Fox News' Greg Gutfeld Takes His Frenetic Style to the Crowded Late-Night Arena
"I never really thought about competition," he says of his move from 3 a.m. "My competition for 'Red Eye' was sleep."
Yes, 10 p.m. is technically primetime.
But late-night, the genre that seems to be expanding more each year, might be the best way to describe what Greg Gutfeld has planned for his new weekly effort on Fox News Channel. The Greg Gutfeld Show, premiering Sunday, finds the cable news network's resident eccentric hosting what's been described as a "multifaceted comedic hour" — relatively new terrain for Fox News.
Gutfeld has already accrued a following of insomniacs (3 a.m. telecast Red Eye) and people who skip out of work early (5 p.m. panel The Five), but this marks his first solo-hosting venture in news' traditional primetime block. And he plans to use that hour to skewer its contemporaries. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Gutfeld on the eve of the official premiere, just after some early imbibing on Today, and he described what he has in mind, what he wants to talk about and how he'll compare to Sunday's other late-night host: John Oliver.
You just had wine with Kathie Lee and Hoda. This is going to be a step down.
It was great, but I didn't get enough. I had a few gulps. It was actually taped the day before. I was on after a children's fashion segment. In the green room, I was just surrounded by kids.
What's the service like during the fourth hour of Today?
They just ask you what you want, and then they pour you a glass. I think I had a chardonnay. Then I wanted red, but I was doing The O'Reilly Factor after and I didn't want to have wine lips.
Are you going to drink on the new show?
I don't think so. I have this rule: If you do something and it works, you have to keep doing it. If I got drunk before a show and it turned out to be a great show, then I'd be superstitious. And that would turn you into a complete drunk. I would rather be incompetent and nervous than drunk, thinking I'm competent, and everybody going, "What's wrong with him?" I'd rather know that I'm failing.
You were on Red Eye at 3 a.m. I assume you never filmed that late.
No, it was at about 8:00 p.m. We were always done by 9:30, but it did have a late-night feel because of the way the studio looked and the way we behaved.
Most people wouldn't associate Fox News with experimentation, but you seem to be getting a lot of freedom with this show.
They basically said, "It's your brain. We trust you." That was it. I came from U.K. Maxim when I did Red Eye, and they just threw me into the pool. I didn't know what I was doing. That was the best training. No one has ever told me what to do. On The Five, I was originally there to just provide a comic monologue. They didn't expect that I would have anything more than some wisecracks. I think that they trust me to figure it out. I've learned from my mistakes in magazines that you have to remember that you have an audience to please. You can't go out there and be Andy Kaufman.
How is The Greg Gutfeld Show going to be different from Red Eye?
We have more time to prepare. I want the segments to be more focused, and I think we're going to do a lot of stranger things that go after the structure and conventions of shows. Red Eye was always about going after opinions. It was a satire or parody of what people thought, always going after people who were outraged. And we'll do that in this show, but I like going after the cliches in the structure of news. I have the time to play with that that I didn't before. It will be stranger. I don't want to say I'll be breaking any new ground, because I'm not breaking any ground. There's nothing new left to do! (Laughs.)
Did you consider doing the show in front of a live audience?
We have been going back and forth. At some point, I think we're going to experiment with it. Sometimes I say yes, but it can be such a hassle. Your staff has to spend time finding people when they could be doing other things. I think a live audience could be helpful for someone like me, whose pace is a little fast and could maybe [due to] slow down a bit. Audiences give you those natural interruptions.
It's not hard to lure people into a midtown TV studio.
Especially tourists. It's good for energy and instant feedback. But you know what? I don't think I need anymore energy at all. I could end up being total idiot. Maybe we'll do it just once a month.
What story in the news right now, good or bad, gets you really fired up?
I always look at recurring trends that are present in all stories, and what's driving me crazy is that everybody is evil if they disagree with you. I wrote The Joy of Hate, which was about faux outrage, but now I think it's gotten worse. No one is talking about poor judgment anymore. It's about your intent. If we disagree on something, it's not, "You're wrong." It's, "You're evil." I think it has something to do with the rise of identity politics. The personal is now political, and the political is now personal. And you can target people in the massive, eternal bathroom wall that is Twitter. Look at PacSun, with that shirt that had the upside down flag on it. You know they didn't know what they were doing, but people enjoyed saying how evil that was. And they get a lot of attention for that.
What's your morning media consumption like?
When you were a kid, news stopped at night. You went to bed, and news stopped. Now, if you wake up at 9 in the morning, you go to Twitter to see what's trending, kind of scared there's been a disaster. I read the headlines. I make coffee, and then I look at the music blogs. I go to Quietus and Pitchfork, which is a bit pretentious but still good. I play this game, and I am so good at this, where I can guess the rating. Say the band is called "Limited Studio Space" and album title is "Instant." I'll go, "7.4" and it's always 7.4. I can spot a 7.4 by the album cover.
The only other late-night type show on Sundays is Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. What's going to differentiate you from the competition?
I like that he takes on one issue. And it seems like a great gig. You go in on Monday, say you're going to focus on FIFA, and you know it's going to be great if you devote the whole week to it. I'm the opposite. In Sunday's show, there's probably 70 different elements. I like doing small things. Maybe the longest will be a four-minute monologue. I like to move quickly. That's not a jab at him. What he does is unique, and he's very funny and smart. I guess I never really thought about competition. My competition for Red Eye was sleep.