When you’re newly in love, you want to shout it from the rooftops.
I first fell for Jonathan Van Ness years ago, when the world was gifted with his ‘Gay of Thrones’ recaps. If you’re reading this blog I have to assume you’re familiar with the videos.
Now he’s hosing a monthly podcast called ‘Getting Curious’ where he interviews an expert each episode on a subject that grabs his interest. The topics are truly diverse, his enthusiasm is beyond infections, and the show has the overall vibe of office hours with an engaged undergrad prepping for a midterm by peppering an indulgent professor with questions.
Really you should jump in anywhere–you won’t be disappointed. But here are my five favorite episodes so far:
- Who Were the Romanovs and What Happened to Them, Honey? with Brad Damare (3/1/2016)
How do I know Jonathan is a Midwest boo? Those killer speech inflections, which remind me of Coco so much I got verklempt when listening to this episode mid-hike–Jonathan let’s rip an “ugh, trag” and it was like I was back in the Linn Street Estroden. This one is a fun dive into the history of the Romanov family, focusing on the decline of the dynasty and their post-revolution fate. Jonathan interviews PhD candidate Brad Damare and the conversations sets the pattern for the show, where Jonathan chats with an authority on the subject, which injecting humor. But what I really like is the questions he asks in this episode, and in most episodes, seem born of his genuine curiosity and interest–there’s no script, and sometimes the questions are out of left-field, but the whole conversation feels real, unlike some other history podcasts (Dan Snow’s History Hit) which seem more like set-ups for everyone involved to sell a book.
2. What is United Shades of American with W. Kamau Bell? (5/18/2016
In this episode Jonathan chats with comedian and journalist W. Kamau Bell about his new CNN show that explores race, class, and community in America, as well as Bell’s personal experiences as a black man married to a white woman in Berkeley (spoiler, racism still exists in super-liberal enclaves) and why white privilege isn’t something Jonathan should reject, it’s something he (and all of us with it) need to recognize as a tool we have a responsibility to use to fight against the system. This one is probably the most engaging episode–invite a comedian and journalist on your show, and you’re due for a crackling conversation.
3. What’s a menstrual Cup? with Sullivan Oakley (1/20/2016)
In this episode Jonathan interviews his cousin about her volunteer work in developing countries and the economic/environmental/health benefits of the menstrual cup. It’s arguably the least informative of the episodes (at least for audience members who menstruate) but the episode is a standout because of Jonathan’s frank confrontation of his own vagina phobia. He explains how as a gay teenager growing up in Indiana, he felt like he had to find girls and their bits gross. He’s come a long way since, and in the episode it’s charming watching him self-correct his own statements that are too blunt or dismissive of vaginas, or are predicated on the notion that there is a right way to treat yours. It’s just very endearing.
4. What’s the Difference Between Sunni and Shia Muslims & Why Don’t They Love Each Other? with Dr. James Gelvin (12/15/2015)
I usually avoid premiere episodes of podcasts because it always takes a few episodes for the tone and rhythm to gel, and while this episode is not without growing pains, the professional polish of the production and charm of the construct make it a really enjoyable origin. What really won me over the tone that’s set in this episode–like I described in the intro, it’s a really eager undergraduate doing office hours with a professor. Also, Jonathan left in a clip where he’s gently but firmly taken to school over his flippant and not-respectful enough language about Muslims–much like with the menstrual cup, watching his learning process is really endearing, and nothing is more appealing than a podcast host who doesn’t edit tracks to show themselves in the best light.
5. What Was the First Christmas Really Like? With Father Waylon (12/23/2015)
This won’t be everyone’s favorite, but I love religious studies and Jonathan has a fun rapport with Father Waylon. While theology obviously makes its way into the discussion, for the most part they look at what the early life of the historical Jesus would have been like, with a focus on the political climate of the area during his youth. Again, not for everyone, but the episodes are so diverse (other episode topics include cyber security, Brexit, lupus, dating, HIV research, and Gravitational Waves) that there really is an episode for everyone.