Why Fans of ‘Between Two Ferns’ Will Love the Cringe Comedy of ‘Ziwe’
Fans of cringe comedy talk shows like Between Two Ferns and The Eric Andre Show will want to check out Showtime’s, Ziwe. Host Ziwe Fumudoh asks famous guests—such as writer Fran Lebowitz, lawyer Eboni K. Williams, and New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang—unconventionally hilarious questions about race, politics, and gender. One she lobs to Lebowitz: “What bothers you more: slow walkers or racism?”
Here are some other things to know about Ziwe, which has more than a few similarities to Between Two Ferns.
Web Series Roots
Much like the Funny or Die origins of Between Two Ferns, Ziwe began as the web series Baited, airing on Fumudoh’s YouTube channel and later her Instagram live stories. On Baited, Ziwe asked influencer Caroline Calloway, “What was the last racist thing that you did today?” To food writer Alison Roman, her first question was, “On a scale of Black person minding their business in their house to black person minding their business at the movie theater, how nervous are you?”
Between Two Ferns and Baited excel in catching celebrities off guard. While Baited has transitioned to television, Between Two Ferns has stayed a web series since its 2008 premiere, other than Netflix bringing it to the silver screen in Between Two Ferns: The Movie.
Guests Show Their Slip
When Ziwe asks a group of women named Karen, “Do you think Karen lives matter?” one Karen responds, “If Karen’s lives don’t matter, then no lives matter.” Ziwe never forces guests into a corner to say tone-deaf or racist things, but Ziwe guests often say the quiet part out loud.
Between Two Ferns works similarly. Take, for example, when host Zach Galifianakis asked actress Hailee Steinfeld, “You have 12 million Instagram followers. How long did it take for you to apologize to each one of them for Bumblebee?”
Between Two Ferns and Ziwe excel in taking people who are usually in positions of power down a peg. Fumudoh and Galifianakis are so skilled in saying what their audiences are actually thinking: Karens are awful and Bumblebee was the worst.
No cringe comedy talk show is complete without a set that tells a story. With Tiger Beat-esque posters of Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama on the pink walls, the undeniably feminine design of Ziwe emphasizes her girlboss comedic persona.
It is pretty different from Between Two Ferns, which creates an uncomfortable and intentionally no-frills environment through a simple set, distinguished only by its titular plants. However, both show’s aesthetic choices heighten them beyond the talk shows that came before them.
Songs, Sketches, and More
After their web series days, Ziwe and Between Two Ferns brought more than just interviews. Ziwe features hilarious songs such as “Stop Being Poor,” an anthem of privileged rich mean girls featuring comedian Patti Harrison. Sketches include “Woke Wars,” where contestants play games such as “Name A Black Person” and fail wildly.
Between Two Ferns: The Movie brought an entire origin story to the web series, framing it as a public access show that got leaked online by Will Ferrell. Galifianakis, in this universe an aspiring star, takes a road trip to interview high-profile celebrities and restore his reputation.
Ziwe and Between Two Ferns find their bread and butter in chaotic interviews, but you can’t deny how getting out of their chairs bring them to new heights!
Cringe Comedy With a Point
Ziwe expands upon the ideas Between Two Ferns set before it. Between Two Ferns popularized the unique humor in seeing celebrities in novel, uncomfortable interviews. While Between Two Ferns centers on subverting the egos of famous people, Ziwe allows you to not even consider them as necessary in the first place. Ziwe displays how uncomfortable it is for some people to talk about race in an environment that jokes about it and how funny and salient it can be for those who can. Ziwe makes you cringe, laugh, scream, and think. That is iconic.
Ziwe, Sundays, 11/10c, Showtime