Political comedian Greg Gutfeld’s new eighth book, The King of Late Night, explores what he sees as many recent U.S. cultural “flips” helping his TV show, Gutfeld!, trounce its late-night American competition. Throughout, the author offers sage advice to wannabe comics while making brilliant cultural and political observations exposing a surfeit of societal double standards demanding to be satirized. Despite warning of the lethal threat to our civil liberties posed by woke leftists, the book is laden with laughs since Gutfeld makes his points with humor as opposed to the angry ad hominem attacks so de rigueur today. All this makes for a most satisfying read.
The Triumph of a Libertarian Comic: A Review of Greg Gutfeld’s The King of Late Night
Central to Gutfeld’s enduring TV and writing success is perhaps the most pronounced flip of all. Though U.S. Humor, Inc. had long been dominated by rebellious, edgy liberal firebrands like Richard Pryor and George Carlin, too many of today’s American liberal comedians have pretzeled themselves into unfunny political propagandists to appease the career-canceling woke mob while gutsy conservatives and libertarians like Gutfeld poke fun at leftist shibboleths. Indeed, as Gutfeld sees it, “if Richard Pryor or George Carlin were alive, they would run screaming from campuses, chased by a crowd of nonbinary Oberlin students.”
This is because the Left has become the boring home of angry, intolerant, and utterly “humorless” censors while rightists have morphed into the creatively funny rebels taking on the establishment. As Gutfeld sees it, “the Left, once the haven for free speech, is now a bounty hunter for the truly outspoken – tracking the violators, and destroying careers…. The Left is now the old fart pushing censorship, and the Right is the side championing the offensive.” As proof, how bizarre that TV’s Comedy Central network is arguably not remotely as cutting edge or funny as Gutfeld’s programs (Red Eye, The Greg Gutfeld Show, and Gutfeld!) have been on the Fox News Channel. In woke America, liberal comics have become the stuffy parents while the libertarian and conservative clowns have evolved into the hip outsiders gleefully pointing out the woke emperor has no clothes.
The woke emperor has no clothes
Gutfeld contends that cowardice has compelled his late-night TV competitors to castrate their comedy since Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, and James Corden covet being part of the establishment clique and fear being fed to the wokesters if they ever make fun of President Biden or any other leftist sacred cows. Though thoroughly funny in his own right, Gutfeld repeatedly concedes that his rivals have cravenly sacrificed their humorous gifts to become scowling, strident blowhards content to score easy political points with a loyal but small audience of rabid partisans. Explaining his decision to enter the late-night comedy arena with Gutfeld!, the author concluded that “Comedy at night was no longer comedy: it was propaganda thinly disguised as entertainment.”
The backlash against the humorless Left provides another flip since it is coming from older, more established comics who can afford to be much more anti-establishment. Bill Maher, Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand, Joe Rogan, and Gutfeld have been on stage for decades – thus, “the old guy is now the daredevil and the young ones are delicate daffodils.” How ironic but understandable that most young comics are too scared to risk the wrath of uber-sensitive wokesters eager to pounce on anyone daring to poke fun at them or their dogmas. As Gutfeld acknowledges, younger, less established comics can far less afford to risk career cancellation, especially when social media make past public statements so easily accessible.
The backdrop to all this and perhaps the ultimate recent societal flip Gutfeld dissects is how the Left has become the American ruling class zealously protecting powerful establishment elites against the underdog out-groups now championed by the Right. So it was Democrats hysterically pushing government mandates and bolstering big business during the Covid panic while folks on the right defended individuals’ freedom not to get vaccinated, locked down, or masked. Some Iowa college students were even “protesting that they wanted more Covid policies on campus” and, in a rich Orwellian irony, “the pro-mask protest was organized by the ‘Campaign to Organize Graduate Students,’ or COGS.”
The ideology of punishment
Gutfeld sees the woke incarnation of leftism as “the ideology of punishment. There’s something addictive about telling people how to live their lives.” Observing how National Public Radio (NPR) even “developed a system to snitch on coworkers who aren’t complying with the very pro-mask-wearing policies,” he posits this is a mighty McCarthyist means to neurotically enforce leftist diktats.
What a flip that the same libs who protested President Bush II’s Iraqi War are now the biggest backers of ever more U.S. military aid to Ukraine despite the risk of direct U.S. involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian War. Conservatives have become the anti-war skeptics, though Gutfeld suspects the Left would reject U.S. Ukrainian policy if a President Trump was pushing it.
Yet another flip begging for satire is what Gutfeld calls “the changing face of women’s sports (which now comes with a five o’clock shadow)” since woke feminists now insist on biological men’s supposed right to dominate women’s sports under the banner of transgenderism. Conservatives and libertarians have become the real feminists trying to protect female athletes from having their hard-fought dreams dashed by far bigger men loaded with testosterone.
