Beautiful Ideas Emerge at Life is Beautiful

Study up on Jonathan Van Ness, Desus and Mero and Pod Save America

August 30, 2019

Courtesy of © Anthony Behar

Music may take the main stage at Life is Beautiful, but as anyone who’s ever been to the festival already knows, there’s a wealth of art, food, comedy, and more to go with it.

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Far from a side dish, Life is Beautiful’s Ideas series has been an integral part of the festival, helping to spread positivity and inspire attendees. Over the years, the series has featured Bill Nye, RuPaul, Rosario Dawson, and Pussy Riot, among others. The 2019 lineup continues its inspirational mission, but with a serving of laughter, astute observations, and political commentary.

Jonathan Van Ness, one of the stars of Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, takes the Ideas stage on Day 1 of the festival. If you only know JVN for giving manchildren makeovers on the hit show, then you’re in for an education. Before the long-locked hairstylist landed on Netflix, he was showing off his funny side on Emmy-nominated web series Gay of Thrones. We’re more bummed about that ending than we are Game of Thrones. And since 2015, he’s hosted award-winning biweekly podcast Getting Curious. The aptly-titled show explores JVN’s inquisitiveness on various topics, from toxic stress and figure skating to how the U.S. has disrupted Native American food sources and how we’re being rude to bees. Needless to say, he’ll have plenty to talk about at the festival. One thing you can definitely count on is for JVN to serve some serious looks. On Monday night, he attended the MTV VMAs in a black bodysuit, a lacy black cape, and black pumps. We stan.

2019 marks the second year in a row that a Queer Eye castmember has been a featured guest at Life is Beautiful. Last year, JVN’s co-star Karamo Brown delivered an empowering speech that urged guests to forgive themselves for their past actions and beliefs. “Forgive yourself for listening to crap. Forgive yourself for believing in crap. Forgive yourself for forgetting that you are perfectly designed,” Brown told the crowd, according to Las Vegas Weekly. Can we please get the entire Fab 5 next year?

We’re not sure what Desus & Mero have in store for Day 2 of the festival, but whatever it is, it’ll be lively, hilarious, and NSFW. The often giffed podcast tag team-turned-late night hosts aren’t known for biting their tongue, which is why we love them. The new kings of late night TV, the duo has run the pop culture commentary game for the last five years, jumping from Complex to Viceland to Showtime. Along the way, they’ve coined phrases (and gestures) like “caucasity” and SMDFTB, conducted iconic interviews with everyone from A$AP Rocky to AOCroasted politicians, and delivered skits that would make Dave Chappelle proud. If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll give us a performance of “Chocolate Galaxy.”

Political junkies, the last night is for you. The hosts of Pod Save America — former Obama Administration staffers Jon Favreau, who served as 44’s chief speechwriter; Tommy Vietor, a spokesperson for the former president and the United States National Security Council; speechwriter Jon Lovett; and longtime aide Dan Pfeiffer — will take the Ideas stage. The popular left-leaning podcast started as a progressive reaction to the 2016 election and the spread of misinformation from right-wing media that came in its wake. “Limbaugh, Breitbart—they’re not trying to help people understand or to provide facts,” Vietor told Esquire. “They’re trying to sow racial animus and grievance. They’re trying to tear down government and tear down people.” PSA does the opposite, mixing humor with political analysis in their often 90-plus minute episodes, which air twice a week and feature guests such as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Obama himself. 

The boys aren’t alone in their fight for truth. With PSA, Lovett, Vietor, and Pfeiffer founded Crooked Media, which produces a growing network of political podcasts, including Pod Save the People with activist DeRay Mckesson, Keep It with culture critic Ira Madison III, and Hysteria with comedy writer Erin Ryan. Not to be outdone by their fellow Ideas peers, PSA also had a brief stint on a cable network. This won’t be their first time on the road, either. Since Fall 2017, they’ve embarked on multiple Pod Tours America runs across the country, selling out shows from coast to coast. Why are they so popular? Everyone wants to know what they know.

“We can’t predict who’s going to win the primary or who is the best candidate or who has the best chance of beating Trump. But all of us have been on winning presidential campaigns and we can give you our perspective on what makes a good candidate,” Favreau recently told Variety

Get it straight from the source at this year’s Life is Beautiful.

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