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Series / Ziwe

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The most iconic host around.
"I'm making empowering TV, and if you don't like it, then you're just sad, jealous, ugly, and desperate."
Ziwe Fumudoh

You want me to "describe Ziwe here"? Wooow. Why do you feel entitled to some random person on the internet performing emotional labor to educate you?

Would you like to apologize for the camera?

Ziwe is an iconic variety Talk Show currently airing on Showtime. It is based on the webseries Baited with Ziwe (2017-2020), in which its eponymous host, Nigerian-American comedienne Ziwe, interviews her (generally non-Black) guests in a manner designed to "bait" them into saying problematic things and elicit as much racial discomfort as possible. While Baited with Ziwe's interviews were originally filmed in-person, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Ziwe was forced to conduct her interviews on Instagram live-streams, which provided her with an unexpected viral boost that brought her Cringe Comedy chops to national attention, resulting in the show getting picked up by Showtime and realized as a fully-fledged variety show.

Ziwe's humor relies on a deliberate subversion of the politically-milquetoast sensibilities and guest-coddling that most talk shows rely on, thriving off of the guests' awkwardness in an environment that, despite its cozy pink facade, is designed to test their allegiance to activism as thoroughly and uncomfortably as possible. Think the celebrity torture of The Eric Andre Show mixed with the hyper-progressivism of a Twitter call-out post, set in an early-aughts tweenage girl's bedroom. The show also features sketches and host segments that skewer anti-Blackness in popular culture, politics, and American society, straddling dark satire with surreal millenial-humor whimsy.

The first season of Ziwe premiered in May 2021 and was renewed for a second season a month later, which aired in 2022.

