Lyft’s Bentzen Ball Comedy Brunch “Belly Laughs” brought plenty of food, laughter and thought-provoking conversation led by co-hosts “Queer Eye” food and wine expert Antoni Porowski and comedian Michelle Buteau at the Eaton DC on Sunday.
The charity brunch was presented in partnership with the ride-sharing app, Lyft. It raised funds for the non-profit organization and community health center serving the LGBT community, Whitman-Walker Health, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. Lyft also made a special $10,000 donation to Whitman-Walker Health in honor of LGBT History month.
Fans were only able to receive access to the brunch by applying the code “AVOCADO,” a known Porowski food favorite, into the Lyft app. Winners were then selected to participate in the private brunch.
The event kicked off with mingling as attendees sipped on Bloody Marys and orange juice and vodka courtesy of Smirnoff Vodka. Soon after, Buteau took the stage for a brief stand-up comedy set before bringing Porowski to the stage.
Porowski gave a cooking demonstration for a carrot and date salad, which he said was a recipe inspired by his father. The demonstration got interactive when Porowski chose a participant from the audience to assist with the recipe. Buteau pitched in as well, cracking jokes and banter with Porowski throughout the demonstration, and everyone in the audience received the salads for their own taste test. Porowski finished up by showing the crowd how to make his version of a Bloody Mary.
After a brief intermission, and some more food including tacos, Porowski and Buteau returned to the stage for a Q&A with the audience.
One member of the audience asked what are some of the perks of having a platform to use their voice on issues they care about.
For Buteau, it was important for her to make a positive impact on someone’s day.
“As a woman of color I’m realizing now more than ever what a social media platform is for and what kind of good it can do. Whether it’s reminding people to vote or helping people do whatever that is. At the end of the day what I love is when people slide into my DMs and they’re like ‘I was having such a shit day. Thank you so much for just putting a smile on my face,’” Buteau said.
Porowski noted that his fame has caused him to look at speaking up on issues in a different way.
“For me I think the greatest perk is a forced education on a lot of topics. I tended to be more quiet and private about a lot of things. But with the current climate it makes it more and more challenging not to say anything,” Porowski said.
He also revealed his view on Pride celebrations changed after he was invited to Montreal Pride by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this past summer. Porowski shared that despite growing up in Montreal he had never attended Pride.
“Pride was something that when I was in my first relationship with a guy I always stayed away from because I associated it with parties and a lot of excessive drug use. It wasn’t at all the way that I look at it now,” Porowski said.
After a fan from Poland reached out to him on social media thanking him for attending Pride because “it’s so nice to just see somebody who is able to celebrate freely,” Porowski says he felt like a “brat” about his previous views on Pride.
Now, Porowski encourages people to look for the positive things during the current political climate.
“What I still try to do is instead of focusing on all the negative that’s happening and going after He Who Shall Not Be Named [Trump] is focus on all the positive things that are happening because I think we still really need to remember that. It’s very easy to just fall in a hole of ‘What the fuck did he do today?’ and that becomes the new normal, that becomes acceptable. I think it’s important to remember that, we need to shed light on that, because with all the bad that’s going on there’s still a lot of good as well,” Porowski said.
It’s a sentiment that seemed to reflect throughout Bentzen Ball’s numerous comedy shows this weekend. Fellow “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness hosted three live shows of his “Getting Curious” podcast over the weekend including one conversation with Mara Keisling from the National Center for Trans Equality and another conversation with House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi.
Brightest Young Things co-founder Svetlana Legetic told the Washington Blade the goal of the comedy weekend was to get people laughing but also mobilized for action.
“Bentzen Ball is supposed to be four days where you forget about everything but you leave energized to do something,” Legetic said. “You go there and see these people who are incredibly busy and doing all this stuff and they’ve taken the time, they really care, they’re really passionate. And people say ‘Yes, I’m going to vote. Yes, I’m going to say something. Yes, it’s hilarious but I am a 100 percent voting.’”