For guests who dare to appear on the comedian’s Instagram Live show, the question is not if you are racist, but how

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Ziwe Fumudoh performs during the Movement Voter Project comedy benefit at The Bell House on October 24, 2018 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Movement Voter Project

By E. Alex Jung

“I get wild DMs,” Ziwe Fumudoh tells me as she scrolls through her phone. There are suggestions for guests on her Instagram Live show, where she asks subjects discomfiting questions about race: Candace Owens (“I could see it working in studio”), Rachel Dolezal (“The time to talk to her was 2015!”), or some random racist person (“My audience would be confused”). There are those who ask her to do emotional or intellectual labor for them when Google is just a click away. Then there’s a certain flavor of kink, where “men specifically ask me to dominate them in this race way,” she says. …


There needs to be a reckoning over his toxic relationship with the vox populi

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Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

By Craig Jenkins

It’s a special kind of hell we live in right now when a celebrity who has admittedly never voted can claim to be running for president four months before the general election and catapult the internet into many days of trenchant debate about his motives for entering a race that he has yet to file any paperwork to join. That’s the rarefied air occupied by Kanye West, one of the most famous people on the planet and one of the least predictable figures in a sphere of American celebrities who move with careful intention, defined by the garrulousness of ever-present Twitch streamers and YouTube influencers, the pointed insouciance of political commentators, and the strategic poise of megawatt stars like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Kanye, by contrast, moves like summer rain: He sneaks up, empties out everything that’s been brewing upstairs, and moves on while we splash around the puddles he leaves behind. After dividing his fandom by showing loud support for Donald Trump over the last five years, West walked it all back during a peculiar Forbes interview last week, in which he insisted his MAGA years were an act of protest “to the segregation of votes in the Black community,” inspired in part by his admiration for the décor inside the Trump hotels. …


The streaming platform raised $1.75 billion and secured a roster of A-list talent, but it can’t get audiences to notice

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Jeffrey Katzenberg demonstrates Quibi at Sundance 2020 on January 24, 2020 in Park City, Utah. Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Quibi

By Benjamin Wallace

Last year, Scott Gairdner, a comedy writer and director who had worked on Conan and created the animated series Moonbeam City, went to the Hollywood offices of the new streaming platform Quibi for a pitch meeting. He is also the co-creator of a viral Adult Swim video called Live at the Necropolis: Lords of Synth, which Quibi was considering adapting. Gairdner was provisionally excited. In a business where new players pop up only to evaporate, he was used to deals never quite materializing. But a new, deep-pocketed buyer was cause for optimism.

Quibi, the brainchild of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney studio head and DreamWorks co-founder, had promised to reinvent television by streaming high-quality content in ten-minute-or-less chunks to “the TV in your pocket.” (Quibi, which rhymes with Libby, is short for “quick bites.”) Katzenberg believed enough mobile-phone users would want to spend their spare minutes of downtime — while waiting in line for coffee, riding the bus or subway — digesting small plates of premium, Hollywood-quality video, at a monthly cost of $4.99 (with ads) or $7.99 (without ads), when not surfing the amateur stuff on TikTok and -YouTube, scrolling Twitter, or playing Animal Crossing for free. And he was spending lavishly on his hunch. …


How a young talent from East London went from open-mic nights to making the year’s most sublimely unsettling show

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Photo: Gary Gershoff/WireImage via Getty Images

By E. Alex Jung

Michaela Coel is not a Christian anymore, but the spirit has never left her. The Bible is the reason she started writing. Her first poem, “Beautiful,” was inspired by Psalm 139, and it’s still as clear as crystal. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” she recites. When she writes, she gets the same feeling she did one Sunday when she was 18 years old and her hand shot into the air during the altar call. She ran to the pulpit, tears streaming down her face, ready to accept Jesus Christ as her personal lord and savior. She cries and cries and cries as she writes because it all feels so big — the pain, the ecstasy — and whether you call that thing God or the cosmos or simply inspiration she isn’t sure, but she knows it is holy and precious. “I can’t name what that is, because I’m never going to know,” she says. …


Until Reiner came along, nobody outside the business knew about the writers’ room; today we all do

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Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

