In the first episode of Showtime and A24’s new variety series “Ziwe”, which premiered on May 9, the lively humor, poignant commentary and brilliant style of host and creator Ziwe Fumudoh give a new life and new relevance to the talk show format, offering hope for a new phase in the nocturnal space. As the premiere bounces between Fumudoh’s interviews with author Fran Lebowitz and activist Gloria Steinem, a clip directed by Quinn Wilson, a chat with several white women named Karen, and satirical commercials, every element is linked by the wit and hilarity that should appeal to comedy fans, late night viewers, and ultimately anyone interested in watching a brilliant comedic voice make their network TV debut.
Fumudoh has gained wide recognition for its dynamic, often cringe-worthy Instagram Live interview series, in which guests ranging from Caroline Calloway to Alison Roman have stumbled to answer questions such as “how many black friends have -you?” and “qualitatively, what do you like about black people?”. Fumudoh’s willingness to challenge her guests and audience with simple questions is fully on display in her new show, but she also skillfully uses a variety of other media to delve deeper into questions of identity, race, gender, class. and privilege. For much of the first episode – titled “55%” for the percentage of white women who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election – “Ziwe” examines the role of white women in supporting and perpetuating the racism. Following a charming animated title streak “Daria”, the episode jumps into Fumudoh’s interview with Lebowitz, which begins on a playful antagonistic note when Lebowitz refuses to make a standard entry at the back of the stage and immediately sits down, noting that she is not interested in “games”.
“Is it the norm for white women to come on a show and dictate how it should be?” Asks Fumudoh; with surprisingly low self-awareness, Lebowitz replies that “only black women think white women are in charge of things.” As the episode progresses, it challenges this ubiquitous white feminist idea that white women do not play a role in white supremacy, from the campy clip of “Lisa Called the Cops” police on Blacks) to a false advertisement of white women buying American Girl dolls from the “Imperial Wives Collection”. While the show takes an unwavering look at an urgent reality that, as Lebowitz’s interview shows, white women have yet to come to terms with, it doesn’t focus on appealing to individual guest racism. Rather, the show weaves interviews into a larger discussion of issues affecting America today, still infused with humor by Fumudoh and co-authors Jamund Washington, Michelle Davis, Cole Escola and Jordan. Mendoza. “It’s not about getting anyone to cancel,” Fumudoh told Janelle Monae at a debut event for the show, “It’s about having light conversations on serious matters.”
She noted that viewers see herself and her guests grow and change their perspectives in real time, and that she worked closely with editors to find a distinct editorial and graphic style for each interview. The two conversations in “55%” have completely different atmospheres, with Lebowitz’s longer interview taking place on a lush, rose-bathed set, and Steinem’s moving quickly via video chat. Both are hilarious, however, from Fumudoh’s dramatic reading of Cardi B’s “WAP” for Steinem (“When you hear these lyrics, do you feel empowered as a woman?”) To her questions for Lebowitz about why which she agreed to on the show (“I haven’t a clue who you are,” impassive Lebowitz, “Someone who worked for you was incredibly persistent – incredibly persistent. “). Like any great late-night talk show host, Fumudoh is hyper responsive to guests with his questions and creates a sense of spontaneity, even when discussing a range of related topics – and to his credit in as a comedian and commentator that, despite the sometimes bizarre or muffled responses of her guests, the conversations are as nuanced as they are interesting and leave viewers with multiple points to remember. For those who don’t usually watch talk shows, “Ziwe” will not only be an interesting watch, but a watch that goes by fast, which makes it possible to watch excessively when the episodes are all out.
His distinctive visual style, which is cohesive across the set design, music, editing, costumes and cinematography, adds to the immersion of the show. From the main interview scene – a faux pink chewing gum lounge decorated with giant feather urns – to the glittering Old-Hollywood-style music video, “Ziwe” embraces a poppy and glamorous aesthetic that feels more “Euphoria” than “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” The show’s hyper-feminine design elements are also unique in the live television landscape: as Fumudoh noted to Monae, “a lot of the time women have to tone down femininity to be taken seriously” and she hoped to counter that norm with her vision. for the show. The graphics and music evoke the drama of every moment, highlighting tense moments and amplifying fun back-and-forths. The show is also tightly edited to bring together many different segments into a 25-minute spot, but never feels like it’s straying from a segment too early. “Ziwe” is a welcome relief from late-night urban backgrounds and navy suits, and it will appeal to fans of A24’s distinctively styled feature projects.
Ultimately, the debut of “Ziwe” is a new promise for the talk show genre, raising the bar with its transparent and compelling combination of interviews, skits and music. Everything is pretty – as Fumudoh would say – iconic.
– Editor-in-Chief Harper R. Oreck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.