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Awkward Uber, Lyft Rides Become Fodder For New Web Comedy Series

 Jeff Irlbeck (right) co-created and stars in the YouTube series
Jeff Irlbeck (right) co-created and stars in the YouTube series "Rideshare," during which he maneuvers through awkward encounters with interesting passengers.
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Courtesy Space Camp Productions

CHICAGO — Be sure to behave yourself in your next Uber or Lyft ride — or your awkwardness could be fodder for a new YouTube comedy series.

A local production company fronted by two real-life rideshare drivers is skewering those uncomfortable commutes in a YouTube series.

Rideshare,” the debut web comedy by Space Camp Productions, follows series co-creator and protagonist Jeff Irlbeck as he transports eccentric passengers — who in real life are improv actors — across the city.

It premiered mid-June and is wrapping up its first season this month. The second season will premiere this fall.

In addition to cracking up the audience, the catch behind the show is that the joke's on Irlbeck, who isn't warned in advance which role each actor will play. 

That was done purposely, to milk his discomfort and capture his honest, humorous reaction, said University of Chicago theater alumna and co-creator of the show Katie Hunter.

Modeling the show’s setup after the successful YouTube comedies like “High Maintenance,” the show was inspired by the experiences of Irlbeck and Ian Michael Smith, one of the show’s writers. Both of them are rideshare drivers in real life.

The fictional passengers includes Abby Pierce, Frederick Ford Beckley and Matthew Gall, who have performed at Steppenwolf’s Garage Theater and the ShawChicago Theater.

Here’s an episode from the first season:  

“It’s sort of a safe space, because you’re never going to see that person again,” Hunter said, reciting how many riders feel about casually opening up to their drivers. “Rideshare at its core is really about relationships and how if you take a second to open up to a stranger you’re going to bear witness to some crazy behavior… And you’re going to learn something about yourself.”

Each of the show’s three- to five-minute episodes was shot in Andersonville and Edgewater with GoPro cameras and cost around $200 to make, Hunter said.

For the second season, the creators may seek crowdfunding in order to shoot with higher-quality equipment and pay the actors, Irlbeck added.

Though YouTube itself offers a worldwide reach for "Rideshare," Hunter hopes to use the debut season as a proof of concept for a network TV show down the road.

“My goal is to show the humanity of both ends of it,” Irlbeck said. “You can always hear stories from all these different people about their Uber or Lyft drivers. But to see it from the other point of view—not only are some drivers weird, but guess what? Some passengers are just as weird.”

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