Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness 

Even though I was a fan of ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ back in the noughties, I wasn’t particularly excited for its Netflix reboot after hearing about the epic failure of shows like ‘Fuller House’ or ‘Heroes Reborn.’ But ‘Queer Eye’  turned out to be one of the most heartfelt shows to come out of 2018. What drew viewers in was the undeniable chemistry among the new ‘Fab Five,’ who–like the original cast–are relatable and lovable, which is unheard of for reality television. 


A fan-favorite from the first episode is the show’s resident grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness, who’s known for his lush mane and effusive demeanor. While he could have started a line of swanky hair care products following the show’s success, Van Ness instead doubled down on the podcast he started in 2015 by bringing in high-profile guests like novelist Jodi Picoult, comedian Michelle Wolf, and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 


The format of the weekly podcast is simple: an expert is brought in to explore topics, ranging from Brexit to dating and AI. Like on ‘Queer Eye,’ Van Ness’s remarkable ability to mix light-hearted banter with real talk keeps listeners engaged, even if the conversation veers–often dramatically–off topic. 


Van Ness excels the most when he delves into personal conversations with his guests instead of discussing specific topics, as seen in episodes like “What’s it Like Being a Woman in NASCAR? With Julia Landauer.” These conversations work better with his off-the-cuff interview style and ability to put people at ease. His approach to discussing heavy issues such as suicide rates among LGBTQ youth or parental alienation is to ask the expert to offer solutions, ending these episodes on an optimistic note.


Van Ness said in one episode that he wants to be the Annie Leibovitz of podcasters because she always makes sure that nothing about her process is forced, so everything she shoots feels natural. By that standard, the podcast is a success; he is always unabashedly himself and inspires listeners to be the same. –MC 


Cover art courtesy of Earwolf.

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