Who is Ziwe Fumudoh? Unpacking the comedy genius putting white people in the hot seat

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Jan 31, 2024 at 11:23 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

You’ve likely heard the buzz surrounding her—she’s more than an icon, she’s a comedic powerhouse, TV star, chat show queen, subject of constant fashion inspo, and the brilliant mind behind the book Black Friend: Essays. You’ve likely guessed by now that we’re talking about Ziwerekoru “Ziwe” Fumudoh, a woman known for her unparalleled ability to dismantle racial conversations with white people.

From her early beginnings on YouTube and Instagram to her time as a Showtime darling, let’s unpack everything you need to know about Gen Z’s favourite chat-show host, Ziwe.

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Who is Ziwe Fumudoh?

Ziwe Fumudoh is an American comedian and writer known for her satirical commentary on politics, race relations, and young adulthood. When I first discovered the 31-year-old comedian with unprecedented quick wit, I was like a kid stumbling upon a candy shop. As a Black woman tired of the late-night comedy scene dominated by a chorus of unfunny middle-aged white men, Ziwe understandably felt like a breath of fresh air.

The host first gained experience in the industry working as a writing intern on shows such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report while she was an undergrad at Northwestern University. Following this, Ziwe began building her editorial reputation, writing pieces for The Onion, Vulture, and The New Yorker.

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In 2018, Ziwe began crafting laugh for Crooked Media’s Hysteria, a podcast showcasing some of the US’ funniest and most opinionated women. Ziwe also lent her hand to the TV show Desus & Mero, a late-night talk show and likely the place where the comedian gained the knowledge that would then go on to influence and impact her own show.

However, people likely know Ziwe best for one of her first YouTube shows Baited, a series that debuted in 2017 and featured the comedian baiting her white friends into making racial faux pas.

By October 2021, Showtime had come to its senses, recognised Ziwe’s comedic prowess, and officially signed her on a new show, aptly titled Ziwe. With every episode easily gaining hundreds of thousands of views, the satirical talk show, along with its host, tackled issues others have previously shied away from, cultivating an audience who would follow her pretty much anywhere.

On her show, Ziwe subjects non-Black individuals to interviews about race, transforming them into lighthearted inquisitions. It’s a comedic fantasy of entrapment, where the Black woman playfully holds the lock and key, tossing white naivete down the hatch. There’s no definitive right answer to Ziwe’s whimsical demands. She isn’t seeking a straightforward response, yet the guest earnestly attempts to answer, striving to appear racially aware amid the absurdity. It’s both amusing and revealing to witness this unfold, as guests grapple with palpable discomfort.

@ziwe

Adma Pally talks about experiencing white privillege for the first time #interview #whitemalecheck #comedy #ziwe #showtime

♬ original sound - ziwe

Vanity Fair bestowed upon Ziwe the title of the maestro who “has mastered the art of putting white people on the spot.” But that hasn’t stopped her from attracting numerous celebrities on her different shows.

In fact, Ziwe’s interviewee portfolio has only grown in strength, ranging from Julia Fox delving into discussions about men and relationships, Emily Ratajkowski struggling to understand the meaning of empowerment, to Chet Hanks awkwardly rapping in a “Jamaican accent” (still recovering from that one). There was also the episode in which Ziwe orchestrated a rendezvous with the embattled Alison Roman, fresh from a controversy storm, where she faced accusations of perpetuating structural racism within the food media, particularly for her remarks about Asian women.

@ziwe

i asked emrata what empowerment means to her #fyp #empowerment #emrata #ziwe

♬ define empowerment emrata - ziwe

Ziwe’s viral interview with George Santos

What personally remained one of the biggest standout moments feature in Ziwe’s show, and likely to be remembered as an iconic interview, was her encounter with former Long Island congressman George Santos. Around 15 minutes into their conversation, Ziwe posed a question that had been on many people’s minds: “What can we do to get you to go away?”

With a smirk and his hands and legs casually folded, Santos responded with an unusual clarity that had been lacking in much of the interview: “Stop inviting me to your gigs.” Santos then continued: “But you can’t, ‘cause people want the content.”

During the interview, Santos sang Nicki Minaj lyrics and confessed to not knowing who James Baldwin and Harvey Milk were. The politician also expressed serious uncertainty about his familiarity with trans activist Marsha P Johnson. That being said, Santos did take the time to express his admiration for Rosa Parks, which naturally led to Ziwe humorously asking, “How else are you like Rosa Parks?”

@theindy100

Disgraced US politician George Santos found time to spit Nicki Minaj verses in a recent interview. #georgesantos #US #politics #nickiminaj #nicki #republican #fyp

♬ original sound - Indy100

The interview undeniably marked a notable moment for Ziwe. It became the first video posted on her YouTube account in three years and, more significantly, the first since the cancellation of the television version of her show by Showtime at the end of 2022. As of now, the interview has already garnered over 1.8 million views since its release.

The host explained: “I like awkwardness. I like tension. I’ve gone through several white institutions as sort of another, so I am constantly having conversations where I’m the person who’s uncomfortable and the people I’m talking to are none the wiser.”

@ziwe

i asked deuxmoi about how many black friends they have #fyp #deuxmoi #ziwe

♬ original sound - ziwe
@ziwe32

i asked alyssa milano how many black friends does she have- fyp ziwe comedy

♬ original sound - ziwe

Ziwe doesn’t stop at mere conversation, she’s a woman of action, urging viewers to open their wallets for causes such as Black Trans Femmes in the Arts (BTFA). Her mantra? If you enjoy the banter about race, flex your economic power to support Black people.

As articulated by Ziwe in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2020: “The point of this is to have productive conversations about race, but we can’t stop there. It’s also about opening your wallet. If you enjoy these conversations about race, then use your economic power to support Black people. If you haven’t pulled anybody up, what’s the point? I just want to help people. It makes me feel good to help people. It’s actually kind of selfish.”

Is Ziwe married?

Now, while I wouldn’t usually subject someone as brilliant as Ziwe to such a trivial question, I am curious. The host is incredibly private about her personal life and it begs the question: is there a special someone in her life? Well, it’s a relatively easy answer: no one knows. Like a lot of women in the industry, Ziwe is making sure the public focus on the questions she has to ask, as opposed to the identity of whoever she’s going on dates with.

Ziwe Fumudoh stands as a bold and unapologetic trailblazer, turning chaos into comedy gold and facilitating vital conversations about race, all with a generous sprinkle of wit and sarcasm. Not sure about you, but I can’t wait to see who her next victim will be.

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