“I’ve got tits. I’ve got fucking tits.”
Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News’ bawdy, blogger-friendly 2 a.m. chatfest Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, was smoking outside the Landmark Tavern in Hell’s Kitchen on a recent Sunday night and talking about the changes wrought on his physique since his TV show debuted in February.
“I’ve completely stopped exercising,” he continued. “I have not thought about going to a gym. My diet has gone to hell; I smoke more. I don’t think my drinking has gotten worse; it’s just more intense. I need it—and I’ve never needed it. The one thing I hate about it is, the people around you, who you love, you end up being kind of mean to them. Because you feel they don’t understand. And it’s a very wrong kind of thing.”
Back when Mr. Gutfeld, 42, was editing Men’s Health (fired), Stuff (kicked upstairs) and Maxim UK (contract not renewed), he’d get up at 5:30 a.m. and work out. “You could be as vain and self-absorbed as you wanted,” he said. “I had like 2 percent body fat. I was insane, and I realized I just wasn’t happy. Or something.”
Mr. Gutfeld had been drinking beer since 3 p.m. and had moved on to vodka. Behind his black-framed glasses, his blue eyes were bloodshot. Soon he’d be going home to his two-bedroom co-op and his wife, Elena Moussa, a 25-year-old Russian beauty he met in London.
If Red Eye isn’t quite Fox’s answer to The Daily Show—that distinction belongs to Fox’s truly awful The ½ Hour News Hour—the show’s giddy roster of New York–area media stars and camera-craving bloggers, who are probably unknown and unattractive to the vast majority of Fox viewers, is evidence that Fox wishes to make itself a respectable place to do business for the next-generation New York media elite.
While the show runs largely on jokes, riffs and loopy news bits, it’s prevented from relaxing too much into apolitical anarchy by the hand of Fox News president Roger Ailes, who dropped sultry conservative Toronto Sun columnist Rachel Marsden smack in the middle of the merry band of pranksters to make it clear that politics with a rightward bent is still the Fox brand, particularly if it arrives on long legs.
So far, about 300,000 viewers are tuning in to the show, which is taped at 8:40 p.m. and airs at 2 a.m. The format is unscripted. In the studio with Mr. Gutfeld are his sidekick, Bill Schulz (a Muppet-like fellow that Mr. Gutfeld described as “the funniest person I’ve ever met in my life”); the coltish (and Coulter-ish) Ms. Marsden; and guests, who recently have included gadfly Christopher Hitchens, comic Jackie Mason, blogger Rachel Sklar, Fox News correspondent Laurie Dhue and redneck comedian Larry the Cable Guy. The topics whiz past—most segments barely last a minute. Mr. Gutfeld has a stack of blue cards with things written on them such as “woman’s severed finger found in purse,” and he’ll toss the conversational ball around.
“I feel like I’m a lion tamer holding chain saws,” Mr. Gutfeld said. “Because I want to say something funny, but I’m too busy going, O.K., what do I do next?” The surreal feeling of the show blends into the type of commercials running at that insomniac hour—Vermont Teddy Bears, adjustable beds, giant tomatoes.
“It’s somewhat similar to somebody who’s lost his mind,” Mr. Gutfeld said. “Because I’m a complete maniac. You may disagree with me, but you can’t stop watching …. I don’t even think you have to like the show to get sucked in.”
“You almost feel like you’re going out and not going out,” said VH1 contributor Michelle Collins. “It’s like being at a bar with your friends and hearing all their opinions—while laying in bed eating Snackwell cookies.”
While Mr. Gutfeld tries to keep the show from idling too long on partisan territory (“They get that 23 hours a day”), his own politics are fairly at home on Fox. He dismisses liberalism as “romantic notions that are false, based on the idea of making yourself look good to other people. That’s why most men—Bill Clinton is a good example—are liberal, because they need to get laid. If you look at most left-wing guys, they’ve made a deal with the devil. They don’t really believe that shit—they’re going against their own innate nature, because liberalism is anti-man. If you believe that peace and love work, you’re not a man, because this world works on war. The only people who respect you are people who are scared of you—and that’s why Reagan was a great President. And the idea that you can negotiate with people who want you dead is a complete lie. That’s why the left is the most self-absorbed, vanity-driven enterprise. These are people who would rather feel good about themselves at a cocktail party that actually protect people’s lives. If you’re at a party and you say, ‘The war on terror is the most important thing in the world’—you won’t get a nod. But if you say, ‘Global warming is the biggest threat,’ you will get laid.”
“His show is an arena built on self-congratulation,” said Mr. Gutfeld. “He meets his audiences’ assumptions, and that makes them feel good. And I think that’s weak. At times he’s funny, but that’s the easiest job in the world—to show up and have people kiss your ass.”