How Greg Gutfeld turned Fox News into a late-night ratings juggernaut

Monday marked a major milestone for CNN, as new boss Chris Licht officially took over the reins of the news network and is now attempting a restart after months of scandal and chaos. With the imprimatur of the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, Licht are set to usher in changes that include, among other things, tilting CNN’s editorial pendulum away from strong-opinion resistance programming. However, he cannot change everything.

Like how CNN is almost guaranteed to remain a favorite punching bag for The Fox News channel Late-night host Greg Gutfeld, whose 11 p.m. show “Gutfeld!” has been a powerhouse since its launch just over a year ago. Monday, by the way, was also a big day for Gutfeld, marking the start of a newer, expanded studio for his show — the second most-watched late-night program on all of broadcast and cable.

Gutfeld, who also serves double duty as a panelist on Fox’s “The five”, is as aware as anyone that Licht began his reign on Monday. Because there are times when the Fox News veteran has posted such high ratings over the past year that his still-young late-night show has actually garnered more eyeballs than “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” from CBS.

This is where Licht worked as showrunner, before decamping to CNN.

During a broadcast of “The Five” last week, following CNN’s announcement that its new parent company was unplugging the CNN+ streaming service, Gutfeld could barely contain his joy, launching one broadside after another at the network. And to Chris Wallace in particular, the former Fox News host who left his anchoring chair at Fox for a job with the network’s arch-news cable nemesis.

“The Democratic bench is thinner than CNN+’s Chris Wallace demo tape,” Gutfeld joked at one point on that show, in typical Gutfeld fashion. Edgy and irreverent, with a snark that often coincides with a favorite right-wing theme: that the media is a bunch of joyless scoldings.

Late night winner

In fact, you could argue that at least some of Gutfeld’s success (an average of nearly 2 million viewers in April alone, surpassing Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon) is best understood in the context of missteps and declining ratings at CNN. Not to mention the ideological similarity across much of the late-night landscape.

To the extent that CNN’s most high-profile anchors like Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper have a loyal viewer base, for example, you’d assume it’s because their audience appreciates the kind of journalism provided by hosts like these- the. Even so, one of the quirks of CNN+ was the fact that it sought money from subscribers in exchange for giving them something completely different from those hosts — a parenting show from Cooper and a book club from Tapper. .

At Fox, meanwhile, the top brass saw an opportunity inherent in “The Five” (the most-watched show on cable news) and decided to turn two of its panelists into force multipliers for the network. Giving viewers even more of what they once loved about “The Five’s” Jesse Watters (who now hosts his own prime-time show at 7 p.m. ET on Fox) and Gutfeld — who insisted that his show of late night on Fox is getting better ratings than established rivals including Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” because audiences are tired of being lectured.

“People don’t go to entertainment to do their homework,” Gutfeld told me. “You don’t pay for homework. And I feel like there’s been this modern kind of woke culture where everything is informed with a lesson you have to learn – it’s like I don’t need to be lectured. I didn’t come here to be told how oppressive this is and I have to, like, learn these things. I came to have fun.

“Gutfield! celebrated its one-year anniversary earlier this month on April 5. That same week, the show had its most-watched week yet, with nearly 2.2 million viewers, even surpassing Colbert’s show two days in that 7-day span. .

“If you’ve watched my stuff,” Gutfeld continued, in a recent phone interview after his show’s first year, “I spend a lot of time talking about the media. Because I know the internal flaws of it.

“I know what’s wrong with things. Because I was in there and I knew who I was working with. I know the assumptions of journalists and editors and how they try to please their peers.

“We are on your side”

It’s a reference to Gutfeld’s past life as a writer and editor for magazines like “Men’s Health” before moving into broadcast at Fox.

“Gutfeld’s show was successful because it came at exactly the right time.” he said. “People are tired of learning that every institution in your life is somehow oppressor versus oppressed.

“What we did was we said we were no different from you. We look at this thing with yellow eyes. We understood. We are by your side. So I think it’s a combination of we’re entertainment and we’re not homework.

In addition to a new studio for his show, “Gutfeld! Monday also hosted a live studio audience. And shortly before delivering the monologue of the night, built around an uprising against Apple

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Pushed back to the office, Gutfeld used the opening seconds of his show to kill two birds with one stone:

He joked about the new studio and the return of his audience, while taking another swipe at CNN’s Wallace.

“We’re in a brand new studio — although I found one of Chris Wallace’s old toupees in my dressing room,” Gutfeld deadpanned.

The monologue about the iPhone maker he then embarked on, meanwhile, perfectly encapsulates why, in his show’s first year, he drew ratings that topped CNN and MSNBC together in the same slot. hourly. Gutfeld’s rant, in particular, was inspired by the circulation of an open letter from Apple employees claiming that Apple CEO Tim Cook’s mandate of a hybrid back-to-work policy is indeed racist. – that the push will make Apple “younger, whiter and masculine-dominated.”

Gutfeld: “We’re having fun”

It’s the kind of story tailor-made to go through the “Gutfeld!” wringer.

“I’m not a hard-line conservative,” Gutfeld told me. “I’m not a hard-line Republican – I’m not even a hard-line libertarian. I don’t even know what I am.

“My show is deliberately surreal and absurd, because I am absurd. I call it the Dean Wormer effect. Dean Wormer was the villain in “Animal House” and was always kind of the hood ornament of what a Republican was, and everyone’s having fun, right? … My goal has always been to reverse that. Whereas we are the fun people, and the left, the Democrats, who are the scolds. You see now, with even Bill Maher saying, my god, my side is humorless and the other side is having fun.