America’s addiction to awful people

It may be a new year, but America remains mired in a myriad of national dysfunction. The list is endless: A close ally continues to an immoral human rights disaster, Republican madness is ramping up at the behest of Donald Trump and we suffered through yet another return by the father of North and Saint West who shall not be named deciding to take fashion inspiration from the Ku Klux Klan for his latest “give me attention” moment. 

But if there is one thing that is truly emblematic of our society in the United States that fully encapsulates our preference for vain flash instead of solid substance, it is the desperate decision by former Showtime comedy personality Ziwe Fuhmode to pursue and conduct an interview with the scammer of our times, George Santos. 

In the aftermath of her cable show being canceled last April, Ziwe has spent her post Showtime period being online famous in continuing her spicy brand of witty, wisecrack colloquial humor. She has assembled a popular TikTok page of over one million followers and still maintains an active IG page filled with her growing number of glamorous photoshoots. The Massachusetts native of Nigerian descent also just released her first book, “Black Friend:Essays.” 

But this move by Fumudoh to interview arguably the most fraudulent person in the world – and whose name we still aren’t completely sure is actually his – after all his power has been completely taken away from him, with his historic expulsion from the House of Representatives, unfortunately displays why her promising show barely lasted longer than his clownish Congressional career. The shtick of a shock interviewer is far from a novel concept with the likes of Martin Short, Zionist supporter Sacha Baron Cohen and Zach Galifianakis being among the most notable to engage in the hit or miss format. Ziwe is clearly a descendant of that approach with her career either interning or working for The Daily Show, Colbert Report, The Onion, The Rundown with Robin Thede and finally Desus and Mero before Showtime greenlit her own series. No one can question the intelligence of the Phillips Academy and Northwestern alum’s antagonizing, acerbic questions and how effective her approach can be with the right interviewee. Her Instagram Live hilarious roasting of social media influencer Caroline Calloway for her hollow white privilege race solidarity a few weeks into the George Floyd-inspired summer 2020 protests is Ziwe at her promising best. Calloway is the type of person where her routine is most effective: exposing those of notoriety, fame and powerful influence who haven’t yet faced the accountability spotlight.  

Instead, comedic accountability interviews with a meaningful, revealing purpose can only be effective if the guest isn’t already a proven, discredited individual who only benefits from receiving more underserved camera time. And when that nutcase you so barely want to get the giggles on with is someone like Santos, the phrase “you can’t shame the already shameless’ ‘ applies aptly in Ziwe’s misguided pursuit for the phony-in-chief. 

Her comedic talent does get her little share of funny digs at Santos when he tries to be serious. However, Ziwe unfortunately plays right into Santos’ apathetic hands when he decides to troll her right back with his own smart aleck psyche. It leads to the defining moment of not only the interview, but a grim paradigm of where mainstream American culture is at the moment. 

Knowing that she hasn’t gotten Santos to angrily storm out of the interview in his pure narcissistic diva ways – or demand from him that she not air their conversation anywhere that she deeply wanted – Ziwe was left with firing intentionally rude questions that was only going to spur Santos to send back sassy, viral-esque retorts

“What can we do to get you to go away?” Ziwe pointedly asked. 

“Stop inviting me to your gigs,” Santos coolly fired back. 

Taking a pause to gather herself from his blunt answer, the comedian tried again to one-up the mendacious ghoul. 

“The lesson is to stop inviting you places,” she buzzed. 

“But you can’t ‘cause people want the content,” a mischievous, smiling Santos countered. 

And therein lies that humorous yet disturbing truth of our current times. Santos, a person normally immune to a life of truth, correctly called Ziwe out for why she would pursue a sit-down talk with him knowing that he  is the ultimate loathsome charlatan. Her sometimes annoying desire to feel much more superior, more sophisticated and cooler than the other person that’s adjacent to her interrogations had come back to bite her.Although it is not repulsive like Santos’ narcissism, Ziwe’s ego of trying to remind us all how superior she is leads to her in this unwanted interview becoming the butt of her own joke, thanks to Santos’ unwavering shamelessness. The shiny objects of viewership traffic, shared posts and retweeted clips, along with the joy of dunking all over Santos, were the only goals for Ziwe here. And the first part of that mission was accomplished. Her Santos interview easily became her most viewed YouTube video 24 hours after it was published, and her first million-viewed video on the site. It also provided big numbers for her TikTok and IG pages, and now thought pieces about it like the one you are currently reading. 

But Ziwe also gave a clear win to an all-time fool in Santos, as a myriad of “He’s awful, but he ate her” responses throughout social media have come to even praise him for clowning Ziwe’s “how can we make you go away” question. One couldn’t help but deduce sadly that she needed him more, in her deep hopes that he would say yes, then he needed her. It’s a sense of victory Santos carries with him out of the interview, despite Ziwe getting him to embarrassingly admit to not knowing who American LGBTQ+ political icons Marsha P Johnson, James Baldwin and Harvey Milk were. Her quest to score more funny points on him made her forget to circle back on hammering him relentlessly for being so ignorant of a trio of gay icons, or his various lies about being Black. Or asking him about being charged with endless federal crimes of theft, wire fraud, false statements and many more criminal practices. Or if his name is even George Santos? Instead, her primary pursuit to further showcase herself as the comedian of our times led to him creating his own comedy memorable moment at her (and our) expense.

America’s overall, problematic desire to entertain, tolerate and even worship toxic, irredeemable people reaches new nadirs daily, with this meeting becoming the latest entry in that depressing list. With Santos’ fitting hero, the Disaster-in-Tweet (Trump), remaining a frightening political force as he still simultaneously faces jail time in a variety of different ways, 2024 does not look promising to this country curbing its addiction to provenly awful characters. As Salon’s Melanie McFarland recently wrote of Santos, he’s “nakedly performing the strategy that may return Donald Trump to power and, more frightfully, keep him there, which is that he follows orders like a champ.” 

Hopefully Ziwe will shake off that insatiable vice as she begins her return to the comedy interviewing business. But her desire for any collaborative content with a parasitic leech like Santos is a sign that these harmful troll talks will keep hurting our eyes in the new year.

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