Fox News Bets on Comedy, but Not Only for Laughs (2024)

Jimmy Failla isn’t taking over Fox News Chanel, but he has, at least for one short period in the late afternoon, seized control of a portion of its New York ground-floor facilities.

The space is typically devoted to a space for guests to hang out and a section for hair and makeup, but Failla uses it to get himself revved up to tape “Fox News Saturday Night,” a program the network says is devoted less to red-versus-blue rants and more to making people laugh. The hallway leading to his studio was flooded with the sounds of rockabilly and Queen.

“True comedy doesn’t have a political party. Comedy is a party,’ says the 47-year-old comedian, who hails from a family of cops and, prior to his tenure at Fox News was supplementing his stand-up income by driving a New York taxi. “And at a party, you don’t ask who they voted for at the door.”

Such stuff might sound outlandish coming from a personality at Fox News, where much of the programming seeks to set the bona fides of Republicans and conservatives. But Failla’s show also might be just what the network needs in an era when the younger people it will need to survive in years to come are more difficult to attract.

Failla tries to keep things light. He recently did a bit where he asked college students on Spring Break whether they’d rather get drunk with President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump. He opened one late-March program by telling jokes to a three-guest panel about everything from Trump trying to sell Bibles to Major League Baseball. While some of his guests are Fox News mainstays, like Sean Hannity or Bill Hemmer, Failla wants to hear from them about lifestyle issues, not their reactions to the headlines of the day.

Jimmy Failla only hosts a weekend hour on the Fox News schedule, but he plays a more important role at the Fox Corp.-backed outlet than might initially be apparent. Fox News continues to devote the bulk of its primetime schedule to partisan opinion programs that veer from conservative to hard right, but the network is also trying to make room for – of all things – a few laughs.

Failla’s Saturday-night program, which debuted in June of last year, joins Greg Gutfeld’s weeknight show in the network’s efforts to court fans of late-night humor. “Gutfeld,” which has recently reached an average of more than 2.2 million viewers, now resides in Fox News’ primetime lineup after launching at 11 pm., And Fox Nation, the sibling Fox News streaming service, is relying more heavily on stand-up concerts from comics like Roseanne Barr or documentaries featuring Dan Aykroyd and a group of former cast members from NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Dennis Miller, the former host of the “SNL” mainstay “Weekend Update” who has led late-night-styled talk shows on HBO and CNBC and in syndication, recently hosted a Fox Nation documentary series about infomercials.

More interesting, perhaps: Both “Gutfeld” and “Fox News Saturday Night” replaced programs that were among the most hard-right at the network. Gutfeld now occupies a 10 p.m. hour that was previously home to Laura Ingraham, who now holds forth at 7. Failla’s show plays in a slot once led by Dan Bongino.

Fox News executives struck upon comedy as they examined past viewership patterns, says says Megan Albano, the Fox News executive vice president who oversees program development, trying to determine where Fox News viewers went when they weren’t watching Fox News. “There was this very clear appetite for some of the other platforms doing a lot of comedy specials,” she says, “We figured, ‘let’s try it.’” The company has also stocked up on lifestyle programs, documentaries and faith-based concepts.

Others seem to have noticed. CNN in March began running re-airs of Bill Maher’s “Real Time” – a mix of comedy and chatter about the headlines that has long been reserved for HBO – on Saturday evenings. On Max, the streaming hub owned by CNN parent Warner Bros. Discovery, a section for live-streaming CNN also contains on-demand options from both Maher and HBO colleague John Oliver, whose “Last Week Tonight” has taken news-based comedy well beyond the usual monologues of late night.

