Fox News host Greg Gutfeld has made a name for himself by spinning conservative talking points into an entertaining routine, often one characterized by a mixture of nihilism and ribaldry.
The 58-year-old’s knack for cramming political satire and reckless buffoonery into 11 PM time slots has resulted in one of the network’s most-watched hours in cable news, often leaving his non-guild peers like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon in the dust. Gutfeld’s provocative pitch has been met with criticism from analysts and others on both sides of the aisle, including Amy Schumer, who recalled her guest spots on his previous show, "Red Eye," fondly.
"Seriously, I need to sit down," she said when told of Gutfeld’s late-night ratings. That certainly wasn’t the case earlier this May, when Gutfeld made an on-air pitch absolving a 38-year-old teacher who was accused of having sex with a 16-year-old student. "Can we live in the real world?" asked the Gutfeld, drawing upon the Van Halen song, “Hot for Teacher.”
The co-hosts of the show expressed mixed reactions to Gutfeld’s suggestion to absolve the teacher, while the online reaction was swift, with many outlets slamming Gutfeld for his take. However, this is just indicative of the provocateurish nature of the show, which Gutfeld has characterized as “recreational beliefs,” defined as things that don’t hurt anyone and “spark a conversation.” Gutfeld’s “Gutfeld!” has consistently outrated Stephen Colbert’s “The Tonight Show” in the coveted 25-54 demographic, delivering a victory for the right in the cultural dominance of politically liberal late-night talk shows.
Fewer and fewer of these shows are also producing episodes due to the Hollywood writers’ strike, resulting in Gutfeld solidifying his place as the only game in town, and helping Fox inch towards appealing to a younger crop of viewers. In addition, Gutfeld’s success has been tied to his ability to validate his viewers’ perspectives on the issues that matter most. This has included his allegiance to former president Donald Trump, which was initially critical of the president before a “well-timed recalibration.”
Fox News executives are banking on Gutfeld’s roguishness and instincts to increasingly provide the network’s institutional voice for the next generation, culminating in a promotion from his current 11 pm slot to 10 pm later this year.
Gutfeld’s stoking of recreational beliefs is certainly one example in a long list of Fox News’ intertwining of news and entertainment, and ultimately something that Nick Marx, a Colorado State University professor and co-author of “That’s Not Funny,” a book about right-leaning comedy, has called the “troubling culmination” of “right-wing comedy.”
What this means for Fox News’ future remains to be seen, but as Gutfeld insists, at least viewers don’t have to worry about “turmoil” at the network— for now.