The book boasts a bounty of trenchant cultural and political points, perhaps chief of which is something conservative alternative media trailblazer Andrew Breitbart argued — that culture drives politics. Gutfeld holds that “it’s really all about culture. And we need to win some of it back. Or it will be all gone soon.” Contending that everyone enjoying free speech must stand up to the wokesters or we will lose our rights, he also agrees with author Dennis Prager that what drives the Left is its endless lust for power and that we cannot let it redefine language in its Orwellian drive to dictate the terms of debate since “Words are to ideas what fetuses are to babies.”
Amidst ridiculing the hilarious absurdities of “the most ridiculous movement in modern history: wokesim,” Gutfeld makes a case that “Envy drives cancel culture” since the censorious are typically talentless and “noncreative.” Though recognizing the Left is driven by emotion, he contends that:
I have yet to meet anyone who has ever been truly offended by anything said by anyone…. We aren’t really feeling genuine outrage when we are outraged. We are enjoying the rush of energy from the simulation of outrage. We’ve created a new lymphatic system: outrage endorphins.
Leftist double standards
One of The King of Late Night’s finest features is its relentless exposure of leftist double standards, like the liberal news media’s take on a police officer killing an unarmed Ashli Babbitt in the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot: “They denigrated her. They laughed at her,” and “the cop’s identity, background, and work history remained shrouded for months.” Yet it is easy to guess the opposite press reaction “if she were Antifa, or Black Lives Matter or a pro-choice, or a P—–hat-wearing granny.”
On a far larger scale, Gutfeld reminds us how leftist elites demanded we all wear Covid masks as they flouted them, and how they harangue us to make a smaller carbon footprint to fight “climate change” while they buy huge beachfront mansions, like the Obamas.
One of Gutfeld’s most perceptive points is his contention that, if the Right was the side pushing hormone treatments and sex-change surgery for teens suffering from gender dysphoria, “the Left would scream” conservatives were trying to eliminate homosexuals.
He also recognizes how many leftists can violate woke orthodoxy, recalling long-time MSNBC host “Joy Reid had a blog full of bigoted stuff that would have made Archie Bunker wince,” but no conservative commentator would get such a pass. Yet Gutfeld wonders if comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman have become so woke as professional insurance for having performed in blackface long ago.
Recommending The King of Late Night
I especially recommend this book to any aspiring comics since it is full of practical tips on how to navigate the present woke comedy environment. Above all, Gutfeld contends you should take on controversial topics precisely because others fear them and they are what the audience is thinking about anyway. We especially appreciate anyone who can wittily expose a taboo truth, and Gutfeld argues “the woke have now made their utterly insane humorlessness absolutely hysterical.”
The book agrees with (and credits) Gutfeld! comedienne Kat Timpf’s recent swell book, You Can’t Joke About That, that we should make fun of even the tragic since Gutfeld contends that “Joking about tragedy is not being sick. It’s being healthy. It’s how we cope with life.” Elsewhere in the book, when briefly discussing his father’s drawn-out fatal cancer shadowing his childhood, Gutfeld refuses to play the victim card. While theorizing on the impact his unusual parents had on his humor, he never descends into self-pity.
Like Timpf, Gutfeld asserts that “self-deprecation is a number one requirement for the show,” noting that he is the butt of more jokes on Gutfeld! than any other target. He also engages in “vice signaling” where he jokes about his past drug use and other “dirty laundry” as “a preemptive strike against cancellation that creates a protective moat from miserable busybodies” hoping to stoke scandal about him.
Likewise, having learned growing up that “if I said the unspeakable truths with a smile and a laugh, then it would dull the impact,” the author is relentlessly upbeat on Gutfeld! Indeed, as a regular viewer, I can confirm he laughs on the show (way) more than even Ed McMahon did on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Another career tip is to work very hard and collaborate with the most talented folks to keep sharp.
My top criticism of the book is its organization or lack thereof. Instead of chapters, there are lots of headings, but the narrative quickly shifts from one subject to another and back again too much. It would have been helpful for similar subject matter to be grouped into the same chapter. As with Timpf’s book, there are also too many writing errors (missing words, misspellings, incorrect punctuation, incomplete sentences, and even a split infinitive) and profanities. Like Timpf, Gutfeld is way too witty and makes his points far too clearly to need foul language.
But The King of Late Night is a genuine joy if you are a Gutfeld fan, and all but the woke would appreciate its bounty of provocative perceptions backed by loads of recent vivid examples. The author does not preach, name call, or stereotype, preferring instead to puncture inflated leftist nonsense with relentless logic drenched in whimsical wit. Despite the book addressing many distressing topics, it never made me angry or depressed since Gutfeld flavors even the most upsetting material about fanatical woke “conformity fascists” with big dollops of humor. For example, instead of trashing the wokesters “advocating for thought-crime punishment,” he states such constipated zealots are:
no longer invited to my funeral. Or my hot tub, which, by the way, will be present at my funeral. I’m gonna have the hearse pulling one with my closest friends in it. I think I got the idea from watching Pimp My Ride on MTV with a very wasted Bret Baier (referring to the very sober Fox News “Special Report” host).
So The King of Late Knight is well worth it: consistently compelling, often hilarious, quite perceptive, and desperately relevant. Though it seriously addresses heavy issues, it makes its points not just with intelligence but original, joyful humor.