Ziwe provides iconic examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Chet Hanks, who unnerves Ziwe midway through his interview by commenting that she has "nice lips". When Ziwe subsequently asks him to freestyle a love song for her, he compounds the whole pervy vibe by rhyming "Ziwe" with "three-way" and manages to gross her out.
  • Age Insecurity: Ziwe's show-persona is clearly insecure about aging. Any insinuation that she's old, or even her actual age, for that matter, gets under her skin like little else.
    Ziwe: My show was declared by media outlets as "blatantly racist", "grossly racist", and "having a 29-year-old host". All of which are untrue. I am 19! Goo-goo-gah-gah.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Just about every question Ziwe asks her Iconic Guests is carefully engineered to catch them off-guard as much as possible. The questions themselves never actually make any real sense or hold up under any sort of scrutiny; they're just designed to be armor-piercing above all else. Conversely, any attempt by the guests to even the odds by asking Ziwe such a question is met with a completely stone-faced Non-Answer.
  • Aside Glance: When things get really uncomfortable, expect the guest (or, on occasion, Ziwe herself) to glance at the camera in bewilderment.
  • Baby Talk: Parodied and exaggerated in the "Wet Diaper (Goo Goo Gah Gah)"; Ziwe plays a pop princess who combines sexual innuendo with full blown toddler-speak, resulting in maximum Squick factor.
  • Bathos: Depending on the segment, Ziwe is either poignant cultural commentary that takes perpetrators of white supremacy to task, or an absurdist parody of social media call-out culture. Or, most often, something uncomfortably in-between the two.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Out-baiting Ziwe is no small feat, and the Iconic Guests who manage to pull it off definitely deserve their flowers.
    • Bowen Yang, at the start of his joint interview with Patti Harrison, asks Ziwe if the two were combined into one interview because Ziwe views Asians as lesser, prompting some genuine Stunned Silence from her.
    • Adam Pally manages to bait Ziwe into making anti-semitic statements in "Gay Pride!" after having been very thoroughly baited himself in "Whitewashing". The "Ziwe" logo at the bottom of the screen actually changes to "Adam" to signify his victory.
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: Referenced by Ziwe and bravely refuted by Katya in "Gay Pride!"
    Katya: Well, they're not all big. That was another misconception.
  • Blatant Lies: "I don't think in terms of race."
  • Camp Gay: Parodied in the "The Next Sam Taggart" sketch, in which the titular Ziwe writer, who (in-universe) leans a bit too far into Straight Gay for Showtime's standards, enlists three random men off the street to see who can fulfill this stereotype effectively enough to play him on the show.
  • Condescending Compassion: An undercurrent to a lot of Ziwe's antics is calling to question whether the Iconic Guests would be letting her verbally abuse them like this if she weren't a black woman.
  • Corrupt Politician: In "Wealth Hoarders", Ziwe portrays an aspiring mayor of New York who is openly Only in It for the Money, citing her own job security and economic welfare as her sole reasons for running in her campaign ad.
  • Cringe Comedy: The show's bread and butter. Every episode is just Ziwe trying to see how many ways she can make her guests squirm, from twisting their every word to make them look bad, to asking purposefully uncomfortable questions, to forcing them to apologize over their imagined offenses.
  • Description Cut:
  • Does Not Like Men: Ziwe plays up Iconic Guest Julia Fox's reputation as a "chaotic woman" by asking her such questions as "Should men be allowed to have opinions?" and "Are you pro-women killing men?", but even she's thrown off by how brutal and nonchalant Julia's answers are.
    Julia: They all, like, are equally horrible, to be honest. All men. Like, I can''s just a man thing.
  • Double Standard: Ziwe flags them up whenever she can and takes them to their absurd and offensive conclusion. The biggest one being hanging over the show being "would you let anybody else talk to you like this?".
  • Eagleland: The "Baby, Let's Move On" music video features dancers in cowboy boots and American flag bikinis, ripping pages out of history books and literally whitewashing over racial injustice.
  • Everything Is Racist: Ziwe is a master of finding ways to construe her interviewees as racist, regardless of how racist they may actually be.
  • Extreme Doormat: A huge point of the humor. Pretty much all of the Iconic Guests would easily No-Sell Ziwe's boorish behavior and attempts to race bait them if they were willing to stand up to her and argue back like a normal person would. But they're celebrities, this is a talk show, and Ziwe is a black woman, so instead they just let her walk all over them. invoked
  • Fun with Subtitles:
    • Captions are sometimes added to conversational lulls to accentuate the awkwardness, with "[nervous white laughter/sigh]" being commonly used for guests' silence and "[stares in Black girl confusion]" being commonly used for Ziwe's silence.
    • Ziwe will often ask Iconic Guests to define a term relevant to the episode's theme, then write out their answer in dictionary formatting in the lower-third to emphasize their awkward phrasing and lack of understanding of the subject, as in "Empowerment" when Emily Ratajkowski defined "empowerment" as "something that makes a woman feel a certain type of way".