By Christopher Bonanos

A week ago on Twitter, Carl Reiner remarked that he was proudest of two pieces of his work: the 2000-Year-Old Man sketches he’d recorded with Mel Brooks, and creating The Dick Van Dyke Show. They seem only nominally related: One was a recurring improv bit in which Reiner was the ostensibly colorless straight-man interviewer, and the other was a slick CBS sitcom in which Reiner played a splenetic character named Alan Brady. But what they have in common is the writers’ room, that mythic place in the making of comedy where the funny comes from. Reiner and Brooks had met on Your Show of Shows, the Sid Caesar–Imogene Coca sketch show of the early 1950s, where Reiner wrote and performed, and Brooks got started as a writer; they’d worked out the 2000-Year-Old Man there. And The Dick Van Dyke Show was set backstage at a show very much like Caesar’s, in which Morey Amsterdam played a version of Mel Brooks, and Reiner played a hectoring star who seemed quite a bit like his old boss. Until Reiner came along, nobody outside the business knew about the writers’ room; today we all do. It’s a straight line from there to the behind-the-scenes scenes of Saturday Night Live, or to 30 Rock, or to so many other great, funny pieces of our culture. …


As HBO Max temporarily removes Gone With the Wind, we should all cast a skeptical glance at gestures that cost nobody a dime and change nothing

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Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

By Mark Harris

Even in our current era of the corporate-cultural double backflip, the latest chapter in the tortured saga of America’s relationship with Gone With the Wind was impressively swift. BOOM! Screenwriter John Ridley writes a Los Angeles Times op-ed urging HBO Max, the new streaming service you still can’t figure out how to get on your TV, to take the movie down, arguing that it “romanticizes the Confederacy” and perpetuates “some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.” BANG! HBO Max removes the film from its platform. POW! People get angry about censorship and attempts to cleanse our troubled cultural history. HMM! …


It is unclear whether each book supplies a portion of the holistic racial puzzle or are intended as revelatory islands in and of themselves

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Photo: Claudia Wolff

By Lauren Michele Jackson

I have this pet theory about book recommendations. They feel good to solicit, good to mete out, but someone at some point has to get down to the business of reading. And there, between giving and receiving, lies a great gulf. No one can quite account for what happens. Reading, hopefully, but you never can be sure.

It’s that time again. Race is happening. Never mind that race is always happening but it is especially happening now, urgently happening, and god help you if you’re not paying attention (though history will probably pardon your procrastination for history, too, is belated). I should clarify that “happening” here indicates agreement, a collective bargain that something has risen to the level of a thing by degrees of egregiousness or luck. It applies to anodyne hiccups as regular as a public figure putting their foot or face in it by using slurs and dark makeup, to the no less routine euphemized murders by police and their extrajudicial deputies. In any case there is the eruption of sentiment, none perhaps stronger than stupefaction on behalf of many at a loss with how to metabolize such a moment, how to metabolize race “happening,” despite the fact that race is always happening. The weeks and months following the 2016 presidential election was such a moment. The how could this happen meets the I told you so. …


And what will a post-pandemic theater look like?

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Photo: Felix Mooneeram

By Bilge Ebiri

In the autumn of 1918, as the second wave of the deadly influenza epidemic that had been rampaging across the world reached the U.S., people started staying away from movie theaters. Soon, as more people got sick, local authorities would order them shuttered. In many cases, theater owners would assent to the closure with what one Boston trade organization at the time called “cheerful compliance.” Within a few weeks, though, as the epidemic’s urgency waned, owners began to get restive. They were losing money and wanted to get back to selling tickets. A few managers were arrested for defying shutdown orders. …


Jerry Saltz on eating and coping mechanisms, childhood and self-control, criticism, love, cancer, and pandemics

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Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images for Vulture Festival

By Jerry Saltz

As soon as my wife and I started sheltering in place, I got concerned emails and queries on social media: “Jerry, how are you eating and drinking coffee during this?” I haven’t seen anyone else asked this. These queries were specific to me and my wife, Roberta Smith, also an art critic. We’ve made no secret of her battling cancer since 2014. Today she’s doing well on immunotherapy drugs, though she is in several high-risk categories for COVID-19 and our sheltering in place has a lot of moving parts. But people asked us about food and coffee for reasons other than these. …


“Anyone who says that everything is not totally f — — d is lying”

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Tom Cruise attends the Global Premiere of ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ at Palais de Chaillot on July 12, 2018 in Paris, France. The followup, Mission: Impossible 7, halted production in Italy in February. Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

By Chris Lee

Inside Hollywood’s corridors of power, the industry shutdown due to COVID-19 has come to be known by various nicknames. The studio executives and talent agents responsible for keeping the business part of showbiz beating ever forward against the tide have referred to the worldwide pandemic as “nuclear winter.” “Doomsday,” even.

“We have to write off 2020. It’s already the year that didn’t happen,” says one top agent at one of the town’s powerhouse firms who, like everyone reached by Vulture for this story, requested anonymity due to sensitivities surrounding ongoing business endeavors. “We’re not going to make any money because there are no revenues with TV and movies not getting made. Anyone who says that everything is not totally fucked is lying. …

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