'RedEye': Greg Gutfeld Talks 'Unspeakable Truths,' Cougars, Comfy Footwear, Morality, Debauchery & Being Right (of Center)
Fans of his 3 a.m. ET weeknight show (which airs repeats on the weekend), sort of a bizarro-universe version of a political and pop-culture roundtable, will find many of the book's elements - Gutfeld's opinions and musings wrapped in a quilt made of the skins of dead houseboys, unicorn hide and leftover bits of shorty robes - familiar, but those new to Gutfeld, his blog, The Daily Gut, and his band of merry TV pranksters may need a cupcake, a Valium or a stiff drink.
Gutfeld was kind enough to answer a few questions about himself, "RedEye" and his book. Enjoy.
Q: Since you surround your unspeakable truths with self-deprecating comments, jokes and asides, do you reach an audience who might not otherwise hear views like yours?
A: I don't know. I've been writing this way since my days at Men's Health. Back then, I had to make prostates funny. Granted, of the glands, that one is the most hysterical. But I always figured wrapping a coating of funny around a message might make the message easier to take. Especially when that message involves six sets of reverse donkey calf raises. I also don't like screeds, or moralizing in general - so the silliness is a reflex against that... as are the reverse donkey calf raises.
Q: I've heard you described as a "South Park conservative." If that's true, what does it mean? If not, how would you describe yourself?
A: I think I am too old for that description. And I find that title cloying - it's like you're trying to say, "I'm a dork, but I'm cool!" Stuff like that is always created and overused by hacky reporters who need a hook for a story. Like "cougars." Cougars are just unmarried older women. But now they're "cougars." Or "sexting." "Sexting" is now a phenomenon, when it's just people sending dirty texts to each other. I don't mind the phrases, but I hate it when they are pitched as "stories." Like, "Hey this sexting thing is a big trend among cougars, according to an expert on sexting cougars!"
Q: What's the most surprising reaction you've gotten to the book - pro or con?
A: The strangest reaction is the surprise that I've written a book. People don't realize that this is my fourth book, that I've written most of my life. They just see the bizarre man on late night TV, and think that's what I've been all my life. They are unaware that I've edited a number of magazines, and served time for homicide in 1973.
Q: What was your mother's reaction?
A: I think she was pleased. She keeps expecting something more substantive to come from me, but she's 85 now - so she's about given up. But she popped me out, so it's all her fault - when you think about it. And you should. I smell bananas. Do you smell bananas?
(HCTV: For the record, we do not smell bananas, but we are getting a whiff of peach.)
Q: How did we get to place where plain common sense and views drawn from practical experience have become unspeakable truths?
A: I blame the generation that gave their lives for us. Realize that our country, since WW2, has had a phenomenal ride - tremendous growth in leisure time and products of convenience that make our lives super-awesome. We are so very comfortable, which gave us time to stop thinking sensibly and start questioning the whole idea of sense. In academia, deconstructionism was born, and mistaken for intelligence: saying "who's to say," as a response to an objective, truthful remark actually started winning the debates. As classrooms gave up on truth for this horrible, fake imposter of truth - you saw the common sense that created our enormous success slowly evaporate. So now you get transgendered men fighting for the right to be topless on Rehoboth beach ... which I salute, by the way.
But, this sequence of events created me. My writing is conservative truth strained through a prism of deviance. I maintain absolute morality while conveying the worst kind of debauchery, for we live in a world where all behavior must be tolerated. So why not push it to the limit, and see how much the so-called tolerant, can tolerate? You find out, when you're not a liberal expressing such behavior -- it isn't much.
Q: I read your book on a Kindle (meaning, yes, I paid for it). As an author and a former magazine journalist, do you have thoughts on the future of publishing?
A: I think it's becoming more about the brain than the book. For so long we've trained ourselves to enjoy long-form reading - when in fact, what we really want is what we are getting now: bite-sized bits of information fed to us like lab rats sucking on a cocaine drip. It's rewiring our brains, and in effect information has legitimate, druggy effects.
