Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bashing the Red Eye Bashers

Just going back a week or so, this little piece of editorial questionableness on the Fox News late night show Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld appeared in the Shield, the University of Souther Indiana's Student Newspaper.

Unlike News Hour [Fox News's since canceled "Half-Hour Comedy Hour"], Red Eye doesn't attempt a "Daily Show for conservatives."

It doesn't really attempt anything.

Watching Red Eye is like watching a cable access show put on by lesbian-obsessed dudes who got kicked out of frats in college after refusing to get involved in the community.

The show operates without writers, and instead relies on off- the-wall round table discussions of daily news.

Gutfeld and his "panelists" - series regulars Bill Schultz and Andy Levy and random guests - riff on the news and each other with all the bravado and wit of a guy who wears sex jokes on his t- shirt. Each show opens with Gutfeld's "Gregalogue." A rant in the style of - ironically - Dennis Miller, recent "Gre- galogues" covered topics as far- reaching as anti-American biases in The New York Times and child clown-phobia.

Each Gregalogue ends with Gutfeld's catch phrase: "And if you disagree with me, then you sir, are worse than Hitler."

Boiled down, Red Eye is nothing but buzzword comedy akin to Sarah Silverman.

Both follow the same creed: if something isn't funny, mix in some "AIDS," "Hitler" or "penis" and see what happens.

Surprisingly Red Eye isn't infuriatingly terrible, only mildly bad.

[Presumably] student author Jon Webb seems to have watched the show at least several times, picking up all of the structure and none of the nuance. As regular readers will remember, I'm a big Red Eye fan and I've been recording the show on my DVR and watching it in the morning since last July. So I tend to get upset when some ignoramus feels it necessary to degrade how I spend my morning. Yes Red Eye contains many graphic jokes and lots of sexual innuendo. But I would hope that alone wouldn't rate the show as worthy of being flushed down the toilet. The thing about Red Eye is that from start to finish it's a satire of everything in the news business. And unlike the Daily Show, which sometimes can take itself semi-seriously, Red Eye never goes that far. When Greg Gutfeld, Red Eye's loquacious host, actually makes a serious statement, he usually follows it up with, "But what do I know, I'm an idiot."

The "Greg-a-logue" is a rant patterned on the monologues of Bill O'Reilly or Keith Olberman, the "If you disagree with me, than you sir are worse than Hitler" mocking the partisan and absolute tone of such programs. The show routinely mocks supposed experts and the news gathering business itself. "Ombudsmen" Andrew Levy appears for a halftime report and post-game wrap-up, cataloging the mistakes made on the show with research that's clearly been done on Google. Bill Schultz's inane "Schultz on the Street" segments are laugh-out-loud funny, and unfortunately, not all that different from what you might see on your local news.

The point of the over-the-top graphic humor is, of course, to push the boundaries of what's acceptable on a news channel, a mocking of the "culture warrior" leanings of Bill O'Reilly, and, most importantly, an attempt to point out the difference between make-up jokes and actual tragedies. While basically serving as entertainment, Red Eye does offer guests the opportunity to make clever and subtle points- the best guests excel at combining witty and somewhat meaningful answers. Unlike other talk shows, guests are given the opportunity to speak and they're not shouted down. It's an open format, quite unlike anything else on tv- if you take the time to listen you can actually hear some real opinions, not manufactured or tempered by the media machine.

Every night is a bit different, depending on who the guests are- some nights are over-the-top funny, while other nights are more subdued and serious. But this is what's great about the show- it's not the same, night after night, and it has such a realistic flavor. Sometimes jokes fall flat and sometimes guests are embarrassingly stupid, but thats just another day on Red Eye.

Red Eye may be at it's absolute best with Gutfeld's wonderfully subversive interviews. Several psychics have appeared on the show, and Greg has peppered each of them with questions about the dead and the afterlife. "Can my dead grandmother see me masturbating?" and "What religion is the right religion?" It's funny and they're the sort of questions whose very nature debunk the existence of psychic ability, but do so in a non-challenging sort of way that allows everyone to have a good time.

Red Eye's great because it is completely different than most of what you see on tv- it's not polished and there are no real writers. Greg takes some conservative stands , but the show is welcoming to guests of all political stripes (last summer, both Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul appeared on the show- two anti-war politicians of different political ideologies, appearing on a show that's tone tends to be more pro-war). Unlike the rest of the news and entertainment world, it doesn't seek to be anything more than what it is- just a bunch of people sitting around talking about stuff. Throw in some jokes about house boys named "Dat Ho" and "activity pits" and you've got yourself a show.


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