Political Notebook: Gay political pundit Lovett kicks off new show in SF

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 21, 2023
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Podcast host Jon Lovett brings his "Lovett or Leave It 2023 Errors Tour" to San Francisco June 22-23. Photo: Kit Karzen
Podcast host Jon Lovett brings his "Lovett or Leave It 2023 Errors Tour" to San Francisco June 22-23. Photo: Kit Karzen

Yes, Jon Lovett has seen the media headlines about San Francisco's descent into an ever-worsening "doom loop." No, it doesn't make him afraid to visit the City-by-the-Bay.

"When I was a kid, we would go to this Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. My father would always say, 'No one goes there, there is always a line.' I feel like that in a way, more broadly, is how conservatives make people fear the cities and make them seem like unlivable hellholes," Lovett, a gay man and former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, told the Bay Area Reporter.

Lovett, 40, grew up on Long Island in New York. Now a Los Angeles resident, Lovett does consider the lack of affordable housing across California "a massive failure" that conservative critics of the state can rightly point to when talking about Golden State residents leaving to find cheaper accommodations in other states.

"A big and legitimate problem is the way that California has managed its growth," said Lovett. "Our failure to build housing on a massive scale is one of the great political sins. It is one that rests entirely at the feet of Democrats."

It is an issue "we should own," argued Lovett, "and build as much housing as fast as possible."

Another priority needs to be reducing the cost of the state's infrastructure projects, said Lovett, a co-founder of Crooked Media where he co-hosts "Pod Save America" and hosts "Lovett or Leave It," two popular podcasts.

"It is an issue that is really pernicious," he said. "The fact we have spent decades to build high-speed rail that runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles — the same distance as between Madrid and Barcelona but with 10 times the people — and the only thing we get is a train from Bakersfield to Merced is a fucking embarrassment."

The B.A.R. recently spoke with Lovett by phone ahead of the kickoff of his new "Lovett or Leave It 2023 Errors Tour" at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco Thursday, June 22. He added the date after the Friday, June 23, show basically sold out. (As of last week just six tickets were left for it.)

"We really take a lot of pride in making sure we don't let it get stale and are always trying to keep this show fresh," said Lovett. "We make sure we are not bored by what we are doing."

He also enjoys bringing a comedy and variety show before a live audience, as it presents an opportunity for like-minded people to find a sense of community and laugh together at the state of affairs in the country.

"People, I think, who were all having the same sense of frustrations, worries, fears, and furies over the last, whatever, six years can be in one place and commiserate together," said Lovett. "What I enjoy is we all have the same sense of humor about it."

Attendees of the tour shows shouldn't expect to hear Lovett wager a guess on who will be elected president next year, as he told the B.A.R. he is no longer in the prediction business. Nonetheless, he does believe President Joe Biden deserves to be reelected in 2024.

"Could Biden be doing more? Of course; I think we all could be doing more. Democrats can be doing more," said Lovett. "Do I believe Joe Biden deserves a second term? I do. The reality is with a very difficult hand of a pandemic and all the economy issues and with a tiny, tiny Senate majority, which is a very difficult hand, it is hard to argue anybody could have played it better."

As for the focus on Biden's age, as he turns 81 this November, Lovett said it isn't reason alone for him to face a primary challenge next year.

"If he were five or 10 years younger, there would be no question in people's minds that he had won a right to a second term," said Lovett.

He plans to remain in town throughout the weekend in order to take in the San Francisco Pride parade Sunday, which he has never attended before. Lovett told the B.A.R. he wanted to kick off his new tour in the city due to the positive reception he has received from local audiences during previous tour stops in San Francisco.

"One of my favorite shows ever was a show we did in San Francisco at the Castro Theatre," recalled Lovett. "The crowd is always amazing there. The crowd just gets the show and they always have a really good time."

The reason being "the audience is gay and smart," added Lovett. "Gay and smart is our sweet spot, I guess."

Lovett was taken aback a bit when asked to confirm how he identifies under the LGBTQ umbrella, a question the B.A.R. routinely asks interview subjects. Taking a moment to answer, Lovett said how he describes his sexual orientation likely would be different were he coming out of the closet now.

"What an interesting question. No one has asked me in so long," said Lovett. "I am gay, obviously. But it is something I have been thinking about a lot lately and why I paused. When I was talking about this yesterday with someone, I mentioned how the distinction between gender identity expression and sexual orientation was not one available to me when I was figuring this out. There weren't as many letters that I was aware of as a kid when I was realizing, without a doubt, I was not straight."

At that time, recounted Lovett, there was a lot of stigma against saying you were bisexual. It was culturally treated like a joke, he said.

"It was a gag that women who were bisexual were really straight and men who were bi were really gay. It was a punch line to an assumption," said Lovett. "So given the option between straight and gay, I was unabashedly sure I was gay. I wonder now if I had been a kid in a world where people are more honest and open and thoughtful and aware of the relationship between, and distinction between, sexual orientation and gender expression and gender identity maybe I would be more drawn to being queer."

With the increased vitriol being spewed against LGBTQ people and the rollback of LGBTQ rights in statehouses across the country, Lovett said he does worry about it leading to stochastic terrorism and seeing someone turn their hatred into action by targeting a Pride parade or celebration.

"My feeling about this, generally, is I think we should all be worried when we have a vast apparatus communicating hateful, bigoted, incendiary rhetoric to millions and millions of people everyday. Among them, some subset will take it very seriously," said Lovett. "Some will take it to its logical conclusion. Someone broken, angry, alone and fantasizing about being part of this struggle."

As for how the city and the state of California are depicted in the news media, Lovett said it reflects "a real imbalance" in the viewpoints covered by the country's news outlets. He pointed out it is rare to hear similar depictions of major cities in red states.

"There is a real imbalance in our media around who gets to be criticized and who doesn't. It is just taken at face value when conservatives do smear campaigns against progressive-led cities and lie about them," said Lovett. "The aim is to make people have no intention or desire to go to Los Angeles or New York or San Francisco or Philadelphia and to make them think those cities are broken beyond repair."

Yet the reverse isn't true, pointed out Lovett.

"Imagine if Elizabeth Warren was going on Chris Hayes' show and saying, 'I just went to this rural part of North Carolina. What a bunch of fucking losers! What a backwater, broken down, shitty place!' It is inconceivable that a liberal would do that. If they did, they would be attacked mercilessly," said Lovett.

For every ticket sold for his "Lovett or Leave It 2023 Errors Tour," a dollar will be donated to the Vote Save America F*ck Bans: Leave Queer Kids Alone Fund. People also can make donations via the website.

To purchase tickets to the tour, click here.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the upcoming confirmation hearings for a trio of out CA appellate court nominees.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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