  • Genre Blindness: Fran Lebowitz came onto the show with absolutely zero knowledge of who Ziwe is and what she does, leaving her especially bewildered by Ziwe's race-baiting antics.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Ziwe's persona is generally guilty of every single thing she accuses her Iconic Guests of, racism especially. None of them dare to call her out on it, a fact which she takes full advantage of.
  • Insistent Terminology: They're not guests, they're Iconic Guests.
  • Insult Backfire: Julia Fox manages to put Ziwe on the back-foot by just blithely agreeing with the latter's attempts to make her look like a Straw Feminist.
  • Ironic Echo: During the "Mobilize the Vote" game in "Democracy", after the wheel lands on "Haters", Bob The Drag Queen quips to Ziwe that "Haters" are "your people", to her visible offense. When the wheel later lands on "Elders", Ziwe repeats the "your people" quip right back at Bob.
  • It's All About Me: The persona Ziwe dons for the show is incredibly self-congratulatory, vain, and diva-esque.
  • Jerkass: Ziwe's stage persona is a vain, self-obsessed, egotistical, over-defensive, racist, combative, and all-around obnoxious asshole who treats her Iconic Guests like shit, twists everything to make others look bad, and just generally seems more interested in berating people then actually doing anything to combat racism.
  • Malcolm Xerox: Taken to its most laughable extreme. Nothing the Iconic Guests say is safe from Ziwe's extreme militant identity politics and racism accusations.
  • Manipulative Editing: Used frequently to incriminate guests, and always clearly lampshaded (as the goal isn't to actually make her guests look bad, but to mine comedy from their discomfort with being perceived badly).
    Julio Torres (while wearing a mask that obscures his mouth): I am very vulnerable, so you can fully ADR whatever you want.
    Ziwe (voiceover): My name is Julio Torres, and I HATE marginalized communities.
    (DISCLAIMER: footage may have been altered for race baiting purposes)
  • No Full Name Given: Ziwe Fumudoh bleeps out all mentions of her last name on the show.
  • No Name Given: Kanye West is never referred to as his name in Ziwe's interview with his ex Julia Fox, only "that man".
  • Non-Answer: Ziwe typically rebuts her guests' attempts at evening the odds with an Armor-Piercing Question of their own by providing a very vague answer or just not answering at all.
    Katya: Can I ask you a personal question?
    Ziwe: Yes.
    Katya: Are you gay?
    Ziwe: Am I gay?
    Katya: ...say no more.
  • Not So Above It All: While the show thrives on Ziwe playing her provocative questioning as seriously as possible, when around friends, she tends to let her guard down more and act more self-aware. In "Empowerment", when her bestie Emily Ratajkowski asks her why she keeps pushing an especially audacious question, she freely answers "because this show is annoying!" and stops pushing it.
  • Ordered Apology: Ziwe loves to ask her Iconic Guests to apologize on the spot for their supposed wrongdoings, which often leads to some terrific Cringe Comedy.
  • Pink Product Ploy: In "Hot!", Jane Krakowski advertises a brand of gas called "Gaso-Z" that, despite being described with vaguely progressive language of empowerment and sold in stylish pink containers, is really just normal gas rebranded to seem more "feminine".
  • Pompous Political Pundit: Ziwe's persona is a far left-wing version, complete with the terrible treatment of Iconic Guests and desperate Manipulative Editing to make herself look in the right.
  • Psycho Pink: The set (and, more often than not, Ziwe herself) is decked out in fluffy pink that belies the show's tense, confrontational, and decidedly not soft-and-cutesy tone.
  • Race Lift: In-universe, the premise of the "Iconic: The Ziwe Story" sketch, in which Laura Benanti is cast as Ziwe (or, as she pronounces it, "Zeewee") in her biopic. Oh, and Cole Escola plays Oprah Winfrey, naturally. Ziwe is understandably offended by this...until she's informed that she'll be paid 2 million dollars for the rights to her life.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Ziwe's questions are so profoundly inappropriate that it's hard to fault her Iconic Guests for providing cringy answers, or her for asking them, for that matter.
  • Rich Bitch: Ziwe's show-persona wears only designer clothing and conducts herself like an un-self-aware and pretentious wealthy popstar. Epitomized in the "Stop Being Poor" sketch, a public service announcement to all "poors" that they should simply "stop being poor" set to a club track.
  • Running Gag:
    • If Ziwe manages to successfully bait someone into saying something genuinely incriminating, she declares her victory by asking the guest to "apologize for the camera", followed by them facing the camera while an onscreen graphic cycles through synonyms for "apologize".
    • Whenever someone is implied to be disparaging the Obamas, their entire statement is obstructed by a Sound-Effect Bleep accompanied by a Gag Sub saying something to the effect of "[probably valid criticism that would nonetheless prevent Ziwe from getting invited to the Obamas' parties]"
  • Sadistic Choice: In "Hot!", Ziwe forces Ilana Glazer to model "making the hard decisions to solve climate change" via a game forcing her to choose whether to sacrifice a sickly elderly person, a sea turtle, or the entire state of Florida.
  • Schmuck Bait: Pretty much every word out of Ziwe's mouth is carefully calculated to embarrass and insult her Iconic Guests by luring them into a racism kafkatrap.
  • Shout-Out:
