How Ziwe Met Her Match in George Santos 

“I think the lesson is to stop inviting you places.”

Ziwe YouTube

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

How do you solve a problem like George Santos? 

It’s a question comedian Ziwe reckoned with in her “bombshell” interview with the disgraced former congressman, released yesterday on her YouTube channel. It was an apt, highly anticipated pairing. Both Ziwe and Santos are emblems of the modern political era. In different ways, they epitomize a cultural moment that is at best irreverent and at worst nihilistic. They typify a zeitgeist where scammers lurk everywhere, from the pits of reality TV to the highest levels of government. 

As showcased in her now-canceled eponymous comedy show, Ziwe’s comedy subverts conventions of journalistic practice with long, awkward pauses and deliberate misquotes of her subject in spliced audio clips. Such cheap tricks were on display in her interview with Santos when she asked him to say the word “icon,” only to repeat an elongated version of Santos appearing to mouth “I con” for viewers to mock. Ziwe’s comedy is something of a racket itself, but thankfully no cost to the American taxpayer.

While Ziwe’s schemes get her laughs, Santos’ might get him prison time. During his brief tenure in Congress, Santos paired wild antics—like carrying a mystery baby through Congress—with extraordinary alleged crimes and harmful political stances. Santos eventually became loathed enough to become only the sixth congressman ever to be expelled from the House of Representatives. 

People had high hopes for the interview. “This is my Frost/Nixon,” wrote comedian Rohita Kadambi when the interview was announced. But looking back, what did we expect from this pairing? We got Ziwe’s usual zingers. Softball questions, like asking Santos about his outfit, morphed into gotcha questions, “How many stolen credit cards did you use to pay for this look?” But the final product was uncharacteristically dark and unsettling. 

On Ziwe’s former comedy series, subjects frequently struggled to keep up with her world of brash statements and politically incorrect questions. Some played along with the joke. Others, like Andrew Yang, stumbled blindly through questions like, “What are your favorite racial stereotypes?” The result could be mildly uncomfortable but was mostly lighthearted. But Ziwe’s formula didn’t work as well with Santos. Perhaps it is because Santos is neither hapless nor self-conscious. He already is the shameless, morally bankrupt caricature Ziwe tries to mold her guests into. 

The most chilling moments of the interview felt like Santos was meeting Ziwe’s gaze rather than being the subject of it. These were the moments it became clear that while Ziwe’s manipulations were part of a comedic performance for Santos it was truly just who he was. As the interview concluded, Ziwe asked how the country could get Santos to go away. 

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

“But you can’t,” he responded with a shrug, confidence oozing. “Because people love the content.” 

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate