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Plenty of folks watched Ziwe’s Instagram Live interviews last summer, each installment an unpredictable conversation at the junction of race and cancel culture, but Fran Lebowitz was not among them.
The famous curmudgeon revealed as much when she sat down with Ziwe for the first episode of the 29-year-old comic’s new self-titled half-hour series, which premiered May 9 on Showtime.
“Saying, ‘I don’t know who you are,’ and, ‘I’m only here because I got 40 emails from your booker,’ that’s fantastic,” says Ziwe of her exchange with Lebowitz. “It’s a deconstruction of the traditional late night interview, that, ‘Hey, I’m going to tell you the same story I’m going to tell other shows while I promote this movie.’ ”
The ascendant mononym aspires to undermine that and other precedents as her variety show enters the crowded late night ecosystem, a field she knows well. Ziwe wrote for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, The Rundown With Robin Thede and Desus & Mero.
Now, through a mix of interviews, sketches and music videos, the Massachusetts native is using her polished new platform to explore topics like wealth hoarding, beauty standards, immigration and, as she puts it, “55 percent of white women.”
The latter, a nod to Caucasian turnout for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, should come as no surprise to those familiar with Ziwe’s memorable Instagram sessions with a handful of white women. Actress Rose McGowan, influencer Caroline Calloway and embattled foodie Alison Roman all stepped in it with their responses to a deceptively simple question: How many Black friends do you have?
“There is no right answer,” says Ziwe. “That’s the point! And that’s the perfect place to start. I’m just trying to have funny conversations about race at a crucial time in America.”
Amusing, edifying and uncomfortable, sometimes all at once, a Ziwe interview does carry the risk of hoisting oneself by one’s own petard. But the host insists she’s not here to cancel anybody — and definitely not Fran Lebowitz. “I don’t know if I believe that cancel culture exists,” says Ziwe, struggling to name more than a few whose careers have been legitimately undone by their behavior. “I see it as a bad press day.”
This story first appeared in the May 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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