The Fran Lebowitz renaissance, which began at the top of the year in Netflix’s Pretend It’s a City, just got a boost from Ziwe. On Sunday night, cultural commentator and author Lebowitz appeared on the inaugural episode of the comedian’s eponymous Showtime series—thanks, Lebowitz noted at the beginning of the interview, to the relentless pursuit of one of Ziwe’s producers. “Shoutout to the persistence of women of color,” Ziwe declared. “Or any persistence,” Lebowitz retorted— signaling the tit-for-tat nature of the interview to come, which spanned topics from affirmative action to Barack Obama’s presidency and asking to speak to the manager at Whole Foods.
In the last year, Ziwe has become known for asking hilariously pointed questions about race on her Instagram Live show, delivering them like well-applied pokes on white guilt pressure points. (The first episode of her Showtime series, titled “55%,” after the number of white women who voted for Donald Trump, follows this thread; it’s all about “the phenomenon of white women.”) As it turns out, viewers wondering if the comedian would soften up on guests once she made the transition to mainstream TV have nothing to worry about. Lebowitz was treated to an array of equally uncomfortable questions, like, “Where do you stand on affirmative action?” and “What percentage of white women do you hate? And there is a right answer.”
“There’s no right answer,” Lebowitz responded with a dry laugh. “I would say I’m less concerned with race than you are.” Naturally, the remark earned her a one-way ticket to a cheeky chyron: “Fran Lebowitz: ‘Less concerned with race.’”
The interview is cut into segments that span the length of Ziwe’s debut episode—a funny, assured expansion of the comedian’s Instagram Live show, offering blend of high and low-brow race-driven inquiries. It’s all couched in Ziwe’s absurdo-glam Barbie studio aesthetic and Eric Andre Show-esque effects and cutaways.
The episode also offered a rare look at Lebowitz in the hot seat. Usually, when the cultural icon (and longtime Vanity Fair contributor) speaks into a mic, she’s holding forth at a public speaking event, or making her friend (and Pretend It’s a City director) Martin Scorsese laugh his head off.
That said, the famously opinionated Lebowitz fared better under Ziwe’s microscope than most of the guests who squirmed through the Instagram Live version of the show. She gamely countered questions like, “What do you hate more, slow walkers or racism?” (For the record: “I encounter more slow walkers. However, obviously they’re not comparable.”)
Lebowitz also got political, delivering a take on Barack Obama’s presidency that proved too pointed for Ziwe’s slice of late night. “We will not be airing this because we want to go to the Roc Nation Brunch,” the show’s subtitles read, bleeping out Lebowitz’s criticism and cutting to a giant poster of Michelle Obama. That moment encapsulated the ethos of Ziwe. “My ultimate goal isn’t to get my guests canceled, truly!” Ziwe told Vanity Fair last year, when her Instagram show first exploded. “I’m just trying to have a good discussion about race and entertain people.”