Fox News host Greg Gutfeld is out with a new book entitled “The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph Over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage.” In full and fair disclosure, I haven’t actually read it. But I’m not going to let that stop me from weighing in.
Gutfeld is the host of “Red Eye,” Fox News’ rambunctious late night (actually overnight) talk show. “Red Eye” premiered in February 2007 to zero fanfare. There was a great deal of fanfare, however, for another show that debuted on Fox News that same month: “The ½ Hour News Hour,” which was supposed to be the conservative answer to “The Daily Show.” I had high hopes for “Half Hour.” Conservatives, of course, are constantly the butt of jokes from every corner of the popular culture. Finally, I thought, we’d have one show that would turn the tables: conservatives would be ridiculing the many liberals who deserved it. I so wanted the show to be funny. And it so wasn’t. I kept tuning in for several weeks, hoping against hope that the show would work out the kinks. I finally accepted that those weren’t the kinks; that was the show. The liberal monopoly on political humor was safe, at least for the time being.
Shortly after I gave up on “Half Hour” (and shortly before Roger Ailes followed suit), I accidentally stumbled upon “Red Eye.” After arriving home in the middle of the night from an overseas trip, I reflexively switched on the TV. I listened with half an ear while I unpacked, but the show quickly pulled me in. A panel with diverse opinions was discussing current issues, with the host’s conservative-to-libertarian views providing something of a center of gravity. What really grabbed me, though, was the show’s tone. The discussion was infused with the type of silliness you have to be smart to pull off — a feigned adolescence that was clearly satirical. It was quite unique and it made me laugh — not out of loyalty or obligation, as had been the case with “Half Hour,” but because the host and his guests kept saying things that were surprising and funny. I couldn’t believe I was watching Fox News. I couldn’t imagine that the suits at that network — or at any network, for that matter — would find the show remotely amusing. But I certainly did (and have since learned that I wasn’t alone).
After that first night, I looked forward to catching “Red Eye” when I could. There was so much that was unique and enjoyable about the show: its slightly amateurish feel, which actually enhanced the comedy; the bizarre videos that went on for way too long, but were funny precisely because they went on for way too long; the sly wit of the show’s “ombudsman,” Andy Levy; the silly inside jokes (including always referring to said ombudsman, a television novice, with the absurdly tautological moniker of “TV’s Andy Levy”). What I most enjoyed, though, was watching Gutfeld and others express conservative views in such a hip and entertaining manner. There were plenty of non-conservative views expressed on “Red Eye,” of course — that was part of the fun — but to see conservative views expressed that way was a stereotype-busting revelation.
With its motley assortment of guests — comedians, distinguished political types, underground music legends and everything in between — “Red Eye” manages to capture the vibe of a bunch of friends out for drinks at a local bar.
That vibe is fleshed out by constant playful banter, much of which has undertones that could only be described as, ahem, homoerotic. I don’t take kindly to the bashing of my gay relatives and friends, and usually don’t expect the combination of “conservative” and “gay-themed humor” to end well. Gutfeld, however, is one conservative who can be trusted to go there. With a healthy dose of self-deprecation, he somehow manages to steer clear of the hateful offensiveness without sacrificing the humor or the edge.