Photo by Paul Morigi / Getty Images for Crooked Media

Jon Lovett’s a man who has worn many hats: He’s a comedian, veteran TV writer and producer, a prolific podcaster, and quite famously was once a speechwriter for former President Barack Obama.

But soon he’ll be ditching trading all of those hats in for a bandana, when he competes on the upcoming 47th season of Survivor—a secret revealed when he popped up in a teaser this fall’s newest edition of the long-running reality competition show, much to the surprise of even his most avid fans.

While the jury’s still out on how Lovett will fare on the island, we can at least confirm he has made it back alive. That’s because he’s returned to the helm of Crooked Media—the podcast network he created alongside fellow former White House staffers Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor—co-hosting their flagship political series Pod Save America, as well as his own weekly comedy & culture podcast Lovett Or Leave It.

And it’s not a moment too soon, because Lovett and his Crooked cohorts are publishing their first book Democracy Or Else: How To Save America In 10 Easy Steps on June 25, a helpful, thorough, and engaging resource that might just prove to be essential reading as we get deep into this year’s election cycle. As the “gay” of this trio, Lovett’s made sure the book includes segments to inspire and mobilize the LGBTQ+ community, full of his characteristic wit.

In anticipation of Democracy Or Else‘s release, we invited Lovett to be the latest guest in our rapid-fire Q&A series Dishin’ Itbefore he shipped off to Survivor island! So while we didn’t get to beg him for spoilers for the upcoming season (we didn’t even know he’d be on it at the time!), we did talk with him about the movie that spoke to his former “closet case” self, election season exhaustion, and the cartoon crush that still lingers to this day.

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, theater, video game, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has played an important role in your understanding of queerness? Why does it stand out to you? 

The Birdcage! I loved The Birdcage so much. I loved how silly and dramatic Nathan Lane could be, and how much the movie refuses to take itself seriously. Being a little closet case at that time, I was afraid to seek out gay movies and books, and so what I saw was what I saw by happenstance, and it was a lot of serious with a capital “S” films that may have had a good message, but also made being gay seem like a job in a mine. The Birdcage was a blast.

Your Crooked Media team has a new book coming called, Democracy Or Else: How To Save America In 10 Easy Steps. Since we as queer people often feel like even the politicians “on our side” aren’t fighting for us as loudly as the should be, what’s “1 easy step” you’d share with the LGBTQ+ community to keep their heads up ahead of what’s already another exhausting election cycle?

One big step in the book is organizing, and the work we have to do between elections to hold politicians accountable, press for direct action, and persuade more people. Is it easy? No. The name of the book is a trap. But I’d also say: yes, this election is going to be exhausting. And we see nonstop rightwing attacks on trans kids and gay teachers and books that mention anal. Why is that happening? It’s blowback to visibility, acceptance, and change—both legal and cultural. It’s blowback to the proof all around us that we can and do win. 

Everyone knows you as a podcaster and former White House speech writer, but if you were to write a how-to guidebook about anything else in the world (outside of politics, or your regular career) what would it be and why? 

The Michelin Guide to Chain Restaurants in the United States.

Thanks especially to your Lovett Or Leave It show, you’ve had the opportunity to work with and meet so many comedic icons, stars, and political figures. With that in mind, who’s a famous person you’ve met that surprised you the most? How did they surprise you and/or how were they different than you expected? 

Hmmm… I’ll dodge and say what I love about the show is surprising combinations of people, like having drag superstars Alaska and Willam alongside Congresswoman Katie Porter playing a game together. Those moments are the most fun.

Where’s one of the first spaces you can remember that made you feel a part of a queer community?

I didn’t know that this is what it was at the time, but high school forensics tournaments was definitely one. I did the more political categories like oratory, but the acting categories? Gay city.

Who’s a fictional character you had a crush on at a younger age (or maybe still do!)? What do you remember loving about them? 

Captain Planet. No further questions at this time.

Jon Lovett & Al Franken | Photo by Paul Morigi / Getty Images for Crooked Media)

In honor of Pride Month, what’s something that makes you most proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community? 

Hearing a gay voice across a room—in any room, a wedding, funeral, NASCAR, whatever—and knowing there’s someone there who can talk sh*t. Also musicals.

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to? 

I love Ethel Cain. I can play a song like “A House In Nebraska” on repeat for days.

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