Jonathan Van Ness, hairstylist extraordinaire of Queer Eye fame, is once again bringing their comedy to stages around the country and on Saturday, they'll be stopping in New York City to perform at the iconic Radio City Music Hall.
They'll tell humorous stories, deliver jokes and even perform a gymnastic routine as part of their "Imaginary Living Room Olympian" tour with fellow comedian Michelle Buteau.
"I'm very influenced by Margaret Cho and Michelle Buteau," they tell us on a phone call this week. "It's shades of Lisa Lampanelli but not that hardcore. It's queer joy storytelling and jokes, and depending on how nervous I am, I may go off script and take some hard rights. Sometimes it works out and sometimes I think 'I should have workshopped that.' That's part of the fun to it—I'm rolling with the energy."
JVN, as many call them, has a down-to-earth quality that comes through on the phone and in their comedy. Their newest material, which audiences will hear on Saturday night, is inspired by the past two years—married life, surviving the pandemic and finding happiness.
"Compared to my old show, 'Road to Beijing,' it's a completely different show with totally different subject matter: It's about what the last two years have been like —being married, surviving the pandemic and finding joy in the hard times," they say. "It's about community, queer joy and about the last years and what I've learned and where I am. [During my last tour], I wasn't married yet. I've lived a lot of life since then and it shows in my comedy. It's more grown-up and sharper than what my last show was."
Even their opening gymnastics routine is updated—the last show opened with a floor routine that Aly Raisman did at the 2016 Olympics. This year, it'll be a routine Grace McCallum did at the 2021 Tokyo Games. While these performances take months of practice (they include flips and difficult landings), JVN says the most difficult thing about it is doing it in front of an audience.
"Being able to hurl my 34-turning-35-year-old body in any of those moves in a leotard in front of a couple thousand people is also pretty cool and takes a lot of courage," they admit. "It's a really cool, unique and funny way to open up a show. It's like lights, camera, action, honey!"
Looking forward to their Radio City Music Hall performance, they say everything has been building to this moment.
"It's such a huge honor to perform at Radio City," they say. It's my second time, but my first time, it was an out-of-body experience and I couldn't believe that I was there."
Van Ness is still no stranger to NYC, when they visit, they're always amazed by the city and its residents.
"New York City's architecture and its people are so beautiful," they say. "And New Yorkers get a bad wrap for being harsh, but I've met more friends there. Whenever I got woefully lost or turned around [during my first weekend there], there was always a stranger that helped me find my way. New Yorkers are cool."
In the spirit of their comedy show about queer joy and community, we asked JVN what NYC spots bring them joy the most. Below are their answers:
1. Chelsea Piers
The Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex is a sports village between 17th and 23rd Streets along the Hudson River that has a multi-story driving range, numerous sports and training facilities, the Sky Rink, which has two full-sized ice rinks, the Chelsea Piers Fitness health club, Bowlero at Chelsea Piers and Sunset Terrace, a catering venue.
"It has figure skating and gymnastic all in one place! Is it heaven?" Van Ness asks.
2. Empire Diner
The famous Chelsea luncheonette, whose Art Deco exterior has been featured in everything from Woody Allen’s Manhattan to the opening credits of Saturday Night Live, is run by chef John DeLucie these days. Inside the vintage digs—complete with restored stainless steel, wood panels and outdoor seating in the warmer months—DeLucie serves classic American cuisine, including macaroni and cheese with Black Diamond cheddar and Parmesan bread crumbs, a double-patty burger with herbed french fries, and sourdough-pretzel fried chicken with chili-mustard sauce.
"It's got crispy, baby potatoes and it has the best treats that are just so tasty," JVN notes.
At Schmackary's in Hell's Kitchen, sweet tooths can choose from cookies in funky flavors, like red velvet, peanut butter cup, and gluten-free sweet corn with cranberries and pecans. Also on the menu: sticky buns, milkshakes and granola-and-yogurt parfaits.
"So good," JVN confirms.
4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Like so many of us, JVN finds joy in seeing the art at The Met Museum. At Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, the famous museum is the largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere. Inside its walls, you can find classical antiquity and ancient Egypt, paintings, and sculptures from European masters and an extensive collection of American and modern art. It also has extensive collections of African, Asian, Oceanian, Byzantine and Islamic art. There's so much joy to behold.
5. Bergdorf Goodman
An icon of New York City, Bergdorf Goodman is a must for any fashionista. It has a plethora of upscale beauty products, including Slatkin candles, Laura Mercier lip glosses and Frederic Fekkai hairbrushes, which makes it quite the haven for the hairstylist and beauty guru that JVN is.
6. The Chelsea Waterside Dog Run
The current Chelsea Waterside Dog Run is currently under construction, but when it opens early Summer 2022, it'll be almost 3,000 square feet larger than the current dog run with separate areas for large dogs and small dogs and innovative canine-friendly water spray jets as well as mounds and boulders. Van Ness may have five cats, but he also has multiple dogs!
It seems like Van Ness loves to hang in Chelsea! Find your own joy in Chelsea with the help of our Chelsea Neighborhood Guide.