Adding comedy to the mix may lure audiences of the future as well as the present. “The audience for pure news is shrinking, and so networks like Fox and CNN have to sort of expand their brands a little bit,” says Nick Marx, a Colorado State University associate professor who is the author of the 2022 book “That’s Not Funny: How the Right Makes Comedy Work For Them.” While the power of the sitcom has diminished in recent years as viewers turns to binge-watching dramatic procedurals, comedy, he says, “is one of the few things that young people tune in to watch,” as demonstrated by the rise of stand-up comedy on venues ranging from Netflix to TikTok.

Fox News’ subscriber base is seen falling to 64.6 million in 2024, according to data from Kagan, a market-research unit of S&P Global Intelligence – a 5.8% dip from 68.6 million last year. MSNBC’s subscriber base is projected to fall 4.4% to 65.5 million, down from 68.5 million. And CNN’s is expected to dip 5.6% to 66.3 million, compared with 70.3 million in 2023.

With those projected declines could come tumbles in the amount to fees the networks can collect from cable and satellite distributors and new pressure to win ad dollars. Kagan sees ad revenue for all three cable-news outlets rising in 2024, in tandem with the bigger audiences they tend to attract in the run up to a presidential election.

If Fox News’ success with comedy continues, Marx adds, “left leaning cable networks showing this type of stuff can’t be far off.”

Indeed, some have flirted with such stuff several times over the years. Fox News in 2007 tested a series called “The ½ Hour News Hour,” which lampooned typical news programs. CNN in 2008 and 2009 offered a weekend hour from comedian D.L. Hughley. MSNBC in 2016 enlisted Michael Che and Colin Jost, the hosts of “Weekend Update” on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” to sit with analyst in late-night hours and discuss the headlines coming out of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Comedy could help solve some of the news outlets’ ongoing issues with advertisers. Madison Avenue’s antipathy to single-host opinion programs has become more pronounced in recent years, with a significant chunk of the traditional TV clientele growing more wary of putting their commercials in a program that has the potential to spark outrage among some portion of viewers, or those who hear about an offending remark via social media. Comedy, however, wraps opinion in humor, and may prove more acceptable.

“People want to be informed. They also want to be entertained,” says Albano of the move to add comedic stylings to Fox News’ later hours. “After they get their news and analysis for the day, they have this little reprieve from the weight of their days. They just get to laugh.”

Failla was discovered while doing his routine at New York’s Gotham Comedy Club and, while he may be new to some Fox News audiences, his career has developed methodically. He first was enlisted to help write for Kennedy, the former MTV veejay who had a show on Fox Business Network. The first time Failla made an on-camera appearance, he was still driving the cab, and left his vehicle parked on Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue near the Fox building. ‘The trunk was open, one door was open, the hazards were on,” he recalls., “Why? That’s how you get out of a parking ticket. It makes the cop think you’re coming back with something heavy.”

Eventually, he did: His own show.

On Saturdays, Failla says, he knows the audience has been watching, talking and tweeting all week and just wants to let go. “We are not a call to arms show. We are like a chill the f—k out show.” He writes his own jokes and sketches, and takes great delight in a letter he received from NBC’s Jimmy Fallon congratulating him on launching the Fox News series, as well as a cooler filled with Ben & Jerry’s “Tonight Dough” ice cream. Failla, who met his wife on the road while doing stand up in Cleveland, says she originally believed she was going to see Fallon perform.

He’d love to get Fallon or Stephen Colbert on the Fox News program, he says, but would be even more excited to land David Letterman or Jay Leno. Their era in wee-hours TV, he says, “was probably the golden age of late night. It was pure escapism. My frustration now is that late-night has gotten a little more partisan.”

That, in part, is what Fox News has been banking on, especially for “Gutfeld.” The network has made an aggressive effort to compare the ratings for that program against those of CBS, NBC and ABC’s late-night series, and, more recently, against the return of Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Between January 13 and March 31 of this year, for example, “Gutfeld” won more viewers than any of TV’s traditional late-night set, though CBS’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” drew more viewers between 18 and 49 – the audience advertisers covet most in entertainment programming.

