After a longtime marriage to a man she met in her early teens, Renata Lubinsky found herself single and raising two kids on her own.
So at 47 years old, she decided to give online dating a try. She thought, “I may be over 40, but that doesn’t mean my love life is over.”
Around that time, she saw that the local theater was staging “Around the World in 80 Days,” and she had an epiphany: She would adopt Jules Verne’s challenge. As part of a divorced woman’s journey to find love again, she would go on 80 first dates.
It took her nearly two years, but Lubinsky, of Shoreline, did go on 80 first dates with 80 different men. And then she had another epiphany.
Bad first dates can go so badly that you can’t help but laugh about it later.
So Lubinsky became a stand-up comedian.
“I like to laugh at myself,” said Lubinsky, who compares herself to comedy great Joan Rivers. “I take a look at everyday things and our everyday lives and I find the funny.”
She saw her 80-date challenge as perfect fodder for stand-up comedy, so she wrote about each one. She took improv classes through Unexpected Productions and joined the Fresh Ground Stories Meetup to practice telling jokes and funny stories on stage.
Lubinsky, 52, made her stand-up debut in 2014 at Laugh’s Comedy Spot in Kirkland, which has since moved to Seattle.
She says she was surprised how hard it is to tell jokes for 3 to 5 minutes. But she wasn’t surprised that she could make the audience laugh.
“My first husband didn’t like that his wife good at networking and was funny and outgoing,” she said.
Those traits are serving her well now as a comedian.
“The first time I went to do my stand-up, I won first prize,” said Lubinsky, who is a senior business analyst for BECU. “I didn’t even know I was in a competition.”
She said her career has been helped by Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
In “Mrs. Maisel,” which has a third season on the way, Miriam “Midge” Maisel seemingly has the perfect 1950s New York life: a husband, two kids and an Upper West Side apartment. But she might just lose it all because she’s decided to become a stand-up comedian.
Lubinsky says she’ll get compared to Rachel Brosnahan’s Mrs. Maisel when she does a show.
For one, they’re both Jewish.
Because of anti-Semitism in Poland, Lubinsky’s family was forced to move to Israel when she was a baby. Both of her parents are Holocaust survivors, she said. Lubinsky, who retains her Israeli accent, immigrated with her first husband to the Seattle area about 11 years ago.
On the show, Midge’s marriage is on the rocks.
Lubinsky sees parallels with Mrs. Maisel here, too. Her marriage collapsed in 2013.
“I met my first husband when I was 14,” said Lubinsky, who married for the first time at age 19 in Israel. “I spent most of my life with the same man. We had just bought our dream house. Three months later, we were getting a divorce.
“Like me, she needed a big change in her life. It’s interesting that you need to go through such a big change to really do what makes you happy.”
In 2018, Lubinsky turned her jokes into an online-dating memoir titled “Around Seattle in 80 Dates.” In the back of the book is a list of 50 dating do’s and don’ts that Lubinsky learned through trial and error.
“Now when I talk to people who have read the book, they say, ‘You are our local Mrs. Maisel,’” Lubinsky said. “It’s such an amazing compliment.”
Lubinsky’s 80-date challenge had a great payoff: She found her second husband. And yes, he was her 80th date.
She got married to date No. 80, Paul Matusewicz, on Jan. 6, 2017.
Both born in Poland, they found that they had much in common. On their first date, they shared a picnic overlooking Lake Washington on the Fourth of July. Lubinsky had packed them a Polish spread to be eaten with toothpicks. Matusewicz was impressed.
They like to joke that he fell in love with her because of all the toothpicks.
Husband and wife now watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” together. It’s one of their favorite TV shows.
“The way I see it, Mrs. Maisel’s husband was caught by surprise,” said Matusewicz, who is a senior technologist at BloodWorks Northwest. “He didn’t know she had a stand-up career and he didn’t like how he was portrayed (in her jokes). But her (Lubinsky’s) career was never a surprise for me. I’ve been supportive of it.”
He’s even become part of his wife’s show. At some point, Lubinsky will point out date No. 80 in the audience.
“No one calls me by my real name anymore,” Matusewicz joked.
Does No. 80 ask about the 79 dates she went on before meeting him? Yes, but he’s more than OK with her dating past.
“A lot of my dates or ex-boyfriends met each other,” Lubinsky said. “If you finish nice, you can still be friends. Two of them were even in in our wedding.”
Dating When Wiser
Renata Lubinsky will give a workshop on dating when you’re over 40 — including the do’s and don’ts of online dating — from 2 to 3:30 p.m. March 23 at the Neverending Bookshop, 7530 Olympic View Drive, Suite 105, Edmonds. More at www.renatalubinsky.com.