“The best lunch date of my life. We were there for two-and-a-half hours but could easily have stayed for five.”
Urban picnic groups with comical chemistry.
In Denver & Brooklyn. Membership is free.
I’ve love organizing restaurant lunches and dinners for people with matching senses of humor.
I’ve been at it for nearly thirty-five years. When the pandemic hit, I needed a way to keep going. And, I thought, “socially distanced picnics!” I liked the idea so much, I decided to give it a name, a website, and my full-time attention.
“Exactly what I was looking for.”
Retired Mom of Four Grown Daughters
Is this like Meetup?
It’s like Meetup in that I plan activities for local groups.
It’s very UN-like Meetup in that I don’t organize our members into groups by their interests. I organize them into groups by what makes them laugh.
(Also, Fantalkstic is new and tiny.)
What's significant about organizing members into groups by what makes them laugh?
People who laugh at the same things are extremely likely to enjoy talking to one another.
How is membership free? What are you trying to pull? Are you a serial killer?
Well, Fantalkstic is only a few months old. And, though we’re growing quickly, as of today, we only have 287 members. 240 in Denver and 47 in Brooklyn. I’m able to handle the logistics with a few people helping me part-time.
Down the line, if Fantalkstic keeps growing, I’ll need to ponder how to cover the cost of hiring full-time employees.
Where did you get the idea to organize members into groups by what makes them laugh?
My dad gave me the idea, thirty-four years ago.
He spent most of his time as a serious-minded network television news producer. But his favorite thing in the world was making other people laugh.
When he, mom, and 4-year-old me moved back to New York City in 1973…
Read the rest of the story.
…from Israel (where he’d been NBC News’ bureau chief), dad wanted to reconnect with people. So he started a lunchtime conversation group filled with folks he knew from The New York Times, NBC News, and Columbia Journalism School.
The group went so well, he started three more.
It was a good idea — dad’s four lunchtime groups met at New York City Chinese restaurants, every week, like clockwork, for forty years.
Getting to participate.
My parents split up when I was 11.
After that, if a day off from my school coincided with one of dad’s group lunches, he’d invite me along.
And, boy, did I love it. I was surrounded by people who adored each other, had fantastic conversations, and laughed their heads off.
Dad reveals his recipe.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I arrived at college for freshman orientation, back in the autumn of 1986.
But a few hours after my parents dropped me off, this thought started repeating in my head —
“There are two thousand kids here. Nobody knows anybody else. Everyone is dying to make a few new friends. And they’re all petrified to talk to one another.”
The next day, I called my dad and we had a conversation that I remember going something like this —
“Dad, there are two thousand kids here who are petrified of one another. And everybody’s lonely. I was thinking maybe I could start some Sy Pearlman-style lunch groups. What’s your recipe for identifying a big bunch of people who are all going to like each other?”
Dad, instead of answering my question, followed it up with two of his own. They are probably the most impactful questions anyone’s ever asked me —
“Ted, how many people do you know who laugh at the same things you do?”
“A handful,” I said, after a slight pause.
“And how many of the people in that subset do you dislike?”
“Zero,” I admitted.
“Exactly,” he replied. “Identify the people around you who laugh at the same things and send them out to lunch together. That’s the recipe.”
Do I need to be funny?
No. Not a whit.
I match people up by what makes them laugh not because I expect them to have each other rolling on the floor, but rather because I know they’ll enjoy talking to one another — even about the most serious topics.
Is your dad still alive?
No. He died in 2015.