When Netflix’s revival of the early 2000’s hit show “Queer Eye” hit the streaming service back in February of this year, I was apprehensive to say the least. While the show was an important moment in the progress and acceptance of queer members of society in its era, it shows its age in its mentality and style.
However, I was blown away by the emotional impact, cultural significance and relevance the new “Fab Five” brought with them as they toured around the southern U.S. and addressed topics from homophobia to self-acceptance. Many audience members connected with the strong, kind and passionate personalities of these new hosts. One of the biggest and strongest personalities on the show was that of the gleeful and curious Jonathan Van Ness.
Always the inquisitor, Van Ness was already ready to talk to the subjects of the Fab Five’s make-overs and try to dig deeper to another level of understanding them. He applies this same mentality in his podcast “Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness.”
The premise of the show is simple: once a week Van Ness invites a guest who is an expert in some field of life, be it science, politics, figure skating, history or even bees, to participate in a conversation about their life and expertise so that both he and the audience can learn about dense, difficult topics in an accessible and easy way.
While this sounds like it could be run-of-the-mill or even trite, the show manages to make itself anything but. The biggest factor in what makes this show stand out is Jonathan himself. He manages to keep things light, and opens up guests who may in normal circumstances be more reserved or closed off.
It’s hard to describe Van Ness’ personality without experiencing it for yourself but if I had to pick a word, I would pick one he uses frequently himself: gorge. Jonathan Van Ness is simply a gorgeous man. Yes, he dresses to the nines and takes care of himself with a wide array of beauty products that I could never even begin to list, but on top of that he is just a genuine and kind person.
He treats the guests on his show with the utmost respect and admiration, but never fails to let his bubbly curiosity and character shine through. The juxtaposition between some of his guests’ grounded seriousness and his wide range of emotions and vocabulary can make for some enjoyable and humorous conversations that manage to be both entertaining and enlightening at the same time.
He’s not afraid to be joyous one moment and crying the next. Take the most recent episode “What’s it Like to Do a Triple Axel? With Mirai Nagasu” as an example wherein he and Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu discuss skating, a subject close to both of their hearts. Jonathan is brought to tears at one point due to his sheer admiration for Nagasu and everything she has been through.
Though this may sound dramatic, it plays with the persona that Van Ness embodies and really just goes to show how genuine and compassionate Van Ness can be. He and Nagasu have a natural and entertaining banter that many people often fail to find when they conduct interviews.
In an opposite vein, a few weeks ago Van Ness had on James Nieh to talk about bees in a episode entitled “How Can We Be Less Rude To Bees? With Prof. James Nieh.” Nieh carried himself with a quiet dignity and it was apparent he may not have been completely comfortable being in front of a mic but Jonathan managed to be his personable and playful self in such a way that you could feel Nieh’s hesitance dissipating as the minutes passed by.
Though the podcast may not be totally new, debuting in December 2015, long before Van Ness reached the level of fame and success as he has achieved now from his work on “Queer Eye,” it feels as though Van Ness has found his sweet spot as a host and the show is coming into its own and improving with each episode.
My sole complaint is that there just isn’t enough of it. Each episode has an average runtime of about half an hour, which can sometimes make the listener feel like the conversations don’t have time to fully develop. Van Ness has tried in the past to bring back guests for additional episodes when he feels they had deeper territory to dredge into. Still, I can’t help but be somewhat disappointed when each episode ends so soon after it begins, but I suppose that’s just a testament to how enjoyable the show really is.