Storytelling is an integral part of culture. What’s fascinating is how varied the stories are from one group to another. I love discovering people who are celebrating the artistry of word, story, and history. Jim VerSteeg is the producer and host of the Gay Sunday Brunch. A podcast featuring some of the most interesting and important voices in the GLBT community, I am beyond grateful that he has taken the time to chat.
What propelled you to create the Gay Sunday Brunch podcast?
A desperate and unquenchable need for attention. Kidding! That’s only part of it. I had been working for several years as a contributor to Instinct Magazine when it struck me that LGBT audiences would probably love to hear more from the guys I was interviewing.
I knew I had a great network of contacts, so the original concept of the show was just me calling my friends and shooting the shit with them. That’s where the “Bringing you a big gay world one phone call at a time” came from.
Part of Gay Sunday Brunch’s mission is to, “Provide a place where LGBT artists and storytellers can be heard.” How would you describe the LGBT narratives being discussed on the show right now?
Right now our mix on Singers and Storytellers is a smorgasbord of what the LGBT community has to offer. One of my favorite artists we’ve highlighted is Levi Kreis. I talked to him after he won the Tony Award for his role in Million Dollar Quartet. He’s such a huge talent, so it was fun to both interview him and have him share one of his songs on the show.
But I have to say; one of the funniest and most interesting stories is Hector. Hector is a pop singer from Sweden who I actually “met” on Scruff (the popular iPhone app). I thought he was cute and “woofed” at him. After a little back and forth, he let me know he was a singer in Sweden and sent me the links to his music. We did a short interview and played his song, You Got My Body. The gays loved it!
What has hosting Gay Sunday Brunch taught you about the being Gay but also about the LGBT community?
The big thing it’s taught me is that our audience is really glad we’re here. I don’t mean that in a self-congratulating way at all. It’s just really rewarding to know that we are striking a chord with people and providing news and entertainment they really enjoy and appreciate. When I first started this thing a couple years ago, I had no idea if anyone would really care. I thought I had a good idea. It’s nice to know my head wasn’t up my ass.
Where did your interviewing style come from? What do you look for when deciding who you will interview?
That’s usually the wine talking. Actually, that’s not true. I only drink when it’s someone I really know. But I’ve been writing feature interviews for years. What audiences hear are the same types of questions I ask when I’m writing a cover story for Instinct or some other feature. Over the years I got bored with typical questions, but you still need to ask them. You have to have confidence in the intelligence of your audience, but not assume everyone has had exposure to everything you’re talking about.
I wouldn’t say we have gone very deep with our interviews and guests, but that’s deliberate. How serious does anyone want to be at brunch? But I do have to say I’m proud of the show for attracting so many wonderful guests—and I’m so grateful to them for coming on the program.
What was your most surprising interview?
Great question! I’m always surprised when folks get the feel of the show and totally open up and have fun with it. For the most part I think our guests know we run the gamut from serious news and topics to light and silly fun, but it’s always really cool when you don’t have to explain it.
I wouldn’t call it a surprise, necessarily, but I always love my chats with folks like Davey Wavey, Darryl Stephens and Itay Hod. They’ve all been on the show a bunch of times, and we have more fun every time we chat. My cast thinks I flirt too much with Davey, but that’s actually more about a fun chemistry between us. He’s so positive and upbeat, but he’s got a really wicked and dirty sense of humor. If you know me for a hot minute, you know that’s the stuff I respond to the most.
Why do you think an individual’s sexuality is still such a huge issue in our society?
I think about that a lot. Sometimes I shoot my own beliefs in the foot when I constantly promote GAY Sunday Brunch. I have never been a person who believes you should define yourself through your sexuality, or even put it top on the list of the things that make you who you are. But I also think we all need to be evolved and aware enough to realize that being LGBT means certain shared sensibilities and understandings about our world. Until we all get to a point where there is no more social and religious admonishment of who we are, we’ll need each other. That’s pretty much why I do what I do.
How would you explain “Social Justice” in 2012?
To me that means the tireless pursuit of equality and respect. Those two things must be realized together if we are to see any lasting change. We have our first African-American President, but has racism ended in America? Not by a long shot. So in the same respect, we need to prepare ourselves for the harsh reality that achieving marriage equality will not validate us in the eyes of people who cling to ancient fear and hate in order to feel like they’re better than us or closer to God. Justice, to me means equal rights with mutual respect, even if we just respect each other enough to disagree.
Who/what is inspiring you now?
I’m inspired by leading a life free from the unspoken shame so many of us feel on a daily basis. Like many of my friends, and basically every gay guy I’ve ever known, we deny our shame and bury it. We paint over it with perfect apartments and gym bodies, but it’s still there. Until we come to terms with who we truly are—and become more than just a reaction to the world around us—we will have very little to offer our loved ones or ourselves. The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs addresses all of that. It should be required reading for every gay man I know… and that’s a shit load of gay men.
What does being brave mean to you?
There is nothing braver than living with integrity. Being open and honest about who you are is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. One thing I’ve learned doing Gay Sunday Brunch is that there are a lot of really, really brave people out there. They face issues in their families and communities that I have never had to deal with in mine. So I understand why some people stay in the closet out of fear that they will be harmed or abused. But the closet is not big enough for a person to develop. If your situation is bad, get out of it. If your home life is oppressive, leave it. If your relationship is making you unhappy, change it. Do what it takes to make sure you lead a happy and meaningful life in this short time you are given on this earth. The truly brave don’t let anyone take that away from them.
What’s your dream project?
My dream is to do the show live from Matt Bomer’s lap. If I can’t do that, I’d like to somehow bring Gay Sunday Brunch to an even larger audience. I think the show would be a great fit for Sirius XM’s Out Q station, but I also think we would do well with syndication and regular radio. In any event, I know we’re going to have to take the show on the road sometime soon. We’ve got listeners all over the world telling us we need to do the show from their hometown. Tell mom to start the Crockpot, kids. We’re coming!
What’s next for you and Gay Sunday Brunch in 2012?
I think it’s going to be a really exciting year. The show is always evolving and growing, and I’m just as excited as anyone else to see where things go. This whole thing started out with just me on a microphone talking to the folks I knew. It’s come so far from there and is really developing into something very exciting. I think it’s safe to say there will be some surprises for our listeners and fans, so it’s best to just stay tuned!
Where can my readers find you online?
Like any good whore, we like to make ourselves available. If folks go to gaysundaybrunch.com they can check out our current and past episodes. They’ll be able to hear interviews and chat with folks like Dan Savage, Alec Mapa, Johnny Hazzard, Pandora Boxx and a whole lot more. We’re also available on iTunes, and you’ll always find us on Facebook and Twitter. If those don’t work, you can always channel us through a medium, but something always gets lost in translation.