Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that the date of Jonathan Van Ness’ Sugar Land tour stop is to be determined.
They’re here, they’re queer, and they’re tumbling (literally) on to the Smart Financial Centre stage with an epic stand-up special that tackles the pandemic, politics, and the perfect gymnastics floor routine.
Jonathan Van Ness quickly became America’s sweetheart as one of the Fab Five on Netflix’s Queer Eye. Van Ness is now hitting the road with a stand-up special, Imaginary Living Room Olympian, that is coming to Sugar Land soon.
“I had done stand-up a handful of times,” Van Ness says of their comedy roots. “I did a web series called Gay of Thrones before Queer Eye. It was nominated for Emmys and definitely had its own following. That’s what made me realize, ‘I’m like, kind of funny. I think I could do this.’ I didn’t really start leaning into writing and performing comedy until Queer Eye. It became the thing that got me a lot more higher-level opportunities. I love it so much.”
Just like JVN broke the mold for what gender expression can look like on a mainstream platform, they’re breaking new ground with their latest project. “I don’t know if I’m the first person to do this, but I haven’t heard of another comedian who has opened their show with a proper, full-blown gymnastics floor routine,” they say excitedly. “If you want to see my iconic gymnastics routine, do not be late to the show!” Van Ness is putting it all on the line for audiences. “I’m giving you sparkle, I’m giving you sequins, I’m giving you a USA leotard and a full-air jumpy tumble track. It’s hard-core, no holds barred, and I am tumbling for my life. That’s why the show is called Imaginary Living Room Olympian. In my imagination, I’m going for the gold.”
JVN also boasts that the show’s opener will have audiences rolling with laughter. “My opening act is a Texas native—my friend Alok, who is an incredible and hilarious performer, comedian, and activist. I do my gymnastics routine, then Alok comes out, and then I do about an hour set. My comedy is very fun and it’s very much about coming out of the pandemic, finding joy in these times, learning to laugh at what we can laugh at, and really just coming together to laugh and processing a very turbulent few years. It’s political, a little raunchy, and a little edgy.”
The tireless entertainer stays busy in between gigs with political activism. Reflecting on the status quo, JVN offers suggestions on how to remain focused. “I think when we’re wanting to disengage, it’s because we need to rest and take care of ourselves so that we can stay engaged in these fights and conversations. Especially when it comes to our trans and nonbinary community members who have faced unprecedented violence, we have to focus on taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others. Rest, and get back out there.”
Van Ness anticipates the upcoming 2022 elections with optimism. “I think, especially in Texas, we have an opportunity to turn things around. We have to stay focused on long-term goals and local issues to turn Texas politics around.”
The hilarious hair god uses he/she/they pronouns, and encourages anyone exploring their own gender expression to do the work to figure it out on their own terms. “Gender expression is so personal, and for me it’s important to understand the roots of where and when our current ideas of gender come from. We hear people saying gender is a construct, and it literally is a construct. The way we think about gender [today] hasn’t been around that long,” he emphasizes. “Nonbinary and trans people have been around much longer than this very rigid gender binary that we live under.
“There’s such a beautiful spectrum of ways in which you can identify in our community—nonbinary, trans, or nonbinary-trans. There are a lot of resources and people out there that support you and will welcome you into the community with open arms. But we have to take the first action, which a lot of times [simply means] asking for help.”
Regarding the upcoming season of Queer Eye that was filmed in Austin, JVN spills the tea on what to expect. “Austin was an incredible place—not to make our gorgeous Sugar Land people ‘jelly,’” he jokes. “We have such a diverse cast, and everyone has such great stories. There’s such a range in age, race, occupation, life experience; I think everyone will find [a story they can] relate to. I really do think it’s some of our most poignant, special work that we’ve ever done.”
JVN assures readers that Texans who tune in for Season 6 will be delighted with the odes to the Lone Star State that the Fab Five include throughout the season. “There’s definitely some line dancing and quintessential Texas realness!”
What: Jonathan Van Ness: Imaginary Living Room Tour
Where: Smart Financial Centre, 18111 Lexington Boulevard