Greg Gutfeld says he doesn’t have much time to watch Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert. But he spends his Saturday-night hour on Fox News Channel offering stuff that’s similar to what they do: quips, jokes, even sketches.
“People say they are interested in a different perspective in terms of popular culture, coming from somewhere that isn’t center left,” says Gutfeld, who hosts the freewheeling “Greg Gutfeld Show” Saturday nights on Fox News Channel. “We provide a perspective that isn’t part of the shared assumptions of late-night TV.”
This Saturday, Fox News will help him make his point, airing a promo that tilts against TV’s late-night crowd by showing that Gutfeld’s program draws a bigger overall audience than most of them. “Seth Meyers, James Corden, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah – the joke’s on you!” an announcer intones (Bill Maher, Jimmy Kimmel and John Oliver appear on screen, alongside their aforementioned late-night brethren). The promo contains quotes about Gutfeld’s show from articles that were published earlier this week.
Year to date, Fox News’ “Gutfeld” has secured a bigger average viewership – more than 1.73 million – than any of TV’s late-night offerings except CBS’ “Late Show” and NBC’s “Tonight Show.” And if you suggest a Saturday primetime program isn’t truly a late-night show, then consider the fact that Samantha Bee’s Wednesday-evening “Full Frontal” on TBS has been considered part of the category since its launch in 2016. To be sure, advertisers prize late-night programs for the young viewers they attract, not necessarily the entire crowd that watches, but CBS has not been shy in the past about touting the fact that its “Late Show” captures more overall viewers than NBC’s “Tonight.” Overall, viewers t “Gutfeld” have increased 7% year to date.
“There’s no question the two Jimmys are super-talented,” says Gutfeld of Fallon and Kimmel, but he thinks he’s got some of what they have to offer – with a twist. One of his show’s signature bits has been a series of spoof pharmaceutical ads that offer prescriptions for various fake maladies. One of them, “Demotrex,” promised a cure for “Democrats who over-promise and under-deliver.”
Fox News’ night-owl pitch comes after the Fox Corp.-owned cable-news outlet made a broader appeal to Madison Avenue. In recent positioning, the network reminded media buyers that its audience is wide and can be found across the nation, not just in so-called “red states.” The initiative to capture fans of late-night satire takes place as many of TV’s best-known hosts have gained broader traction by poking fun at – and in some cases, taking a strong antagonistic stance – against President Trump. The Trump presidency has lent a big boost to CBS’ Colbert, for example, and provided nightly fodder for NBC’s Seth Meyers.
This isn’t necessarily where Gutfeld thought he would be several years ago, when he was working as an editor at magazines like Prevention, Men’s Health and Stuff. “Editorial meetings were what trained me to be good at having fun conversations,” he says. After gaining some level of notoriety for hiring a group of little people to demonstrate to attendees at a magazine-industry convention how to generate buzz by being loud and annoying (the host describes himself as “a wise-ass who fails upward”), Gutfeld found his way to one of Fox News’ more interesting programming experiments – a dead-of-night panel program called “Red Eye” that Gutfeld describes as being “put together like a drunk would put together a sandwich at 3 A.M. – whatever is in the fridge.”
But his style clearly impressed other executives at the network. He was placed on one of Fox News’ most durable programs, “The Five,” in 2011. One of the bedrock elements of the show has been Gutfeld’s interaction with co-host Dana Perino, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott told Variety earlier this year. During a pilot, Scott and other Fox News programmers could not help but notice their natural chemistry, Scott said. “He’s incredibly clever and funny and she’s sort of the straight smart one.”
Gutfeld says the key to both his Saturday program and “The Five” is “an ability to make fun of each other and to make fun of ourselves.” And while he’s prone to make references to all sorts of pop-cultural artifacts from the past, he knows he has to keep his audience leaning forward and laughing. “We are not making an art film,” he quips. “If I get too abstract, I have to pull myself back in.”