EXCLUSIVE: Greg Gutfeld, a punk-rock loving, former men’s magazine firebrand, knows he’s a divisive figure and I’m pretty sure he likes it that way.
The host of Fox News’ Gutfeld! is regularly pilloried by the left and adored by the right.
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But it’s the millions of viewers that have been tuning in to his show, which went nightly in April 2021, that have put him in the spotlight.
Between the beginning of August and the first week of October, Gutfeld! brought in an average of 2.15M viewers, using the live+same day metric, according to Nielsen Media Research.
While more liberal viewers are tuning in to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, it’s clear that Gutfeld! is taking hold of the opportunity for someone to run to the right after dark.
The show is a loose mix of a monologue and chat with guests including regulars Kat Timpf, Gutfeld’s Misfits-loving sidekick, and former WWE wrestler Tyrus.
Imagine Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect with a few more GOP talking points and Hunter Biden jokes thrown in.
Gutfeld, whose politics are somewhat elastic (more later), is evidently influenced by British wind-up merchants such as Russell Brand, whose mid-00s Big Brother aftershow Big Mouth is a noted inspiration, and Ricky Gervais, and it’s clear that Gutfeld is a provocateur.
“The numbers keep going up,” he tells Deadline. “It’s definitely tapped into something in our culture, in terms of humorlessness, and [Gutfeld!] is a place where [we] don’t care. The irony, of course, is that it’s on a news network.”
He slams other late-night shows for being “predictable” and says that audiences don’t want to be “lectured” to.
“Late-night TV is a weird combination of celebrity promotion and publicist authoritarianism” he says. “It’s a famous person talking to a famous person about a product that is probably mediocre at best, whether it’s a sitcom or a movie, and it never changes. I don’t want to do that. I get extremely bored talking about anybody’s project unless it’s something that is so strange.”
He jokingly adds, “Unless of course it’s a children’s book, that’s different.”
His rivals, however, don’t consider Gutfeld! a late-night show.
One network rival told Deadline that they were impressed with the numbers that Gutfeld! was putting up but doesn’t consider it competition because while it airs at 11pm on the East Coast, it airs on the West Coast at 8pm, more than three hours before the likes of Colbert, Kimmel, Fallon and Noah.
Gutfeld accepts that it’s hard to compare the shows, but he also believes that if his show was on later on the West Coast, it would be even bigger.
“There’s no parallel universe to compare and contrast that. There’s no experiment one could do. [Their] ratings might go down if [they were] on at 8pm and I might have more viewers at 11pm in LA. It feels like an 11pm show. I don’t know if [8pm] does me any favors. I lived in California all my life, you’d watch something else at 8pm. I guess my point is, I think the asterisk is against us, not for us,” he says.
He also revels in not being part of this traditional club.
During a recent conversation on The Adam Carolla Show, the comedian, who is close friends and co-creators of The Man Show with Jimmy Kimmel, said that the mainstream media doesn’t like to report on the success of Gutfeld! because “late-night is their format” and “now it’s personal”.
On the show, Gutfeld related it to being “an uninvited guest on the campus that is media”.
Gutfeld believes that he has more “freedom” than the other hosts.
Deadline: What do you think you can do that they can’t?
Gutfeld: Be actually funny.
Deadline: That’s subjective.
Gutfeld: They’re stuck with the traditional setup, punchline, setup, punchline. Our show isn’t about that, it’s about like looking out at life and talking about real stuff.
Would Gutfeld! work on another network, one that doesn’t have the built-in fan base that Fox News obviously does.
“Yes,” he says. “The question is whether I would put up with the kind of things that they would want me to do. But if I wanted to, no question.”
It does prompt the question, however unlikely, of whether CBS would replace The Late Late Show’s James Corden with someone a little more right-leaning or if TBS decides to get back into late-night, would it pivot politically instead of looking for the next Conan O’Brien or Samantha Bee.
Gutfeld, who took a lot of stick 18 months ago when advertising for comedy writers, believes that his show is proof that the “stereotype” that Republicans can’t be funny is false.
