“If beauty were an onion, I’d cry while chopping her to pieces.”
That’s Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News’ late-night pop-culture/news chatfest “Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld,” introducing a recurring guest, entertainment reporter Courtney Friel. And it’s also about the only one of these introductions that can be printed in a family publication.
Lucky, then, that “Red Eye” airs weeknights at 3 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. on weekends).
“Once you start doing them,” says Gutfeld of the introductions, “you can’t stop. But the thing is, you always have this argument, this option to say, that you’re just playing with language.
“It’s fun, but it’s clean.”
Launched in February 2007 (“We’re trying to throw an anniversary party,” says Gutfeld, “but we’re two months late. That’s how lazy we are.”), “Red Eye” is a sort of alternate-reality version of a news and political roundtable.
Gutfeld and his guests make outrageous, sometimes-bleeped comments, Gutfeld draws the news - always featuring Unicorn Jones and sidekick Fluffy McNutter, a cat/dog hybrid - and there’s no real dividing line between satire and seriousness.
“It’s a weird animal,” says Gutfeld. “It does feel more British-y, because I lived there for a while. They do have these reckless British shows, these weird, wacky news shows.
“It completely flies in the face of conventional wisdom about Fox being recalcitrant or conservative, when this is the most daring show on television.”
Northern California native Gutfeld, 44, began his career in print, working at Prevention and Men’s Health magazines. He later became editor-in-chief of Stuff magazine and then editor of Maxim magazine in the U.K.
He blogged for the Huffington Post from its launch until July 2007 and has his own blog, “The Daily Gut.”
“I was one of the first bloggers on the Huffington Post,” Gutfeld says, “and the only one who wasn’t a complete progressive loon, so I stood out like a sore thumb.
“I was writing there, and the blogs were getting circulated around Fox. Then I started The Daily Gut, and I think that raised interest, that there was a younger voice that was more of what you’d call a `South Park’-ian conservative. I don’t know what it is.
“So they flew me over, and I met with people. It really is an interesting experiment ... where (Fox News says), `We’re taking people that have never done a TV show, and we’re going to let you do something without any of the pretension or any of the things that are attached to experience.’
“So, we don’t talk like TV people. We don’t act like TV people. What you have is a really honest show, and you have guests that come on that don’t act like they normally do on other shows.”
The guest roster includes ex-CIA agent Mike Baker, various Fox News anchors and reporters, comedians, actors, musicians, Gutfeld’s mother (who calls in as the show’s “senior correspondent”) and pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, the “death correspondent.”
“He’s fantastic,” Gutfeld says. “He answers every question.”
Unicorn Jones came from an idea that Gutfeld had about how funny it would be if a forty-something man purported to have the same interests as a 13-year-old girl. He also endlessly jokes on-air about his much-abused stable of imaginary multicultural houseboys.
Asked how his wife, Elena Moussa, feels about the houseboys, Gutfeld quips, “The houseboys are the ones that are terrified, and the unicorns that live under the bed.”
Among the “Red Eye” regulars are two of Gutfeld’s friends, his “disgusting” sidekick, Bill Schulz, whom Gutfeld met when he was a “fearless” Stuff writer, and Andrew Levy, who functions as the show’s “ombudsman,” doing a fact-checking “Halftime Report” and “Post-Game Wrap-Up.”
“Andy was just a guy who was commenting on my blogs at the Huffington Post,” Gutfeld says. “He would add comments that would anger people, and I thought this guy was really smart. His comments were often better than the stuff I wrote, so we met at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen.
“He was in the military. I guess he worked for the Academy Awards. He did PR for that. He’s into NASCAR and has two cats, Pixel and Stormy.”
Gutfeld introduces Levy’s “Halftime Report” by enumerating the features of the “cat toy of the day.”
“He really doesn’t like it when I do that,” Gutfeld admits.
The show also features a monologue on the news of the day, called “The Greg-alogue,” which is reproduced on The Daily Gut. Each one ends with the line, “And if you disagree with me, then you, sir, are worse than Hitler.”
“I think I am serious,” Gutfeld says. “I basically use absurdity, when I’m doing the Greg-alogues, to make a serious point. (If) it’s about global warming and carbon offsets, I’ll talk about cannibalism. Basically I’m talking about how we think less of humans than we do of the Earth, and I’ll come up with something absurd.
“So I actually am serious. But if you don’t get the joke, you missed that part, I guess.”
In the future, Gutfeld hopes to somehow take “Red Eye” to the political conventions and maybe add an audience or even a band. He’d also like the presidential contenders to continue dropping by.
“We invited Obama last week,” Gutfeld says, “but the two we had on dropped out - Kucinich and Ron Paul. I don’t think we’re going to get Hillary on the show. We tried to get McCain’s daughter. She’s a nice girl.
“It’s hard for us. A lot of people look at the show and think, `I’m not going on there.’ ... When we do guest segments, we’re pretty solid. We don’t try to surprise people or embarrass. We’re not mean to anybody. When we have somebody on the show, we ask questions that will make them look smart, too.”