late night tv

A Few Sincere Suggestions for Gutfeld!

Gutfeld on Gutfeld! Photo: Fox News

Look, comedy’s a tough business. Creating a new late-night comedy show that really works is a huge, daunting challenge under any circumstance, and that’s still true even if you’re a well-known Fox News host with an established audience, devoted brand following, massive lead-in, and giant cultural and financial safety net if you fail. There has yet to be a really successful, sharp conservative take on the genre, which means there’s not much precedent to model yourself on. So I really feel for Greg Gutfeld, the host of the new Fox News late-night comedy show Gutfeld! If he wants to turn Gutfeld! into a cultural powerhouse, a major late-night destination for conservative voices interested in jokes about how Joe Biden is very old, he’s got a big job ahead of him.

In the interest of helping a new voice in comedy, I’d like to offer some suggestions for Gutfeld, based on my viewing of Gutfeld!’s first episode on Monday, April 5. These suggestions are sincere! They actually are! I think there’s some potential here, but there’s also lots of room for growth! Let’s tighten these jokes up, Greg Gutfeld! I noticed you use a lot of exclamation points in your show, so I’m doing my best to make you feel at home!

No. 1: I know the zeitgeist and the whole Fox News deal means that you’re required to talk about cancel culture. It’s all over your billboards and promos. It’s all anyone talks about — the idea gets a lot of traction. I get it. But you barely touch on it at all in the first episode! It’s just a light mention up top that quickly segues into a criticism of other late-night hosts. It just feels like your heart’s not really in it, you know? And that’s okay! You can pick a new topic if you want. You could cancel talking about cancel culture!

No. 2: It’s very, very silly that you end your monologue with the word “period,” and it has an exclamation point at the end. I really enjoyed that gentle, punctuation-based humor, and I think Gutfeld! could stand to embrace even more jokes in that vein. The first episode of Gutfeld! includes some commentary about how jokes can bring us all together rather than divide us, and that’s a lovely message to take seriously. There are very few truly non-partisan topics these days. Punctuation could be fertile ground for more jokes.

No. 3: The aim of Gutfeld! isn’t really to be non-partisan, though, is it? Which is fine — it’s on Fox News. Of course no one expects or wants this show to be a warm and fuzzy lightly humorous American kumbaya. And to Gutfeld!’s real credit, the show does land on topics that have absolutely earned a thorough dunking. There’s an entire segment on Andrew Cuomo. If anyone deserves to be the subject of repeated, vigorous, gleeful conservative joking, it is Andrew Cuomo. But you don’t go deep enough! You pointed out that he covered up nursing home deaths, you hit on the book-writing ethics violations, and you made fun of him for loving his own voice, but you left so much low-hanging fruit on the tree. The toxic managerial history, the stupid rivalries, the thing where he claimed to not be a product of the political club?! But Gutfeld! pulled a “Let’s cut to Cuomo” and then played a clip of a pig eating a potato chip. Why go so soft on such a rich target?

No. 4: Speaking of the pig eating a potato chip: The first episode of Gutfeld! goes to the Cute Animal Video As Joke Punchline well twice in its 40-minute run time. Everyone loves a cute animal, but I think we both know it’s a little … let’s call it effort-light. You should also really consider a tighter edit on jokes like that; my guess is you can get away with more of them if you adopt more of a fast-cut style. There are probably some TikTok videos that could help with learning the timing!

No. 5: It’s smart of Gutfeld! to incorporate a panel-show element. America should do more panel comedy shows, and if Gutfeld! is what it takes for us to realize this, so be it. Still, it may be helpful to do more structured writing in those panel sections, at least for now. That Amazon-pee-bottle bit was meant to feel loose on purpose, but it definitely felt loose on accident. There are big gains to be made here by just building in a tighter idea of what the panel is meant to be riffing on.

No. 6: Gutfeld!, in its first episode at least, has a really fascinating anti-big-corporation theme happening, and truthfully, I kind of dig it. But as a viewer, I can sense that you start wondering exactly what limb you’ve climbed out onto when you tackle the “Amazon drivers pee in bottles” thing. You drive it right up to the line of being a critique of huge corporations and their exploitative labor practices, and then I can almost see the moment where everyone on the panel looks at each other and is not sure whether to take the next step. Take it! I bet you’ll find a lot of your audience is very comfortable laughing at Jeff Bezos.

No. 7: That whole Hunter Biden–parmesan cheese thing really, really tickled you, huh? I don’t personally get it or agree with it, but in the interest of helping you, maybe instead of just repeating “parmesan cheese” over and over, try to push that joke into new territory. Something-something-Burisma sounds like a kind of cheese? Workshop this, and consider building on the “pa” sound in parmesan for a higher density of funny words.

No. 8: The fake plants on your set dressing look egregiously fake. This is a me thing, obviously, and I recognize this may be a nitpicky point, but they’re pretty distracting. Consider devoting some budget to reworking the set dressing.

No. 9: Have more fun with it! I’m not a big Gut-head, but it’s a little off-putting to see a late-night host offer himself up for such a thorough roasting from his fellow network hosts on the first night. Roasts are fun, but I worry that your seeming delight in offering yourself up to get so thoroughly criticized by your peers suggests a deep, buried self-loathing that you haven’t really examined. That kind of thing can be great fuel for comedy, don’t get me wrong, but it’s something you have to balance carefully so you come away looking coolly self-deprecating rather than sad. Just some food for thought.

No. 10: You’re embracing “this show’s logo looks like Garfield, and it makes a silly boing-boing noise when we cut to commercial.” Good for you, 10/10, no notes.

A Few Sincere Suggestions for Gutfeld!