On Thursday, FOX News announced that Greg Gutfeld would be leaving Red Eye to develop a one-hour weekend program. For readers that never tuned in, (looking at you, President Obama) Red Eye was a big ole middle finger to the omnipresent panel-with-pundits programming that continues to litter the cablesphere. The table talk would cover everything from Al Qaeda, to Obamacare to the latest kitten YouTube video with the kind of gravitas rarely seen in a Steve Kroft sext. And the best convos would involve a mix of regulars that included, but weren’t limited to, current congressmen, presidential contenders, White House press secretaries, former CIA operatives, Avenue Q puppets, Mexican wrestlers, transvestite actresses and…Oderus Urungus, (R.I.P.).
I know all of this because, for the first seven years, I was the co-host. Which basically entailed voicing an anthropomorphic broadsheet made to look like the paper of record (our New York Times correspondent was, well, the actual New York Times), physically harmful Man On The Streets, and being constantly referred to as either a “repulsive sidekick” or—which my mom loved—a “sequential hermaphrodite.”
Andy Levy was our libertarian ombudsman who’d correct what we got wrong midway through the hour, Greg was the conservative host, and yours truly as the goofy liberal/possible heroin addict.
It was messy, it was nonsensical and it had no business being on the Most Powerful Name In News™. But, thanks to our meth-friendly time slot (3 a.m., EST), the powers that be sort of forgot about us and we had trial-by-fire time to actually learn as we haphazardly went. And it started to kinda flourish! All thanks to a super devoted fan base, and the fact that our inaugural guests rightly assumed they could go out and get loaded with us after the show wrapped.
It was also, in its own little way, the most fair and balanced bit of programming on the channel.
I’d known Greg since 2000. He was my editor-in-chief at Stuff magazine (R.I.P., part two) and he claims—although I still don’t remember this—that I introduced myself at his welcoming party as the “first editor you’ll fire.” He didn’t. He actually ended up teaching me a lot.
And if my copy wasn’t up to snuff? Best believe GG’s edit would involve “THIS WOULD BE GOOD IF IT WAS FUNNY AND WELL-WRITTEN, ASSHOLE” as constructive criticism. It was kicker-writing boot camp and, in hindsight, it was exactly what I needed.
Four years, and many HR warnings later, Greg was in London editing Maxim U.K. and making a name for himself, via various satellite appearances, at FOX News as a conservative guest that was actually funny. NewsCorp. brass eventually approached him about helming a late, late night unscripted free-for-all while they focused on their real priority: a big budget conservative answer to The Daily Show titled… The Half Hour News Hour.
I know, right?
(I don’t really remember it either.)
But with the higher-ups’ eyes on that festering little turd of a TV show, Greg could pretty much do what he wanted, and hire accordingly.
So when he called me to see if I wanted to be on staff for this crapshoot, my first question was: “Did you already hire a former Director’s Guild Of America executive that leaves pithy comments on your HuffPo columns?” Thankfully, he had indeed snagged one Andy Levy.
My second question: “Do you like nice things and having fun?” (Okay. I didn’t have a second question. Obviously, I was already in.)
Now, to say Greg and I always got along would be like saying Brian Williams is a Purple Heart winner. Indeed, I was off the show as of November 2013, for reasons so undisclosed that I’m not even sure I’m allowed to write the word “undisclosed”.
Upside? Gutfeld tolerated me way longer than Simon did Garfunkel.
But as much as we butted heads, I was always in awe of his talent, what he created, and continued to cultivate throughout my super shaky tenure. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Red Eye. I don’t know how Greg is going to deal with not hosting his Pee-Wee’s Playhouse of a cable news program. Hell, I don’t even know where I am right now. But I do know that I’m a better person for being a part of it. (Mostly because of that wardrobe budget. Still eBaying all those sweet, sweet J Crew slacks.)