Ziwe’s Instagram Live Show
Ziwe Fumudoh’s Instagram Live show, commonly referred to as Baited, has white people choked. It’s important to note that this show isn’t called Baited — that was a similar video series from 2017 whose title has unofficially transferred over to this newest iteration of Ziwe’s proudly confrontational interview series about race. Which in itself is baiting us into a discussion: Should it be labeled or titled? Does attaching a title to Ziwe’s show make us more comfortable to view it as “other,” something that we watch passively? Isn’t racism and all problematic behavior easily spotted and labeled? As befitting Ziwe’s show, there is no clear answer — this show is nuanced, and so are the interviews. So we’re attempting to recap and unpack Ziwe’s show to further explore some of these unanswerable questions and see what we find. Her guests this week were comedian George Civeris and art curator Kimberly Rose Drew.
How many Black friends does he have? 2 he felt comfortable naming
How many times did Ziwe lean in? 0
Jessica: George did a good job of being prepared for this interview, which other guests have not. I would say he passed by comparison.
Chris: Definitely. Full disclosure, I’m friends with George (Hi George!), and he’s no dummy. It seems like he was somewhat impressively prepared for Ziwe’s gonzo line of questioning.
Jessica: George is ready with his white-ally smile in tow; he studied for this test. He knew his answers ahead of time! George gives me “ally at the protest with a megaphone” vibes.
Chris: I think that’s the beauty of the whole show: As a white person, you can’t go on the show and not be ultimately amplifying a white voice, despite your best efforts. Even though George was very prepared, that didn’t necessarily mean he was at ease. You can feel the temperature in the room rise when he’s asked to name his Black friends. We’re at the point in this series where every white person knows they’re going to be asked the question, “How many Black friends do you have?” and yet no one seems entirely comfortable answering the question. George’s answer — two that gave him permission to mention them on the show — was unique and an aberration from the typical “four to five” answer, yet it still felt as though it was given under duress. I literally screamed at my phone, “I’m your friend, George! You can just say me!”
Jessica: George refused to count his Black friends out loud but definitely was counting in his head. It’s so telling, the tension that rises when asked to name Black people. Every guest that I’ve seen acts as if there’s a wrong answer. Feels very “ I don’t see color” for me. I think trying not to appear racist leads people to tell on themselves and reveal those layers that many allies have yet to unpack.
Chris: I gotta say, I loved how George slipped in that he lived with one of his two (2) black friends as an afterthought. Incredibly subtle work there letting us know he’s a real one and should be invited to the cookout.
Jessica: “I am sorry for my complacency.” But also please know that I lived with a Black person without ever needing to call the police … “I believe she worked with Pat McGrath.” Subtle, but I believe George’s Black-people count is now to three (3). But again, he isn’t counting … I am not going lie, George going on and on about consent is probably one of the most attractive things I have seen the quarantine.
Chris: Yeah, that was hot. Also hot: when George gave us that mini history lesson about the spelling of his last name. You honestly never know what you’re gonna get on this show. You join the Live thinking you’re going to watch white people squirm about race, and then you learn about Greek linguistics. I think it’s the only thing on Instagram that actually makes me smarter after watching it. And yet it remains a comedy show. One of the funniest parts of the whole episode is when Ziwe absolutely drags George for receiving 11 likes and one retweet on one of his tweets.
Jessica: Ziwe gives the audience what we want: a good ol’ Twitter receipt. Nice #TBT to some of her earlier work. (CC Pat Regan’s episode.) And we see here the behavior she so masterfully pulls to the forefront. Again, it’s not about the tweet. It’s what George/we think the tweet implies. That’s the show for me. The moments of severe secondhand embarrassment, when I think “fucccccck, well I’d be fucked if I got asked this.” Or “FUCK they are gonna get this wrong.”
Chris: I think one of George’s best responses was to the question “Describe white people in three words.” “The bad race” not only works for me on a mental and emotional level, I think it also would be a great name for an HBO miniseries.
Jessica: A network miniseries that will probably be produced, written, and directed by straight white people. But don’t worry, it will feature some diverse people who will be comped in exposure.
Chris: George’s white African art curator cosplay tweet was triggering to me, as I had a white African-American studies professor in college whose name was, I kid you not, Chris Brown. Chris. Brown. Like what was I supposed to do with that? He was a good professor, though!
Jessica: The cosplay tweet. Triggering. You see this all the time on here: people discovering, in real time, their problematic behavior. I don’t give a fuck about the answers to the questions, it’s the BEHAVIOR. The storming out (CC Pat Regan), the raising voice (CC Gary Richardson), the manic repeating of self-assurance (CC Caroline Calloway).
Chris: Can’t wait until Caroline Calloway inevitably returns to the show. But yes, George learned from the Calloways and the Romans before him and did his homework yet was still entertaining and sometimes flummoxed by the sheer task of having to talk candidly and frankly about race. You don’t have to do something incendiary or say something outlandish on this show for it to be interesting to watch. Although, let’s be clear, when these white people go off the deep end, it is endlessly entertaining.
Kimberly Rose Drew
How many black friends does she have? N/A
How many times did Ziwe lean in? 4
Chris: This was a Ziwe interview unlike any that we’ve seen before, I would say. After having a tried-and-true comedian like George in the first half, it was really compelling to have Kimberly, an art curator, enter the space. They brought an entirely different perspective and energy to the show. It proved that while Ziwe’s weekly Instagram Live is a comedy show, just like any piece of art, it means different things to different people. But it all began with Ziwe asking a simple question that I ask myself every day: “Are Leos toxic?”
Jessica: Leos are toxic, the gayest sentence uttered on the show. For the record, as an Aquarian, I think yes! They are!