We feel this immense comfort when we sit down and stare at an unread block of emails. That fills the hole in our afternoon and or/life. The real dread for most of us is what do we do with ourselves. Modern digestion of information is telling us that we love (more than anything) to simply sit, absorb and engage. This is what we are meant to do. Forever. We probably read the equivalent of a book every day now - we don't even know it.
I structured my book this way - one chunk here, three chunks there. Also, information absorption, mixed with communication, creates the sense of regular achievement - which is a good feeling when you're actually just sitting there, drinking beer in a thong made of chiffon. And yes, I've lost thirty pounds. Thanks for asking.
Q: You stand a lot on "RedEye." Footwear recommendations?
A: Loose-fitting Christian Dior. Leather.
Q: If you watch TV, what do you watch?
A: The last season of "Big Brother UK" just started, which excites me. But I'm also a massive fan of "Peep Show," and watched it religiously when I lived in London. It's now available on BBC on Demand. It's the best, most morally-driven show on television. It's about two young men who live together. One works hard at a bank (until recently), while the other freeloads off him. The novelty of the show is that you can hear all their thoughts - which undermines their behavior. The things they think are EXACTLY what you and I think, and these thoughts are often callous to the point of horrible. The relationship between the two male friends is a microcosm of society: It's the sponge who hates the hard worker, for all of his hard work. He lives off him, but hates the traits that made his friend able to support him. It's a sickly hilarious and relentlessly mean show. There is no truer show on TV, period.
"Modern Family" is also fun. "Work of Art" is addictive too. "Justified" had a loping gait, but the finale kicked butt. Lots of corpses. And Timothy Olyphant is the next Clint Eastwood, whether he knows it or not.
Q: I've often thought that many cable channels could do well to hand over the wee hours to experimental programming like "RedEye." What's the near future for the show and you, and what other channels should try a similar project?
A: I honestly have no idea. It pleases me that a very ballsy FNC took a chance with us, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity. I do think "RedEye" delivers something uniquely special to FNC, something they didn't have before. Once I figure out what that is, I'll let you know. We are truly experimental, but more important - we're honest and good-natured about what we do. We are also very polite to everyone in the elevators, whereas John Gibson is all hands.
Q: You're doing pretty well on guests - who's on the favorites list, and who's still on the wish list (does that list include ombudsman Andy Levy's doppelganger, "Nurse Jackie" star Edie Falco)?
A: Why ask for Edie when we have Andy? He'll just throw a tantrum, anyway. We've had an awesome stretch of guests lately - and most important we snag folks who are rarely seen talking, ever, on TV. Slayer's Kerry King, Danzig, Gwar's Oderus Urangus - the list goes on. A lot of great musicians performing "RedEye" themes songs, from Larry Gatlin to Train.
We just had Jeff "Skunk" Baxter - the most fascinating man on the planet. He started Steely Dan then joined the Doobie Brothers. Now he's a defense consultant - a self-taught expert on high-tech weaponry. It's incredible.
Mike Patton is due in July, which I'm looking forward to. His new CD, "Mondo Cane," is fantastic - a collection of Italian pop songs three decades old but reanimated with Patton's unmatchable voice. He's the greatest living singer on the planet right now. And I include the guy from the Goo Goo Dolls.
As for others on the wish list - I'm patiently waiting for Tobacco, the man from the awesome band Black Moth Super Rainbow. His new CD, "Maniac Meat," is a garish, irresistible onslaught of psychedelic electronic sci-fi pop. A combination of burbling organs, gorgeous melodies, sinister vocals and propulsive beats - he's effectively created the sound of ice water boiling. I write this now, hoping he will read it, and do the show. I won't hold my breath.
UPDATE: Big Hollywood.com makes the case for a better "RedEye" time slot.