    • While the onscreen graphic that pops up whenever an Iconic Guest has to apologize for the camera usually cycles through synonyms for "apologize", when Ziwe recommends that Julia Fox "apologize to the blonde community", it instead cycles between "Taylee, McKarty, Nayvie, Maylee, Lakynn", referencing an infamous meme about quirkily spelled white people names.
    • When Ziwe herself apologizes for making light of anti-Italian bigotry, the graphic cycles between various rhyming Italian pop-culture references, including "House of Gucci", "Luigi", and "Mamma Mia!".
  • Soapbox Sadie: Ziwe's stage persona is this trope taken to its most obnoxious extreme; a racist who spends all her time calling everyone else racist, entrapping people, reading the worst meanings possible into their every word, and doing it all to stroke her own ego. Most of her Iconic Guests are privileged celebrities who actually engage in this sort of activism and identity politics, and Ziwe takes downright sadistic delight in subjecting them to the the opposite end.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Ziwe is genuinely unnerved by how calmly Julia Fox describes her sadistic ideations toward misogynistic men.
    Ziwe: And are you pro-women killing men?
    Julia: I think that, if the man deserves it, yeah, why not? Men kill women all the time for no reason.
    Ziwe: Wow. The way that you shrug, I'm terrified.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: In the song "Black Friends", a white "ally" tries to prove she's not racist by listing all of her supposed black friends, eventually including random celebrities, Black Panther characters, and a gospel choir she paid to be there.
  • Stylistic Suck: The show's set design is purposefully gaudy and eye-searing, the editing is very obvious, and Ziwe's hosting style is best described as a Bizarro Universe version of a stereotypical right-wing Pompous Political Pundit who antagonizes their guests and is clearly just looking for attention.
  • Superdickery: The "coming up" teasers typically contain an excerpt from the upcoming interview segment in which the Iconic Guest seems to be saying something objectionable or confusing, even though It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: Parodied in "Gay Pride!", where a "groundbreaking gay kiss" set to appear at the end is hyped repeatedly over the course of the episode, only for the kiss to end up being between a (lesbian) woman and a (gay) man, just because it's never been done before and would generate press.
  • Teeny Weenie: In describing her most unattractive lover, Julia Fox emphasizes the fact that he had a small dick as one of his worst attributes, prompting the disclaimer:
    Showtime celebrates all sizes and girths.
  • Too Much Information: In "Gay Pride!", Ziwe manages to coax an bizarre anecdote from Katya about how she once sucked the dick of a Black man because he claimed it tastes like chocolate. Ziwe actually makes her apologize purely because of how uncomfortable the story made her. Katya then goes on to describe an encounter with a clownfucker whose ass smelled "like the scent of true evil", which goes over just as well.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Chet Hanks and Julia Fox both manage to flip the script and put Ziwe on the defensive, the former by openly flirting with her and straight up refusing to bend to her accusations, the latter by agreeing wholeheartedly with Ziwe's attempts to paint her as a unhinged militant feminist who wants to torture men.
  • Troll: Ziwe resorts to every troll maneuver possible to make her Iconic Guests as uncomfortable as physically possible.
  • Twisting the Words: One of the show's funniest running gags is employing this trope in the lower-third whenever Ziwe's Iconic Guests say something that can be construed negatively.
    Charlamagne tha God: I love Black women. Don't pause it and put "he hates Black women".
    (EXCLUSIVE: Charlamagne hates Black women)
  • The Unapologetic: Iconic Guest Chet Hanks is easily one of the most actively problematic celebrities to appear on the show, which makes it all the more bewilderingly hilarious that he refuses to see anything wrong with his actions and doesn't apologize even when Ziwe literally asks him to like all the other celebrities do.
  • Unusual Euphemism: When Bob The Drag Queen casually brings up fisting in the middle of her interview, Ziwe asks her to explain it exclusively in political terms.
    Bob: Fisting is when you take a ballot, and you put it in the box, so you kinda have to crunch up the ballot like this [touches her fingers together] so that it can fit in there, and then you just kinda cram it.
  • Verbal Tic: Ziwe loves to describe things as "iconic", especially herself. She also makes very frequent use of the word "famously".
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: When Plague Doctor Richard Nixon spins the "Mobilize the Vote" wheel and it lands on "Haters" (Makes Just as Much Sense in Context), Bob The Drag Queen cheerily quips "Oh, this is your people!" at Ziwe. She gives Bob a Death Glare as she spurns her for "coming on her show just to insult her" as though gearing up to beat her ass, followed by a cut to an all-pink SMPTE colorbars reading "Please standby we're experiencing technical difficulties".
  • You Keep Using That Word: Ziwe repeatedly refers to vogue's Signature Move, the "dip", as a "death drop" while learning vogue from her on-set costumer and Ballroom Legend Ricky Allure. Ricky repeatedly insists that she use the correct term, as the "dip"/"death drop" distinction is Serious Business in the Ballroom scene. This, naturally, just prompts Ziwe to use the terms interchangeably even more.