Chris: As a gay Virgo, I wholeheartedly agree. I know this isn’t really what this show is about, but from a fashion standpoint, I did love the glove work that both Ziwe and Kimberly were serving on the episode. Lewks the house down.
Jessica: Femmes in gloves will save America. I have a shopping cart open now, there are two sets of elbow-length gloves. Ziwe baited herself and all of us by saying “George’s performance.” I personally found his performance of “Teacher’s Best Student” to be pretty accurate … And Kimberly saying “I love a good code switch”? Shots fired and heard all the way in Fire Island.
Chris: RIP Fire Island. I loved how Kimberly talked about reclaiming the word “mammy” and the history of marginalized people reclaiming words that have been weaponized against them: nigga, bitch, faggot, now mammy. It’s really empowering how Kimberly uses that word in their Instagram and Twitter handle. And I always love a shoutout to queer legend Hattie McDaniel, whose Oscar-winning, history-making performance in Gone With the Wind was almost erased by HBO because they didn’t want to offend woke white people.
Jessica: Yes, I like to see us reclaim power. It’s interesting to see how people get uncomfortable with terms like “mammy” when they are not being framed through an experience they understand, a.k.a. a white lens. We love the movie Gone With the Wind, but don’t make us look at the problematic characters! Let us love mammy! But I don’t want to talk about it out of context …
Chris: Ziwe is really excellent at calibrating her interviews to her guests, so rather than spend time asking a Black person how many Black friends she has, we dove into a conversation about gatekeeping and gatekeepers, which really became a resounding theme of the latter half of the episode.
Jessica: It may be my Aquarian mind, but I think when someone tries to call in Ziwe, they end up getting baited. She disarms them by baiting herself first. The conversation that happened after Kimberly called her in was so nuanced I don’t have any side. Just more information than I had before. I say “call in” instead of “call out” because everything said and done here was done with compassion and empathy — masterful performance art. The conversation that happened after the call-in was so nuanced, I don’t have any side, just more information than I had before. It’s a wonderful showcase for how to disagree with someone. Hold them accountable without cancellation and without name-calling. FOR THE WHITE PEOPLE IN THE BACK. The call-in isn’t the label of racist, it’s the way you act after you’ve been held accountable that reveals just how racist you are.
I really thought that I was clearly on Kimberly’s side in the beginning. SHE WHO CAN NOT BE NAMED is trash. But in Ziwe’s “truth to power” statement, I was like, damn, I feel that. I also want to see demons get taken down. I do want to see the Dark Lordess TERF drink her own poison. But fuck! I feel Kimberly on the “Where is the limit?” and FUCK I DON’T KNOW! *rolls another joint and dives further into self reflection* “Those aren’t the shoulders that any of us should be crawling on.” DAMN. Still thinking about this.
Chris: So am I. I think we really see how complex the concept of “baiting” really is with the J.K Rowling of it all. At times, it definitely looked like Kimberly was the one baiting Ziwe. But you have to consider that ultimately this is Ziwe’s show, and she chose to bring Kimberly on as a guest and baited Kimberly into talking about J.K. Rowling in the first place. Their subsequent conversation ultimately shifted the narrative around J.K. and Ziwe from “does this evil billionaire witch lady know that I exist” to “is this evil billionaire witch lady even worthy of being a guest on my Instagram Live show.” That’s a textbook bait and switch!
Jessica: I want to see VoldeTERF answer for her behavior, but I know we are giving her another platform and a chance to repeat her harmful speech! I don’t want to further harm my community. Where is the line? How do you have this conversation without retriggering? I don’t know. All I know is that conversation made me take a deep look inward. What’s my line? What do my reactions to these guests say about me? Are we as far along as a society as we think? Does being marginalized save me from being problematic? I DON’T KNOW, or actually I do. It doesn’t. That’s why we have to have these conversations.
Chris: Precisely. Ziwe’s show is definitely popular, but it’s not Harry Potter, arguably the most famous book ever written. (Sorry, the Bible!) Ziwe having J.K. Rowling on her show wouldn’t be giving J.K. Rowling a platform — she’s already got one and is currently using it to spew venomous transphobic rhetoric to her ardent supporters. When Kimberly asked if she’d have J.K. on her show, Ziwe simply said, “I don’t know,” and I found that to be really powerful and honest. They were having this incredible, raw conversation about this hypothetical situation which I don’t think has a clear answer. And then there’s a question of whether Ziwe, as a cisgendered woman, is even the right person to take J.K. Rowling to task about her comments regarding the trans community. Ziwe’s “I don’t know” felt like an honest answer to a difficult question, which is sort of the name of the game of the entire exercise. Her future guests should take note!
Jessica: THE LAYERS OF ART AND LESSONS IN THIS. ZIWE ALLOWING HER GUEST TO BAIT HER. ALSO A LESSON IN HOW TO HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE WITHOUT CANCELLATION OR NAME-CALLING. BLACK FEMMES WILL SAVE THE WORLD. That being said. I think this is a “dangerous” place in comedy when we get creative in areas outside of our experience. For example, If a queer person is calling you, a straight person, in on a queer issue, you must listen. In this case, Ziwe listened and was vulnerable enough to answer honestly. I’ll say it one more time, Black femmes will save the world.
Chris: And the most incredible thing about all of this was that it was done from a place of love and care. Kimberly basically said “I’m asking you these tough questions because I love and care about you.” I don’t know if we’ve seen that happen on the show yet in such a powerful way. It was cool that Kimberly was firm enough in her convictions to ask tough questions, and Ziwe was open and vulnerable enough to answer them. Black people stay winning.