It instantly became the most hotly anticipated—and dreaded?—political stunt of the year when comedian Ziwe Fumudoh asked disgraced former GOP congressman George Santos earlier this month to sit down for a “pay-per-view” interview and he replied, “Let’s do it.”
The pair’s “iconic” meeting premiered on YouTube Monday morning—for free, by the way—with the weight of something important. Fly-on-the-wall black and white footage catches Santos commenting on Ziwe’s “legs for days” as he gets his hair and makeup done. In another moment when he thought he was off camera, he sincerely asks her to “be mindful with the DOJ stuff.”
The comedian and author of Black Friend, who lost her eponymous Showtime late-night series earlier this year shortly before that network itself dissolved into Paramount+, frames the “ZNN” interview as a “bombshell” showdown between a “jokester” and a “national joke.” She also makes it clear that Santos asked to be paid for the interview “three times” but she refused—despite the Birkin bag of money in the background.
Santos begins the actual interview with a smile, but it drops in comedic fashion when Ziwe quickly dives into his legacy of “lying to the American people.” When she heel-turns the question to ask if he’ll be calling former Trump spokesman Sean Spicer for advice about his inevitable Dancing With the Stars turn, Santos replies, “I don’t want to be Sean Spicer, let’s just call it that.”
Ziwe goes on to call Santos out for comparing himself to Rosa Parks, grills him on various other Civil Rights leaders (“Who the hell is James Baldwin?”), and goads him into rapping Nicki Minaj lyrics and screaming, “Yas queen!”
Santos calls former colleagues Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham “frauds” but refuses to say the same for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz. “The way you know everyone’s business is humbling to me,” Ziwe jokes at one point.
The comedian also tries to get the bottom of the confusion over the mysterious baby Santos was carrying around Congress, which led to him say he could “probably make a Black baby” on his own due to his “biracial” identity.
“I feel like you’re lying to me,” Ziwe told him, repeatedly refusing to let Santos get away with his attempts to explain away his blatant exaggerations about his personal story, from claiming that his grandparents survived the Holocaust to suggesting that his mother died in the 9/11 attacks.
And the host repeatedly caught him coming just close enough to admitting his criminal behavior, like when she asked if he would rather shoplift from Sephora or Ulta and he said, “Neither. I don’t do petty crimes.” Without missing a beat, she smiled and shot back, “White collar.”
Finally, she just came out and asked, “What could we do to get you to go away?”
“Stop inviting me to your gigs,” he replied. “But you can’t... because people want the content.”
It was a surprising moment of self-awareness that was quickly undercut when Ziwe asked her guest to define “empathy” and Santos admitted, “I don’t understand it, because people accuse me of having no empathy, and maybe I can’t define empathy.”
More invitations are likely to come, and despite his assertions to the contrary, Santos will almost certainly say yes to many of them. But after Ziwe’s runaway triumph, there really is no reason for any other late-night hosts to even try.