In the latest exclusive Daily Wire interview, Fox News star Greg Gutfeld discusses his unorthodox rise to media prominence and how to counter the “bully machinery” of Cancel Culture.
Greg Gutfeld remembers the time in high school where he feared he was a fraud.
The future Fox News superstar entered a debate on nuclear energy confident he could defend his anti-nuke bona fides.
“Bombs are made for killing,” the young Gutfeld said en route to what he predicted would be a sure victory on the nuclear freeze topic.
“In the middle of it I realized I was a fraud. I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was a superficial clown on this topic,” Gutfeld says.
“I think I won, but It was so obvious that I didn’t,” Gutfeld recalls of the applause-driven metrics, adding his opponent “beat me to death” during the debate.
Years later, when he became a print journalist, he learned the rigorous research required to share data with the public. And, along the way, he discovered too many reporters weren’t much better than his teen self at getting the facts straight.
“I’ve been on every side of an interview. People look for stories to shape and match their assumptions,” he says. “It taught me to be super skeptical.”
And careful, of course, particularly when writing medicine-based stories for publications like Prevention Magazine.
“You make a mistake in these magazines, and you could kill somebody,” he says.
Today, the TV star draws a sizable crowd on both his Saturday night Fox News program, “The Greg Gutfeld Show” and “The Five” weekday roundtable. The latter crushed all of CNN’s daytime and prime time programming as well as most MSNBC shows for July, averaging 3.3 million viewers (including 489,000 in the 25-53 age demographic), according to Fox News.
“The Greg Gutfeld Show” lapped the combined audiences of MSNBC and CNN during the same period in total viewers. It also was the second most-watched late night program in all of television behind CBS’s “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert.
Former President George W. Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino credits Gutfeld for coaxing her out of her Beltway-built shell. “The Five” co-host wasn’t the only one Gutfeld helped along the way.
“He’s very good about spotting talent early and helping grow that talent,” Perino says, citing rising Fox News stars like Kat Timpf and Tyrus. “He really does give people opportunities. He doesn’t push them too far or too fast. He brings them along. It’s a skill that not that many people have.”
Her co-host also connects with audiences in a way that’s both plainspoken and pure.
“He doesn’t use big, fancy words to make his points,” she says. “He’s really honed skills over the last several years in terms of persuasion.”
Gutfeld’s irreverent presence, snarky but substantive, took root during his childhood.
“I was kind of a weirdo. My interests were pretty eclectic,” says Gutfeld, recalling how punk music “consumed” him. He cherished “Monty Python,” Mad Magazine and the group known as Survival Research Laboratories, which created moving sculptures from mechanical doodads.
He longed to hang with people from the proverbial fringes but simultaneously learned how to understand people along the way.
“It’s a weird combination of traits,” says Gutfeld, who once played “Candyland” on air with the man credited with killing Osama bin Laden, Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill.
Gutfeld credits his late mother, Jackie Gutfeld, for forging core elements of his personality. She got him hooked on the “usual gang of idiots” at Mad Magazine, encouraged him to write what he calls “crazy little short stories.” In turn, he made her a part of his professional journey.
She contributed a tips column to Stuff Magazine (where her son increased circulation from 750,000 to 1.2 million) and even served as a “senior” correspondent on “Red Eye.”
Those days in the print magazine trenches, including stints at Men’s Health, Prevention and Maxim magazines, prepared him for his Fox News duties. He thought he was ready for the gig long before he actually landed it, though.
“Dude, I can really work here,” he recalls telling a Fox News contact after the network had him on as a guest. He laughs at his chutzpah now, but it took another gig for the Fox News connection to take root.
He started writing columns for The Huffington Post, mocking the people who wrote for the liberal site. That caught the attention of Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart, who had connections with a Fox News affiliate in Los Angeles.
That led to his first Fox News gig, hosting the late, late night show known as “Red Eye.”
