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From Outside Lands 2018: Jonathan Van Ness Gets Curious with Michelle Wolf and Florence + The Machine

“We’re going through mono as a country,” Jonathan Van Ness (“Queer Eye,” “Gay of Thrones”) said at San Francisco’s Outside Lands music festival on Saturday, where he was hosting a special live version of his podcast, “Getting Curious,” in front of a live audience. His cure for mono? His first guest—Michelle Wolf.

“You’re kind of like the new Beyoncé of comedy,” Van Ness said to Wolf.

“If I could wear a leotard, I would,” she said. “She really revolutionized not wearing pants.” Wolf, who wrote for “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” and now has her own Netflix series, made waves earlier this year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as its 2018 featured speaker. In her 19-minute act, Wolf made a joke about White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ eye makeup. “She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies,” Wolf said about Sanders. The controversial joke drew mixed reactions from journalists, comedians, and president Donald Trump himself, who tweeted “the so-called comedian really ‘bombed.’” Wolf and Van Ness touched upon the infamous moment at the show. “I had a lot of jokes about her [Sanders’] and Kellyanne [Conway’s] appearance that I took out,” Wolf said.

Later on in the show, Van Ness and Wolf started talking about comedy in broader terms, discussing its purpose in comparison to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s famous “When they go low, we go high” quote.

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“We’re comedians. That’s our job—to go low,” Wolf said. “It’s like boxing. You get to punch everything. Float like a butterfly and punch all the butterflies,” she added.

It wasn’t long after this that Van Ness had to switch gears, which he did several times in the show, sometimes unintentionally (at the start, he gave a warning about his affinity for drifting off into tangents, concerned with keeping time for the one-hour show.) But in this case, it was pre-planned—his next guest arrived on stage: Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, who happened to be the Outside Lands headliner of the night.

After taking a few selfies on stage, Wolf left and Welch took her seat as Van Ness’ second guest of the day. The two didn’t talk about politics, but chatted about childhood style icons (Spice Girls and Gwen Stefani for Welch), Welch’s new album “High as Hope,” and their past meetings. Welch started off the conversation by describing an outfit her 10-year-old self thought was cool: purple crushed velvet fleurs, Buffalo brand boots, and a Simpsons sweater.

“We all have eras,” Van Ness said, who talked about a purple Barney jumper he loved as a child. Eventually, the two transitioned to talking about “High as Hope,” and the process it took for Welch to create the album.

“It was so painful to make,” Welch said. “I literally crawled in to make that album a week after I quit drinking.” But Welch warned against relying on self-destruction as a creative tool. “Vulnerability can be strength,” she added.

One of the most vulnerable moments on her new album comes in the first line of “Hunger”: “At 17, I started to starve myself,” an allusion to an eating disorder Welch struggled with when she was younger.

“I didn’t even know you were allowed to talk about it,” she said. “I didn’t even know you were allowed to put it into song.” 

Baring her soul might have been difficult for Welch, but she did so at the show, talking about more of the complexities that went into making the album, like generational trauma. “Things are really difficult,” she said. “But you hope for peace.”

—Staff writer Grace Z. Li can be reached at grace.li@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @gracezhali.

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