“Red Eye with Tom Shillue” (formerly with Greg Gutfeld) was the perfect show because it approached pop culture, liberals, and politics as things that should be mocked. That’s probably why the 3 a.m. show launched by Gutfeld in 2007 often beat “real news” shows on MSNBC.
When the news broke that “Red Eye” is ending, Gutfield tweeted “As @RedEyeFNC ends this week, what were your favorite moments? guests? screw ups?”
He then engaged with the Twitter audience for several hours. One of my favorite moments was when wrestler Mick Foley earnestly said he had researched fellow panelist Chris Barron. Unfortunately, it was the wrong Chris Barron.
My favorite show aired on March 2, 2012 and was a tribute to Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart pitched the show with Gutfeld as host to Fox News. As “Red Eye” comes to an end, here are the things I thought made it successful.
“Red Eye” was considered an off-the-wall, irreverent program that valued quick wit above politics. Airing at 3 a.m. certainly helped it maintain that reputation. Every other political program should have one “Red Eye” element in order to really be taken seriously: an ombudsman.
For this semi-frequent guest and very frequent viewer, “Halftime with TV’s Andy Levy” was my favorite part of the show. It was all in good fun, but can you imagine if guests on serious cable news shows had to respond to a fact-checking libertarian while on the show? It was pure genius that the least serious show did it. Many times I simply said, “You’re right, Andy.”
The Hosts’ Accessibility
In true “Red Eye” fashion, I first met Greg and Andy Levy at a billionaire’s New York apartment back in 2010. The others guests included a gay porn star, Ann Coulter, GOProud cofounder Chris Barron, a successful movie producer, an actor from “Law and Order,” and many others. It was basically an extended episode of “Red Eye.” There were disagreements, but mostly drinking and laughter.
Then in 2011, when I was the director of CPAC, they did an event in front of a live student audience (as opposed to the barely awake CPAC banquet audience). A DC intern I knew was a big fan of the show, so I conspired with her boss to make sure she attended the banquet. After the show taping, I made sure Gutfeld, Levy, and Bill Schulz sat at her table. They ended up hanging out all night.
When Tom Shillue came on board as host, he continued Gutfield’s tradition of engaging with the show’s audience. It was important because it encouraged another aspect of “Red Eye’s” success:
The Fans on Twitter
One of the best aspects of being on “Red Eye” was hearing from the fans on Twitter. Since the show tapes earlier in the evening, guests are often lurking on Twitter when the show airs. The fans tweet along with the show and talk to the guests and one another.
Several accounts make fun graphics to celebrate the show. I love the action figures from @FiveFanPhotoshops. My favorite is @TAStheResidentArtist, who has been drawing each night’s show since July 2, 2015. TAS has even drawn live while on the show via satellite.
As Shillue said on his one-year anniversary as host, “We have the weirdest audience, and I love you guys.”
After booking “Red Eye” for the first time, I excitedly told friends that I couldn’t wait to find out who the two guests would be in addition to Levy and Joanne Nosuchinsky, who were regular panelists at the time. The quirky Andrew WK? The scary Terry Schappert? The zany Kat Timpf? The liberal but likeable Christopher Hahn? The witty Thaddeus McCotter? Then I realized there would only be one other guest, because I was a guest. Not my sharpest moment.
The best advice I got about being on the show came from Reason’s Nick Gillespie. He told me not to try to be funny. It’s better to just play off the funny people on the show. I realized Gillespie was right when I found out that comedian Jim Norton would be the other guest on with me. The last thing I wanted to do was try to be funnier than Jim Norton. That’s setting myself up for failure.
Over the years “Red Eye” has been a platform for many comedians, writers, entertainers, and other interesting people you might not see on other shows. Thankfully, there are still opportunities to see many of these great people on “The Greg Gutfeld Show” on Fox News and “Kennedy” on Fox Business.
Still, there will now be a “Halftime Report”-shaped hole in my heart.