He trusted his curious instincts, and it paid off in unexpected ways. Consider the recurring bit around “Pinch,” a puppet made of old New York Times newspapers meant to mock the liberal news outlet.
“I learned there are people as weird as I am,” he says. So he trotted out unusual bits without trying to over-explain them. Audiences, at least those on a similar wavelength, bonded with him and the show.
He also received “tons of hate mail,” he notes, letters pleading with his bosses to fire him.
The gig came with heaping helpings of anxiety, even if the on-camera Gutfeld took it all in stride.
“You’re getting up there and doing it without a net, making a fool out of yourself on TV,” he says. “I hadn’t performed [before]. I’ve never gone on stage and done bits. People assume that I did, but I was always a print dude.”
The “print dude” racked up impressive ratings for a 3 a.m. EST production, routinely topping competitors’ shows airing at much more friendly time slots.
The usual suspects didn’t immediately savage the show. In fact, the progressive Slate.com wrote a tempered love letter to “Red Eye” months into its improbable run. The site called it “a tabloid gabfest and a dumbfounding frat party—a production so light and crude that it seems to have been adapted from the margins of a spiral-bound notebook, right down to its hair-metal-indebted logo and that indifferent w-slash.”
That’s a compliment. So is this:
“[Gutfeld] tries to play the boor here, with Sarah Silverman shock tactics and one eye on the gutter, but there’s a nerdish twist to his sense of humor and a good-natured twinkle in his eye.”
Fox News eventually retired “Red Eye,” leaving Gutfeld with both “The Five,” and later his self-titled show. The host’s predilection for the printed page never faded. Best sellers like “Not Cool,” “The Joy of Hate” and “How to Be Right” showcased his wit in a retro, albeit familiar, format.
The older, wiser Gutfeld’s new book, “The Plus,” offers a different side of the media personality. His publishing contact targeted a 2021 release date for a new Gutfeld tome, but he saw too many culture fissures that demanded his attention now.
Cancel Culture. The pandemic. Mobs gone wild. Social media rage-a-thons.
“If I wait any longer on this it’ll be old,” he feared. Only he didn’t want to merely recite the modern ills damaging society. He had ways to deal with them, ways to put our best selves forward.
The comedic book offers tips for navigating social media, supporting those pulled over by the P.C. police and more. Risk sharing, where we rally behind those unfairly “canceled,” is just one strategy highlighted in the book.
“If the person is innocent you have to help them,” he says, adding the more people who rush to someone’s aid, the less likely anyone will be officially “cancelled.”
The “Cancel Culture” passages in the book read as if they were written last week given the tenor of the times. It’s “bully machinery,” he says of the cultural movement.
Other chapters get more personal, with Gutfeld sharing how he evolved on a number of fronts. One painful episode shows the personality bombing with an opening joke, a reminder to be both humble and aware of the crowd before you.
A sidebar/rant on “How to Read a Never Trumper,” from a personality who took time to warm to the atypical leader, is similarly on target. So is his comic assault on “binary thinking,” offering clever ways to avoid that intellectual mouse trap.
Gutfeld shares “The Five” with liberals like Juan Williams, and he’s equally willing to knock back a few cold ones with progressive pals.
”I have friends who are liberals in rock bands, and they totally disagree with me on everything,” he says. “We go out and we have fun.”
That camaraderie isn’t always mutual these days, but Gutfeld has an ace in the hole.
Those friends may loathe his politics, but chances are “their parents don’t,” he says. “It happens a lot,” he notes, including one liberal comic whose mother likes Gutfeld more than him, the Fox News star jokes.
Or is he?
He once nearly landed an artist on his Fox News show who initially turned down his invitation in no uncertain terms.
“Faux News!” the artist all but shouted via an email exchange. Then the artist had a change of heart.
“Two days later, ‘you know, um, I was telling my Dad I got an email from you and he totally flipped out,’” Gutfeld recalls.
“Whatever they feel toward me, there’s somebody in their family that likes me,” he says. “They have to deal with that.”
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