’s hosts and their creative ideas somehow make the concept feel fresh.
To maximize how uncomfortable their respondents are, hosts Steven, Lara and others employ a number of techniques that I’ve collected below. Whether you want to avoid the uncouth situations that “The Daily Dropout” creates or to recreate them yourself, below is a list of core tenets to keep in mind when in the business of making people squirm.
1. Ease into It
No matter how outlandish the topic, the actors always make sure to initiate the conversation with a sense of normalcy; indeed, a common “Daily Dropout” technique is asking for directions, as the query can naturally evolve into an opening for the hosts to ramp up the oddity.
The opening questions do, however, differ slightly between Steven and Lara. For instance, Steven is more likely to employ his charm to get pedestrians to give him a second, and he often approaches onlookers with a compliment or smile to put them at ease. After he’s buttered them up appropriately, by the time he gets around to dropping an odd remark, most of the girls on camera will brush off the remark’s audacity with a smirk.
Lara, on the other hand, more heavily relies on her feminine wiles, flirting with the passersby or asking questions that are obviously just a ploy to begin a conversation, such as claiming she’s lost or asking whether she and a stranger “ever had a class together.” More often than not, she’ll end the exchange by asking, “Why won’t you ask me out already?” which then, of course, puts everyone on their heels and gives viewers the schadenfreude they came looking for.
2. Make the Topic/Action Uncomfortable x 100
A “Daily Dropout” tradition is to gather and then employ absurd topics. In one case, Lara asked strangers on the street about getting married spontaneously. Most guys downplayed the importance of needing to get married immediately, and many of their responses were playful, identifying and then going along with the joke.
In another case, an actress named Gabby sauntered up to fellow strangers on the street and asked to “have their children.” The strangers were taken aback by the request and most tried to extricate themselves from the situation as soon as possible. However, a small group, once again, understood that the question was a joke, so they went along with the banter.
Other examples of the same principle were touching hands on the escalator, asking “Can I stay at your place for the night?” and taking notes on stranger conversations.
3. Keep a Straight Face
Despite their outrageous topics, the actors of “The Daily Dropout” always maintain straight faces to encourage a sense of the situation’s normalcy. In one video, Steven strolls up to a group of random girls and tells them that they are “way hotter than his sister.”
The women respond with uncomfortable laughter, which often is enough to discourage any potential lotharios, but because of Steven’s deadpan expression, they soon find themselves having to explain why they weren’t interested in him.
In another instance, Steven is adamant about starting a family with the first girl he lays eyes on. The unlucky lady rebukes his proposal with a nervous chuckle of disapproval, but his ability to mask his laughter allows the bit to go on for much longer, and seem much realer, than the average prank gig.
4. Confidence Is Key
The ability to speak without reservation is mandatory for “The Daily Dropout.”
In one scenario, Steven uses his charms to convince girls that he should be their future boyfriend. He approaches the women and hints that they look familiar, only to then claim that they were going to be his future sweetheart. The very insistent look on his face only made the act more plausible.
Lara uses a similar brand of confidence in her video about “picking up guys speaking Chinese.” In the scenario, she walks up to random strangers and attempts to land a date, all while speaking Chinese. The bilingual host even uses non-verbal communication in attempt to negate the language barrier.
At the end of the conversation, Lara begins casually speaking English, much to everyone’s shock. It turned out the crafty actress was genuinely complimenting the guys, and they walked away grinning.