Depending upon how you look at it, when it launched in Feb. 2007, Fox News Channel’s late-night comedy-news hour “RedEye w/Greg Gutfeld” - it airs weeknights at 3 a.m. EST, with repeats on weekends - was either lucky or unlucky enough to slip onto the air just ahead of the start of perhaps the longest U.S. presidential campaign ever.
The electoral marathon is expected to lurch to an end Tuesday, with either the historic and oft-predicted victory of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as the first U.S. president of African descent, or the less-oft-predicted but equally historic (since he has the female Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as a running mate) victory of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
“I can’t wait until it ends,” says Gutfeld, a former Huffington Post blogger and Maxim U.K. editor. “I think everybody feels that way. But it’s also great for a show, because there’s a new story breaking every day. You’ve got something to talk about.
“Everybody’s got an opinion, including corpses and children. It’s like, corpses and children and Mickey Mouse felt so strongly about this election that they’re actually coming out to vote, and that’s important.
“We’ve had to reduce the number of stories we do on abusive strippers to make way for the political coverage.”
Gutfeld presides over a freewheeling round-table that features his regular sidekick, the “disgusting” (according to Gutfeld) writer and editor Bill Schulz, and a revolving stable of guests that includes such diverse characters as former CIA operative Mike Baker, comedian Sherrod Small, forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden (the show’s “death correspondent”) and a variety of Fox News and Fox Business Network correspondents, such as Julie Banderas, Patti Ann Browne (aka “The Notorious P.A.B.”) and Anna Gilligan.
Among those appearing in remote segments - remote is deceptive, since the people are sometimes just in another part of the Fox News studios in New York City - are British military veteran Kevin Godlington, financial expert Jonathan Hoenig of the Capitalist Pig hedge fund, and such funnymen as Greg (“I am outraged!”) Wilson and Greg Proops.
“Greg Proops is amazing,” Gutfeld says. “He can go in with nothing and create an entire story, because he’s got that history of improvisation.”
Keeping everyone honest is “ombudsman” Andy Levy, who appears at the 30-minute mark and at the end of the show to either correct or merely mock misstatements and factual errors, and to help the guests plug their projects.
Gutfeld’s octogenarian mother also calls to offer her take on the events of the day and to remind her son to check in over the weekend.
Taking Fox News’ “fair and balanced” slogan more or less seriously, “RedEye” has diverse political viewpoints, spearheaded by Gutfeld taking the conservative side, Shultz taking the liberal counterpoint, and libertarian Levy looking at both of them like they’re stupid.
Gutfeld’s voting McCain; Schulz is voting Obama; Levy has announced he’s sitting this one out.
“I don’t know if it’s a principled stand,” Gutfeld says, “or a laziness stand. The idea of just lying in bed with his cats is more preferable to voting.”
Asked how partisan he wants “RedEye” to be, Gutfeld says, “My feeling is, for 98 percent of the day, people hear the same thing over and over again on the other networks. If you come here, I don’t care what your political affiliation is, you’re going to get the unvarnished truth, whether it’s right ... it’ll never be left.
“We have to call BS every bit as often on the Republicans as we do on the Democrats, or we wouldn’t be doing our job. But the No. 1 thing is to talk about the news from a unique perspective, whatever that perspective may be, and try to come to some kind of truth about each issue.
“Generally, one pretty obvious truth is that all politicians lie. So, the thing is, you can’t focus on the lies of Democrats and ignore the lies of Republicans. That ain’t fair. So you have to hit them both.”
Gutfeld has invited both Obama and McCain to be on the show, and both have declined. He’s also approached former New York mayor, and GOP presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani.
“We’ve asked Giuliani a number of times,” Gutfeld says, “and he said yes, but he’s always very difficult to get a hold of after he says yes, so something tells me he’s being polite.”
One obvious choice would be former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also was a GOP presidential contender and now is host of “Huckabee,” a weekend talk show for Fox News (the first show to land famed Obama questioner Samuel Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher as an in-studio guest).
“Huckabee is going to be on,” Gutfeld says, “but I don’t know when.”