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With about three months to go before the premiere of her new Showtime project, Ziwe Fumudoh offered a bit of a preview for the variety series with reporters on Tuesday — insisting that she’s not courting controversy. She is, however, happy to find it.
“I don’t seek controversy, I’d just to say something with my art,” says Ziwe, the writer and comedian best known for her series of confrontational Instagram Live interviews. “Ultimately, I’m trying to punch up at the powerful. You can’t have a show that pushes boundaries without getting to the edge. I think the goal is not going over [it] too much.”
Ziwe, which Showtime announced premieres May 9, will combine sketch comedy, fake commercials and music — but, given its host and creator’s reputation, the interviews are likely going to be getting the bulk of the attention at the start. Over the summer of 2020, Ziwe revived her Baited YouTube series for a string of headline-grabbing interviews with Caroline Calloway, Alison Roman, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan. Each drew attention for both their humor and cringiness.
“I try to lead with kindness,” Ziwe said over a Zoom with members of the Television Critics Association. “I think you get more flies with honey. Ultimately, I will be asking hard-hitting questions — but they will also be a combination of funny and light… Has anyone walked off my set yet? No. But I’m doing an interview right after this.”
Ziwe, who previously worked with Showtime as a writer on Desus and Mero, earned a straight-to-series order in October after seeing her profile grow over the course of the year. In the wake of many public faux pas on the part of white celebrities and influencers during the heightened dialogue around social justice, the comedian’s regular Instagram Live shows became a showcase for many guests to reveal themselves as less than self-aware — and made them fodder for the proverbial water cooler in the process.
Though she declined to name who had been booked for the new project, she did imply that her previous interviews have yet to scare anyone away. She also made a point of clearing up her comedic intentions.
“Satire is a mixed bag,” said Ziwe. “A lot of satire is terrible, and it misses the point; which is to target people in power and undercut them at every turn. Sometimes that’s not clear, and that’s when satire goes wrong…The thing about satirical writers is that they were never treated as rock stars. It’s not like Jonathan Swift was the hot guy on the block.”
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