Meanwhile, Failla has started to make appearances elsewhere on the Fox News schedule. He fills in for Gutfeld on his weekday program. And he was spotted this past Saturday night leading the network’s coverage of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner – even interviewing NBC News’ Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie during one segment.

While Failla and Gutfeld probably shouldn’t be on air when news of serious import breaks – and have been pre-empted for coverage of such – they offer viewers pure comfort food, says Albano. “They don’t take themselves too seriously, which I think the audience appreciates.”

Fox News Bets on Comedy, but Not Only for Laughs (2024)


Who are frequent guests on Gutfeld? ›

When the show moved to weeknights in 2021, guests Joe Machi, Joe DeVito and Emily Compagno joined as frequent panelists. In 2022, comedian Jamie Lissow joined as a frequent panelist, after stand-up comedian Joe Machi was seen less on the show as he embarked on a comedy tour.

Is Gutfeld live or recorded? ›

The new show name is Gutfeld and is taped and broadcast 5 nights a week.

What nationality is Gutfeld? ›

Gregory John Gutfeld (born September 12, 1964) is an American television host, political commentator, comedian, and author.

Where is the Gutfeld show? ›

Gutfeld!'s posts

"In the cut-throat world of New York City comedy, an elite few will make it to the top.

How much does Greg Gutfeld get paid from Fox? ›

Apart from his earnings from television, Gutfeld earns a substantial salary of $15 million from Fox News. This substantial income, combined with his other ventures, grants him a monthly income of $2 million.

How did Greg Gutfeld and Tyrus meet? ›

Tyrus actually called out host Greg Gutfeld on social media, leading to some good-humored banter between the two and eventually an invitation to appear on the show, which approaches politics with a satirical spin. Known for his sharp wit and wry sense of humor, Tyrus joined Fox News in 2016.

What is Greg Gutfeld's IQ? ›

Greg Gutfeld's IQ, according to his Stanford Benet (the academic standard) test score, is 157.

Who did Kat from Gutfeld marry? ›

According to Timpf, "there is something about me for everyone to hate, but there is also something about me for everyone to agree on." Timpf announced her engagement to Cameron Friscia in August 2020, and they were married on May 1, 2021.

Why is Greg Gutfeld paid so much? ›

Gutfeld has multiple jobs at Fox News, including being a co-host on The Five and hosting Gutfeld!. Given the popularity of those two shows, he likely makes a really nice salary. Gutfeld has an estimated salary of $7 million a year, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Does Gutfeld have any children? ›

Is married, but has no children.

How tall is Brian Kilmeade on Fox? ›

Standing at a commanding height of 5 feet 10 inches or 177.8 centimeters, Brian Kilmeade surpasses the average height of an American man, typically around 5 feet 9 inches or 175.3 centimeters.

What nationality is Sean Hannity? ›

Sean Patrick Hannity (born December 30, 1961) is an American conservative broadcast host and writer.

What happened to Kat Timpf? ›

She's currently the co-host of “Gutfeld!” on Fox News weeknights at 10 p.m. and a Fox News analyst. She's also the author of the New York Times bestseller "You Can't Joke About That: Why Everything is Funny, Nothing is Sacred, and We're All in This Together."

How much are tickets to the Greg Gutfeld Show? ›

You can find Greg Gutfeld tickets for as low as $46, with an average price of $142.

What time of day is Gutfeld taped? ›

-Studio taping begins approximately 6:15pm ET Monday-Thursday and 2:15pm ET on Friday and ends an hour later. STUDIO RULES: - Cell phones must be off before entering the studio for taping. - No cameras allowed in the studio.

Who is Greg's wife on Fox News? ›

Elena Moussa is a Russian model, fashion designer, stylist, photo editor, and entrepreneur. She's most famous for being the wife of Fox News's TV host, Greg Gutfeld. The Russian fashion guru's work has been credited in multiple fashion magazines such as Numéro, Venice, and Maxim.


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