Insomniacs who channel surf to Fox News at 3 a.m. may think they have drifted off into a dirty, hilarious febrile dream. Instead of perky anchors and partisan shouters working over the headlines of the day, a pug-faced ne’er-do-well named Greg Gutfeld leads a motley crew of comics, C-list celebrities, and occasional reason editors through a running news-of-the-weird joke fest covering (in no particular order) free markets, unicorns, drug legalization, very attractive women, and very gay sex. Airing since February 2007, Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld is just the latest stop in Gutfeld’s checkered career.
In 1987 Gutfeld took his first journalistic job, somewhat unconventionally for a Berkeley graduate, at the conservative American Spectator, running errands for the magazine’s famously erratic editor in chief, R. Emmett Tyrell. After a failed stint as a screenwriter, Gutfeld got a job at the health-oriented lifestyle magazine Prevention, where he started drinking and drugging at a prodigious rate. Gutfeld went on to edit the lads-and-abs magazines Men’s Health (where he was fired for making fun of Girl Scouts, cat lovers, and his boss), Stuff (where he was fired for an incident involving several midgets for hire at a publishers’ conference), and finally the British edition of Maxim, where he hung his hat while writing Lessons From the Land of Pork Scratchings: A Miserable Yank Discovers the Secret of Happiness in Britain (Simon & Schuster). Gutfeld has written “traitor” columns for women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Mademoiselle, telling women what men really think. He claims to have been rejected for a job at reason in 1988.
In 2005 Gutfeld gained a new audience by writing satirical, liberal-mocking posts at The Huffington Post (sample line: “Is Al Franken patenting the pubic hair and Elmer’s glue cure for baldness, or is he just keeping the idea to himself?”). This helped lead him to his current gig, where in addition to hosting the hour-long Red Eye, he writes the Daily Gut blog. The unifying theme throughout his career has been boobs, as in both breasts and morons. Another theme to his jobs: Gutfeld was fired or forced to resign in disgrace from virtually all of them.
Associate Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward spoke with Gutfeld on stage at Reason Weekend in Orlando, Florida, in April.
reason: Describe the evolution of your political outlook.
Greg Gutfeld: As a teenager, I was a liberal. It helped me in school. Where I went to school, if you collected signatures for the nuclear freeze, you got extra credit. I realized the more you seemed to care about something, the more the teachers cared about you and your friends. If you share the liberal assumptions, you don’t have to think too much about it.
I thought that was great because it really helped me with grades, but after a few debates in school where I actually had to think about things, I realized I was a complete fraud. I started to re-examine myself when I went to Berkeley. It was a really bad idea. It was just walking around with a target on your back.
I became a conservative by being around liberals and I became a libertarian by being around conservatives. You realize that there’s something distinctly in common between the two groups, the left and the right; the worst part of each of them is the moralizing. On the left, you have people who want to dictate your behavior under the guise of tolerance. Unless you disagree with them. Then the tolerance goes out the window. Which kind of negates the whole idea of tolerance. That’s the politically correct moralizing. Then when you become a conservative, the other kind of moralizing comes from religion. But if you remove both of those from the equation, what you’re left with is libertarianism.
From the right, you’ve got free markets. From the left, you have free minds. To me, that’s the only sensible direction. As you grow older, you kind of end up there. Especially if you drink and do a lot of drugs.
reason: Speaking of which, let’s talk about your editorship of Men’s Health.
Gutfeld: I was the only editor of any health magazine that did a feature on how smoking is good for you.
Actually, one of my primary interviewees was Jacob Sullum from reason. He turned me on to all these tobacco companies that were actually doing amazing research on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But nobody in the media would cover it because smoking is bad. I would get all these amazing medical journals at Men’s Health, and I loved them mainly for the weird pictures that I would copy and send out to my friends, enlarged arms and weird faces. I believe I was the original Internet.
I read a lot of this passive-smoking stuff, and I realized it was just bullshit. What they’re trying to do is create science to legislate. I wanted to write about this, and I’d just become editor of Men’s Health. When you get a job like that, you’re supposed to do the right thing. I did the wrong thing.
The article I wrote was called “I Smoke and I Work at Men’s Health.” We recreated a Parliament ad with me in the middle smoking. It was really cool and wonderful. I interviewed every satanic person in the tobacco industry and cited their science. It was a fantastic article, and it dropped like a stone in journalism. People just hated it. But I couldn’t help it, because this is real health journalism. Once they stop demonizing substances, they’re going to find out that these things can actually help people.
Health editors are generally very miserable people. They constantly think there’s something wrong with themselves. Meanwhile, they hate pharmaceutical companies.