In a late-July issue of The New Yorker, Colin Nissan wrote, “There’s so much going on lately that I feel like I’m getting numb to it all…” The phrase was from his piece, “Bad News,” which was featured in the weekly installment of Shouts & Murmurs, the magazine’s humor and satire section. Despite its satirical purpose, the idea certainly resonates.
Within such a connected world, opinions are inevitable, and the daily sharing of ideas is paramount. Discussion is important, both to communicate with others and to progress as a society. However, through discussion, opinion and the inundation of news, misinformation runs rampant.
Moreover, there is a fear of the humiliation associated with admitting one’s lack of knowledge on a specific subject. There exists a constant sort of social prompting for opinion concerning the daily news, and some have gotten into the bad habit of speaking about subjects about which they lack knowledge. Surprisingly, it has become alarmingly common to base one’s statements on misinformation.
This cycle of misinformation, or lack of information at all, should be broken.
Jonathan Van Ness provides an informed countermeasure. His podcast, “Getting Curious,” promotes a unique culture of curiosity and unbiased learning before making any sort of judgment.
On “Getting Curious,” Van Ness explores topics that interest him. The subject of each weekly installment varies, but every episode is titled and focused around a central question about which Van Ness is curious.
A recent episode asks, “How are the GOP planning to keep the Democrats out of the midterms?” Another is titled “Did social media make artists need to be business people too?” And luckily, Van Ness has brought on all four of his fellow “Queer Eye” co-stars in episodes that feature riveting interviews about their backgrounds.
Van Ness answers the titular questions by bringing in experts in the field. For an episode about how ethics factor into everyday life, he sat down with an accomplished ethicist. When examining how traumatic family separation affects children, Van Ness spoke with a pediatrician that studies family separation.
Van Ness creates opportunity out of the subjects about which he is uninformed. Rather than becoming complacent with his lack of knowledge or ignoring it altogether, he engages with his own curiosity. “Queer Eye”’s breakout star is using his platform for good, and his No. 1 podcast is benefitting listeners nationwide on a weekly basis.
“Getting Curious” is so informative because each episode focuses on a singular topic. During each show, Van Ness is able to tackle a unique issue with the help of a trusted source. He and his guest of choice provide listeners with an informed discussion about the full scope of one topic, rather than haphazardly attempting to explain the ins and outs for a multifaceted issue. And after listening to all the episodes combined, fans will have learned a considerable amount of targeted information.
There’s a certain neutrality to the podcast that sets it apart as well. Through his titular questions, Van Ness approaches pertinent issues in unexpected ways. For instance, he learns about the fashion world through the eyes of an accomplished plus-sized model and gets insight on Renaissance art by viewing it through the lens of current pop culture phenomena.
This was never about topping charts, it was about having a creative outlet that was mine, but it was too slow, people didn’t get it, #GettingCurious actually got cancelled the day before I booked Queer Eye. I kept creating & believing anyway. I’m so grateful 4 your support & ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Ge0BkLTqGA
— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) July 6, 2018
Additionally, a key strength of “Getting Curious” is that Van Ness’s knowledgeable guests only discuss and inform listeners about topics within their expertise. After listening through the episodes myself, I noticed that more than once during each episode, Van Ness or a guest will reveal their own lack of knowledge about something. If and when Van Ness’s questions are too broad or aren’t within the specific field of study of a guest, the guest will recuse themselves from commenting.
In this way, Van Ness creates a de-pressurized environment that promotes informed learning. No matter one’s level of expertise, Van Ness and his guests recognize that it’s impossible to truly know it all. By learning through a choose-your-own-adventure type approach, Van Ness’s sincerity and specificity help him accomplish his goal of imparting wisdom on listeners as he absorbs the facts himself.