Who is Ziwe? Get to know the talk show host making everyone uncomfortable — in a good way

Ziwe Fumudoh, known simply as “Ziwe,” is a comedian and writer famous for her satirical take on politics and race relations — as well as her knack for making people squirm in their seats as she asks point-blank questions about difficult topics.

Her interviews with celebrities have been going viral since her social media show, Baited with Ziwe, premiered in 2017. She’s since become a social media icon for her sit-down talks that often leave the interviewee, and the audience, feeling uncomfortable — but laughing at the same time.

Who is Ziwe?

Ziwe, who was born on February 27, 1992, is a 29-year-old legend-in-the-making. She was raised in Lawrence, Mass., as the second of three children to parents who emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria after living through a civil war there.

Since she graduated from Northwestern University in 2014, she’s worked for various comedy shows and outlets — The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Onion, The Rundown with Robin Thede and Desus and Mero.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Ziwe moved her talk show, Baited with Ziwe, from YouTube to Instagram Live, where she gained a wider audience than ever before. Now, she has her own TV show on Showtime.

What is Ziwe’s TV show?

Ziwe stars in the self-titled show Ziwe on Showtime, which she also writes and produces. It premiered in May 2021 and is known for its distinct sets, wild costumes and showy musical numbers.

She embodies the same confrontational but well-meaning spirit in the TV show as she did in her social media series. A Vulture TV review referred to her expertise as the “art of discomfort.”

Of course, her notorious interviews play a major role in the new series, as they did with the old.

Ziwe told Variety that she “is not trying to get anyone canceled,” though appearing on that show can run you that risk. She’s been known to ask direct questions like “What do you qualitatively like about Black people?” and “Can you name five Asian people?”

“I think it would be really funny if I became the Ellen DeGeneres of race relations, and if you ever did anything problematic, you have to talk to me. You’d have to go to ‘Ziwe the Principal’s Office’ to reconcile whatever problematic thing you tweeted or said in your interview,” she told the magazine.

She said there’s an element of “performance” for both her and her guests when it comes to those tough questions.

“I’m not there to judge their performances. I’m just there to critique why they feel the need to perform the fact that they have 4.5 Black friends,” she added.

Who has Ziwe interviewed?

In her social media show, Ziwe interviewed various celebrities who recently faced controversy: Caroline Calloway, Jeremy O. Harris, Alison Roman, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan, to name a few.

She engages in a sort of “verbal ping-pong” with her guests, which usually results in a “racial faux pas,” according to Variety.

In one of her most famous running jokes, she invites guests who are embroiled in scandal onto her show by tweeting “You’d be an iconic guest,” at them. It’s the same phrasing every time.

On her Showtime variety series, she’s interviewed a handful of people thus far — notably, Fran Lebowitz and Rachel Lindsay.

Ziwe asked Lebowitz, a white woman known for her disgruntled, comedic takes on just about everything in the world, what she was doing on the show. Lebowitz said she had no idea, but that “someone who works for [Ziwe] was incredibly persistent.”

There will be six total episodes of this season of Ziwe, so there’s no telling what sort of interviews we may see over the next few weeks — but it’s sure to be wildly uncomfortable (and delightful.)

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