'Queer Eye's' Jonathan Van Ness: How 'Game of Thrones' Made Me a Comedian (Guest Column)

Game of Thrones and inset of Jonathan Van Ness-H 2019
Courtesy of HBO; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Recapping HBO's drama series on 'Gay of Thrones' gave the grooming expert his big break — but now the Emmy nominee (for shortform variety series) is mourning two series at once.

Co-dependency. I've been struggling with her since the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games nearly robbed me of the ability to leave my house at age 5, largely thanks to the American women's gymnastics team's heroic bronze medal. Sometimes we can't help but be overly invested in someone else's successes and setbacks.

I only recently got out of a thrilling but sometimes toxic relationship. I know. Me? Single? It's a crime! Anyhoo, my partner? HBO's Game of Thrones. How I loved them! They were stunningly beautiful, brilliant, sometimes problematic, exciting and heartbreaking. Without Game of Thrones, Gay of Thrones would just be Gay — which honestly isn't a bad idea for a show, but it's not what we were there to do.

At Gay of Thrones, we recapped every single episode of Game of Thrones from inside a gorgeous fake hair salon in a cramped office space off Melrose Avenue. Doing our show, with our perspective, was a huge responsibility. Episodes of Game of Thrones could be more complex and intense than a Florence Welch harmony. We encapsulated the pivotal moments of each episode into a five-minute show and included a hairstyle makeover! Tough edits had to be made for time. "Would people on the internet give us hell for not covering Bran's Miss Cleo routine this week?" In the early seasons, we literally had a few hours to write and film an entire episode. By the end, we were graced with an extra day to prepare. That's still less time than they give Emilia Clarke to get into her wig! But we had a responsibility to give our viewers a solid recap, sprinkling in enough Scary Spice references so they knew they were among friends.

Some of our fans never even watched Game of Thrones, so we tried to give fans and nonfans alike a sense of the show so they could confidently talk about Baby Barack Obama [Jacob Anderson] and Solange's [Nathalie Emmanuel] relationship status while browsing salt lamps at House of Intuition. If that isn't noble, then I don't know what is. We watched every move they made with bated breath. "Would this be the episode where Brother D [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau] finally gets his comeuppance?" And you have no idea how badly we wanted to comeuppance him! Whether it was a big battle with a major character's demise or just time-killing with everyone talking about the next episode, we had to recap it.

I've never wanted children of my own. (I have my own gymnastics classes to get to, honey!) But Game of Thrones was the child I never had. You love them, but you also have to let them go and make their own way. If the internet was mad at Game of Thrones one week, we couldn't let that affect us. Too-dark-to-see battle scenes can't get in your way when you have Dance Dance Revolution references to make.

Game of Thrones has done nothing short of change my life. The series that introduced us all to Westeros also introduced me to a side of myself I'd never known. To be welcomed into a small community within the Gay of Thrones family was the catalyst I needed to discover how much I love to make people laugh. So much has changed since Gay of Thrones started. I have grown far past my wildest dreams for myself as an entertainer, comedian and producer. I will miss the unparalleled excitement of getting together with Erin Gibson, Matt Mazany, Joan Ford, Mark Rennie and our Funny or Die family to watch Game of Thrones and then to go on an hours-long adventure in writing and improv. I feel so proud of the way we were able to grow and evolve while offering a strong, unapologetically female and LGBTQ perspective on something mainstream.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.