“We took an insult off the table, which was the right can’t be funny. It was such a stereotypical response. The people that were critical at the beginning of the launch have gone away, the alt comics. [They said] this thing’s not going to last. I don’t know where they went, but they sure aren’t talking anymore. What happened was that general comment has been debunked and I think that’s probably a really big deal.”
The former Men’s Health editor also doesn’t want his show, or late-night in general, to be thought of as an entirely political animal.
“We just want to do a show that is fun. Politics will creep in there. I’m sure that if you’re sitting there with your liberal sister, she’s going to [say] ‘God this guy is so nauseating’. But I swear there’s something in that show that will make her laugh. We try to map out a show that has enough political stories, pop culture stories, silly stories and social interest, and we try and talk about the controversial [stories] in a different way.”
He highlights David Letterman’s work. “Letterman was a perfect example of a show that almost existed in a kind of surreal nature of a talk show. It had celebrities, but he hated celebrities. He hated the company that owned him at the time – General Electric,” he says. “It was a definite inspiration.”
Gutfeld’s own politics are harder to pin down.
Early on in Donald Trump’s political career, Gutfeld was a critic – a “onetime Trump hater”, according to the 45th President. But over the last few years, he became a supporter, or started to peddle “hyperbolic boosterism”, per The Washington Post. Much of this comes from his other gig – as one of the panelists of Fox News’ daytime show The Five.
But even as recently as last week, President Trump congratulated Gutfeld (or “Greg Gutfield” as he wrote on his Truth Social site), while slamming the other late-night shows.
Gutfeld says he’s “suspicious of almost all ideologies” and admits that his politics have changed over time. “I’m definitely center right. I was a leftist when I was younger, then I became a conservative and then it became more libertarian and I realized that none of those things really apply”.
Gutfeld! is looser than most late-night shows and has a much smaller team. Gutfeld writes his own monologue, with some help from writer Nick DiPaolo. Tom O’Connor, who has worked with Gutfeld since his Red Eye days, exec produces, Arash Mosaleh is senior producer and the writing staff includes Joe DeVito and Joe Machi.
“There’s something to be said about having a tight, wiry group of people. I would love to have a few more people… but I am kind of a micro-manager,” Gutfeld admits.
O’Connor tells Deadline that there’s been a big shift from doing 50 shows a year as The Greg Gutfeld Show to 250 a year. “I compare it to playing football versus baseball. Before you’re trying certain creative things and you might get something right or wrong and then you have a week to tinker. Whereas this is like baseball where you play every day. If something was great you say ‘Great show, we got another one to do tomorrow’ or if you didn’t love that one as much, that’s ok, we’ve got another one tomorrow,” he says. “It’s very build, destroy, build.”
The show also moved into a new studio in May designed to fit his studio audience and may also open opportunities for Gutfeld and his team to try new things. O’Connor says that the new setup is like live theater. “A few times we’ve done stand-up comedy in there and we would like to expand that in future, which I guess makes it more of a traditional late-night feel,” he says.
Gutfeld has eclectic musical tastes – he’s a fan of, and friends with, the likes of Buzz Osborne, frontman of sludge rockers The Melvins and thrash band Power Trip, whose singer Riley Gale who died in 2020 was close with Gutfeld.
He tells Deadline of the joy of seeing Lee Ving’s punk rock band Fear tear up Saturday Night Live, The Clash perform on ABC’s SNL-inspired Fridays and Iggy Pop appear on The Tom Synder Show.
Gutfeld has considered having live bands on his show, although he admits that one of the difficulties with late-night shows is that audiences that aren’t a fan of the artist might switch off. It hasn’t stopped him dreaming of bandleaders that you wouldn’t expect, though.
He says that hosting the nightly show is the “best job I’ve ever had”. He admits that it’s grueling to be on two shows in one day, but adds that essentially he’s doing the same thing that he did in high school, which is “making stupid comments”, “enjoying myself” and “relentlessly, topically talk shit into the ground”. “That’s basically what I do for a living so it’s an appropriate direction,” he adds.
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