Fox News has drawn a big crowd for years with shows that skewer liberals and the perceived excesses of the left.
Now the cabler is seeing strong returns for its experiment with Greg Gutfeld as host of a comedy-oriented 11 p.m. hour that blends roundtable discussion, sketches and Gutfeld’s pointed monologues in a “Daily Show”-meets-“Politically Incorrect” format.
Recent episodes have featured Gutfeld and guests railing against familiar culture war topics like “wokesters” questioning traditions in math, the concept of gender fluidity and a defense of Joe Rogan in his fight with CNN.
“I haven’t seen a doctor get that traumatized since my last prostate exam,” Gutfeld quipped after running a clip of Rogan interviewing CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
By any measure, “Gutfeld!” has been a success for Fox News since its April 5 debut. The nightly program has averaged 1.6 million viewers since its debut and 313,000 in the adults 25-54 demo. The show is competitive with broadcast network late-night shows — only CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” has a larger audience in total viewers — although “Gutfeld!” airs a half-hour earlier and it has an advantage by airing at 8 p.m. on the West Coast.
Nonetheless, the show has given Fox News a bigger presence in a lucrative time slot. “Gutfeld!” also allows Fox News to capitalize on the strong lead-in provided at 10 p.m. from Laura Ingraham’s program in a way that also expands the boundaries of Fox News programming. “Gutfeld!” easily improved on the cabler’s performance at 11 p.m. with the previous show in the hour, “Fox News @ Night With Shannon Bream.” Bream’s hour moved back to midnight and has also improved that time slot.
Gutfeld has been a Fox News personality since 2007 and he remains a co-host of its 5 p.m. evening roundtable program “The Five.” “Gutfeld!” is an evolution of his previous comedy-tinged programs, “Red Eye,” which aired from 2007-2015 at 3 a.m., and “The Greg Gutfeld Show,” which aired at 10 p.m. Saturday from 2015 until it morphed into “Gutfeld!”
As Fox News looks to reinvent itself for the future, Fox News chief Suzanne Scott saw an opportunity to deliver comedic takes on headlines, politics and culture from a different vantage point
“It is clear to anyone watching that broadcast and cable late night hosts ignore the viewpoint of at least half the country,” said Meade Cooper, Fox News’ executive vice president of programming. “We were confident there would be an audience looking for Greg’s unique, satirical take on the news.”
“Gutfeld!” is produced in similar fashion to other late-night comedy shows, with a core staff of writers and producers who hunt for material and hunt for fresh takes on news of the day. The “Gutfeld!” team makes no apologies for its right-of-center perspective on news and pop culture, given the larger Fox News eco-system.
“Gutfeld!” executive producer Tom O’Connor, a veteran of “Red Eye” and “Greg Gutfeld Show,” said the growing response to Gutfeld’s earlier shows convinced him that the show had Monday-Friday potential. He found receptive ears in Scott and Cooper. The show also frequently features other Fox News personalities as panelists.
“My pitch to them was, there’s this really funny guy named Greg having a small get-together with four interesting friends and you’re invited,” O’Connor told Variety. (O’Connor is recognizable to Gutfeld devotees as “Upper East Side Guy” from past sketch appearances.)
“Gutfeld!” is usually is shot around 6:30 p.m. ET in order to keep it as fresh as possible if the day’s news brings ripe material, O’Connor said.
“We want to keep this show and the conversation we have interesting, hilarious, at times weird and some times take unexpected turns,” he said.
As the show passed its six-month anniversary earlier this month, O’Connor said the host and the production staff has been buoyed by the strong response so far. Late last month “Gutfeld!” shot five shows in Nashville, and the fan reaction was beyond their most optimistic expectations.
In general, O’Connor said moving to the higher-profile 11 p.m. slot on the highly rated cabler has given the team the sense of being in the big leagues of late-night TV.
“Writing jokes and sketches the day of and getting it on that night is an unbelievable high,” he said.