Legendary Saturday Night Live writer Jim Downey counted himself among Gutfeld's fans when the Fox News host helmed Red Eye at 3 a.m. “It wasn’t like anything else on TV,” Downey told The Daily Beast, adding that he began watching Red Eye in its early days, around 2007 or 2008, during 3 a.m. bouts of insomnia. “I was impressed by the originality of the whole operation... It was sophomoric, and I mean that as a compliment.” As The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove and former Fox Newser Diana Falzone points out, however, "these days the 56-year-old Gutfeld, whose eponymous 11 p.m. weeknight program Gutfeld! debuted on Fox News last week to largely hostile reviews but robust ratings, has, by some appraisals, morphed from zany rebel to company man, and from rule-breaking joker to handsomely compensated ideologue (at a rumored $4 million a year). The second Fox News offering with his name in the title—the first aired on Saturday nights for six years starting in 2015—Gutfeld’s latest show thus far has largely consisted of crude parodies of rival personalities on other networks, sneering attacks on Joe and Hunter Biden, repeated warnings about the lying mainstream media, and an amen corner of familiar Fox News panelists, including new hire and former Trump mouthpiece Kayleigh McEnany, attempting variations on owning the libs." A Red Eye alum tells The Daily Beast of Gutfeld's transformation: “He’s gotten meaner. Greg always had a kind of a dark side when he was coming up and hungry, but now he’s meaner and smugger. I can’t tell if it comes out in his television commentary, but it certainly comes out in his personal interactions.” Another former Fox News employee adds: “I think he’s talented and an insanely good writer, although his delivery is a little too angry for my taste. But I think he’s a hypocrite because he tried to always play himself off as anti-establishment—‘I’m not one of them’—and then ratings came and his name on a show came, and now he’s staying within the script. He’ll be successful because anything you put up at 11 o’clock on Fox is gonna work.”
Gutfeld! isn't as bad as its various roasters on Twitter have said it is: "To be clear, it is still very bad," says Justin Peters, adding: "The show’s production design is cheap and unappealing (there’s so much orange you’d be excused for thinking the show was secretly sponsored by Tropicana), the subject matter is tedious, and the scripted dialogue is cringey. To his credit, Gutfeld seems to occasionally realize that his dialogue is weak. 'Woke politics have infected sports, and Americans don’t want to play ball. How do you like that clever writing,' Gutfeld said on Thursday, and it was good to know we were all in on the same nonjoke. But also, it’s your show, Greg! If you think your lines are bad, get better lines! (If you think that you can indeed write better lines, good news: Gutfeld! is hiring.)
Gutfeld! seems modeled on Real Time with Bill Maher: "Like Maher’s, his monologue alternates between attempts at humor and stern lectures about politics and culture, though Maher is a comedic genius in comparison," says Alex Shephard. "Gutfeld has a habit of underlining his jokes to make sure his audience catches them. He has adopted Dennis Miller’s half-smirk as a tell—get ready, the punchline is coming!—that feels like his take on Jeb Bush’s 'please clap.' (In this case, the plea is more desperate: 'Please laugh, I’m begging you.') He tilts his head 45 degrees with every punch line, resembling a confused golden retriever."
Gutfeld was disingenuous when he laid out Gutfeld!'s credo: “The point of this show is to pull you and I out of these destructive 'Us vs. Them' narratives by trying to show you how the media creates false stories to keep us engaged and angry," Gutfeld said last week. As Bill Keveney notes, "that's a point worth discussing, but it's ludicrous coming from a host on Fox, where Us vs. Them could be the network’s motto."
There is truly no excuse for conservatives to be this unfunny en masse: Gutfeld proves again that conservative comedy is just stuff your drunk aunt yells at a wedding, says Erin Gloria Ryan. "In order for conservatives to be funny, they would have to be self-aware yet thick-skinned, opinionated yet open-minded, irreverent yet perceptive. It’s hard but it’s not impossible—South Park does it all the time," she says. "It would, however, require traits that the modern self-identified “conservative” has deliberately eradicated from their personality."