Over the past five years, Gutfeld has parlayed his unique brand of off-the-wall political humor into a position of prominence. Some conservatives believe that Gutfeld is our answer to Jon Stewart. But I don’t see much similarity between Stewart’s heavily written, heavily produced corporate comedy and the free-flowing, unforced humor that springs organically from “Red Eye.” Stewart is the stodgy establishment to Gutfeld’s subversive counterculture. Gutfeld is loose, Stewart tightly wound. Stewart is hugely talented and very smart, but not as smart as he thinks he is. Gutfeld, on the other hand, is clearly smarter than the character he often plays on TV. Beneath his clown mask, Gutfeld is quite an insightful commentator who, in my biased conservative opinion, grasps the inherent contradictions of modern liberalism in a way that Stewart can’t.
But the comparison with Stewart is valid in one respect: Stewart has become an important player in the liberal movement, and I believe that Gutfeld is on his way to becoming an important player in the conservative movement. Gutfeld speaks to the dissonance of conservatives, especially young ones, who are avid fans of a popular culture shaped by people who despise conservatives. (That’s why the spectacle of Chris Christie pining after Bruce Springsteen, as pathetic as it is, is also poignant.) Gutfeld, who is as hip to pop culture as they come, uses his hipness and humor as weapons to fight back on our behalf. He turns the comedic tables on the intolerant bullies of the left, helping us laugh at them just as hard as they laugh at us. No one is better at skewering the overfed egos and undernourished intellects of liberal celebrities. In eschewing “coolness” as it’s defined by the guardians of our popular culture, Gutfeld makes it cool to be conservative.
But while Gutfeld has strong appeal with conservatives, his greatest upside lies in his potential to cross over. His irreverent style is pitch-perfect for a younger audience, combining a righteous judgmentalism about people’s hypocrisy with a refreshing lack of judgmentalism about their lifestyles. It’s a style that can resonate not only with younger folks, but with others who have not traditionally welcomed the conservative message. A lot of Republican leaders have been moping around after the election, trying to figure out how to communicate our values to young voters and others who went for Obama. They could learn something by watching “Red Eye.”
Evidently, the brass at Fox News shares my assessment. They gave Gutfeld a co-hosting gig on another hugely entertaining show, “The Five.” And Gutfeld was tapped to guest host the network’s prime-time flagship, “The O’Reilly Factor,” last Friday. (It would’ve been great if Gutfeld had introduced his “O’Reilly” guests “Red Eye” style: “Please welcome Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. If political acumen were the speed limit, I’d violate him in my car.”)
As I noted at the start, I haven’t read Gutfeld’s new book. It’s not because I’m lazy, although there is that. Not having read the book allows me to review it with an objective distance that might elude other reviewers. But seriously, folks, I’m scheduled to pick up my copy at a book-signing event next week. So why did I write this column now? Because I don’t need to read the book in order to make the following statement: Greg Gutfeld is a uniquely gifted ambassador for the conservative cause, and we need to do whatever we can to support him. It is for that reason that I can, wholeheartedly and without reservation, give my highest recommendation to “The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph Over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage.” I even hope to read it one day.
David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals.