Conservatives now have one of the most popular shows in late night.

Greg Gutfeld has been in the Fox News universe for over a decade greggutfeldshow, consistently representing the network’s hope to compete for younger viewers and expand its brand identity away from pure, partisan news commentary. A libertarian with a background as a men’s magazine editor, Gutfeld made his name as a comedic provocateur, first gaining national attention in 2003 by hiring three dwarfs to loudly eat potato chips in a successful, if appalling, effort to disrupt a publishers’ panel discussing buzz creation. The New York Times described him as a “pest” who would “annoy, harass, mock and traumatize” his rivals. At its most charitable, the Times noted that Gutfeld possesses a “bizarro” sense of humor that most people, or at least most Times readers, probably would not understand.

Gutfeld’s subsequent career as a Fox News star is a very useful object lesson in the growth of right-wing comedy. Today’s commonsense liberal perspective on mainstream right-wing comedy derives from a handful of forgettable efforts that were unable to give the format its marquee media franchise, like The Daily Show has been for liberal comedy in the 21st century. Moreover, popular coverage of right-wing comedy reinforces narratives and taste-based preferences among liberals about the necessary failure of conservative comedy. This sentiment is outdated and shortsighted. Among the post–Daily Show failed experiments in right-wing political comedy that liberals like to point to, The ½ Hour News Hour (on Fox News) ended during the second George W. Bush administration, while the first-run syndicated talk show The Flipside and Headlines Tonight (on One America News) lacked the economic support that franchises like The Daily Show enjoy. Focusing on these failed comedic attempts obscures the much more recently successful development of political comedy in Fox News’ programming strategy, thanks to figures like Bill O’Reilly protégé Jesse Watters and Gutfeld himself. It also prevents liberal critics from understanding the size, scope, and strength of today’s right-wing comedy industry. greggutfeldshow

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