The morning after Fox News premiered its deeply unfunny foray into the late-night comedy space, comedian Ron Funches summed up the general reaction by tweeting: “Gutfield gonna get renewed off of comedians hate watching alone.”
Greg Gutfeld—a longtime co-host of Fox News’ The Five who is known for such edgy commentary as downplaying the cost of war, dismissing obvious racism, and unabashedly sucking up to Donald Trump—premiered a new 11 p.m. show Monday night called Gutfeld! Its title evokes Jeb Bush’s failed presidential campaign and the logo design seems to directly resemble the Garfield comics, as comedian Tim Heidecker highlighted ahead of the broadcast.
“I’m as giddy as Kamala Harris explaining kids in cages,” Gutfeld told viewers at the top of the show. “Or Woody Allen hearing about kids in cages.” From there, he presented bizarre “parodies” of MSNBC’s Brian Williams reporting “from the surface of Mars” (referencing a six-year-old media scandal, how topical) and a poorly acted mock-CNN panel in which two white people accused each other of being racist.
Given that Gutfeld used his opening monologue to directly attack the big late-night hosts he’s “supposed to compete against,” accusing Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon of being essentially risk-averse, fawning crybabies, and “joking” that Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers have “run off to be obscure together,” we decided to ask some actual comedians to critique his attempts at “comedy.”
Notably absent from the late-night hosts on Gutfeld’s shit list was HBO’s Bill Maher, perhaps because the sneering “New Rules” rants that end each episode of Real Time appear to be his greatest inspiration.
Former Daily Show producer—and current Oscar nominee for writing Borat Subsequent Moviefilm—Jena Friedman instantly recognized the similarities, telling The Daily Beast, “It’s like watching a guy going through a divorce doing an impression of Bill Maher,” adding, “His Bill Maher impression isn’t bad!”
“He reminds me of the boss whose jokes you’re forced to laugh at,” she continued. “I didn’t think it was bad for someone who has never done comedy... just a little bitter and angry.”
“Just because something has the cadence of a joke does not make it a joke,” former Nightly Show writer Sasha Stewart added, before also referencing the tepid laughter that could be heard in the background. “I’m sorry for the five staffers who make up the laugh track. I know they’re staffers because it’s the kind of sharp, pained laugh of a person who’s barely getting paid enough to be there.”
Conan writer Laurie Kilmartin was reluctant to directly criticize the “competition” but she did tweet this “promo” for the show before it aired:
And Blaire Erskine, who is best known for her MAGA-mocking Twitter videos, mostly had a lot of questions. “Why does he call himself ‘GG’ as if he's somebody's grandmother?” she wondered. “Why do I feel like he’s reading his opening manifesto from the teleprompter for the very first time? But more importantly, why is he white-knuckle clutching a clipboard holding what appears to be a stack of empty file folders?”
Former White House speechwriter Jon Lovett, who wrote some of Barack Obama’s best White House Correspondents’ Dinner jokes and delivers his own version of a late-night-style monologue every week on his podcast Lovett or Leave It, found some humor in Gutfeld’s claim to be doing something “different” than any other primetime Fox show.
“Love a monologue about being brave enough to take on cancel culture. FINALLY someone is willing to say at 11 what was also said at 8, 9, and 10. Greg won’t be silenced!” Lovett told us. “The whole thing is pretty embarrassing. Fox News is evil.” But then, for good measure, he added, “I approve of all Woody Allen jokes.”
Anthony Atamanuik, of The President Show fame, was similarly baffled by the anti-corporatist rant that took up the second half of Gutfeld’s monologue. “It was a confused ramble containing five year old reference jokes woven into a toothless meandering ‘stand’ against social media and corporations that concluded with an impotent humorless sputter of self-importance,” he said.
Others were less willing to give Gutfeld the time of day. Reached for comment, former Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore replied with two words: “No thanks.”
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