CLAY: Comedy has been destroyed completely and utterly by left-wing righteousness. Comedians are terrified to make jokes. Used to be you’d flip on David Letterman, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and whatever your political leanings might be, president got made fun of, famous political leaders got made fun of in the monologue, and it was almost impossible to know what the overall political leanings of the comedian might be because they tried to be equal opportunity attackers.
Now comedy is dead in late-night television, although we should mention, even though it doesn’t get a lot of attention, Greg Gutfeld. You’ve been going on his show for a long time, Buck. Greg Gutfeld dunks all over Steve Colbert, over Jimmy Kimmel, over — who’s the other guy — Jimmy Fallon. They absolutely destroy now, Greg Gutfeld does, Fox News, late-night, all those other programs.
BUCK: They inherited those other massive platforms and audiences that were built in.
BUCK: Fox is obviously a very large platform for news. There’s not an inherited audience of a couple million people every night at 11 p.m. to watch comedy, which Greg, to his absolute credit, has built, and to Fox’s credit, has allowed that kind of a show, which, honestly, we should have… There should be more shows like that, right? There should be more shows that try to be culturally relevant as well as news relevant, not from even a conservative perspective, just a right of center or centrist perspective would be nice.
CLAY: Yeah. Or just a logical perspective. But it is interesting that that show with Greg Gutfeld has begun to dominate. And here’s my thesis — and I’m curious, before we play this clip from Jimmy Kimmel last night. I’m curious what you think in general about this thesis, Buck. I believe that what happened in late-night television is Stephen Colbert went all-in on attacking Donald Trump like crazy.
And his show on CBS went from last place to first place because there were people who wanted to tune in to a Trump-is-awful, comedic-focused broadcast. Colbert had a lot of success. And then Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon chased Colbert to the point where, honestly, the smart play probably would have been to go in the opposite direction of Colbert.
But because Hollywood is so left-wing and left-leaning, you can’t get guests that are promoting their movies or are gonna come on your television broadcast, period, if you go too far centrist or right-wing and so they all changed each other down the left-wing rabbit hole and basically assured each other of mutual destruction.
BUCK: So I remember the originator, in a sense, of this model, the guy who was your got it right big time — and I’m sure you used to see his show a lot and I certainly did back when I was in college — was Jon Stewart with The Daily Show. All right? And that was going back to the Bush administration, and what that was is a place where — ’cause liberals, I mean, you see this.
They love the mad owe show during Russia collusion. Even though it was all lie and wasn’t true, that’s what they wanted to see. They prefer even more just the snarky, snide attack of someone pretending to be a comedian that’s really doing political commentary with jokes because, one, they just want to see pies thrown at the people they disagree with.
“You know, those red state, anti-vax, Trump voting MAGA hat people!” But also beyond that, they don’t want to be encumbered by facts, logic, reason, or decency. They just want to see their enemies mocked and humiliated. The left is obsessed with this. They also can tolerate no humiliation of their idols, their ideas. The fact that we haven’t seen more comedy, Clay, about people walking around with gas masks or three masks on or people that think —
CLAY: Or hazmat suits.
BUCK: — it’s normal to wear a mask driving alone in their car, this is rife for comedy. These are things that need mocking.
CLAY: It is wildly rife for ridicule.
BUCK: And yet it doesn’t happen because we all know that the one thing that the left cannot abide is the ridicule of its rituals and its ideas because then the whole thing starts to fall apart. It’s cultural resonance that makes at all so powerful. It’s the cool kids watch Colbert and laugh at his stupid anti-Trump jokes and so everybody else does it at the same time.
But I think that really what you’re seeing is actually just a form of propaganda because they’re doing political commentary on those shows, Colbert and Kimmel, whatever. But it’s political commentary for stupid people because they don’t actually… The moment they get challenged it’s, “Oh, I’m just a comedian. I’m just making jokes.” Well, no, actually you’re making political arguments with jokes placed around it so that you’re immune, and you can just take snide cheap shots at the other side.
CLAY: Are you with me growing up if you watched Leno – I was a Letterman guy — I don’t remember having any sense for what their political beliefs were.
BUCK: I never thought that Letterman was funny one second of one day in my entire life, and I didn’t watch him that much. I did watch Leno sometimes who I did think was funny. This is one of these areas where I see this and I say, “Clay, for a guy I agree with on so many things…” Letterman was a mean guy.
CLAY: I loved Letterman.
BUCK: I don’t think he was a funny guy.
CLAY: I loved Letterman.
CLAY: I would watch Letterman every night. I liked the way he deconstructed late-night television. We could probably have a huge debate about this. But the bigger picture here is, would you agree with me as a Leno guy that you really didn’t get the sense that you knew what Jay Leno or David Letterman thought politically?
BUCK: Yes. He made jokes that were meant for the entire studio audience and everyone watching at home. You could have been a Bush voter and in the Leno years, laugh at jokes about Bush and it wasn’t uncomfortable, because it came from a place of comedy, not a place of derision.
BUCK: And what’s happened now is the left, because of cancel culture, one, has weaponized the culture against the mockery of things that they hold sacred, but also don’t really… They have no interest in just the art of making people laugh so much as they want to be propagandists for their political side. They want to humiliate their targets. They’re not trying to make everybody laugh.
CLAY: And it’s interesting in that respect… Let’s play this clip when we come back because I think a lot of you out there listening to us now have sort of a visceral reaction when I say Letterman or Leno. Whether you like them or not, or certainly if you go back to Johnny Carson, they were equal opportunity comedians throwing punches and jabs in every direction such that you really never had a sense for exactly what they believed themselves, almost in a Walter Cronkite sense for lack of a better way.
BUCK: Well, he was also a lib but that’s a whole other thing.
CLAY: Yeah, but back in the day you didn’t really know. I mean, look. I think the assumption has to be that if you live in Hollywood or you live in New York and you’re entertainment, you’re probably a left-leaning person, unless you are totally silent, in which case I think that you might not be. But I do think that the question of how did this pivot occur, and is there a way out of it — and, honestly, in the process are and he’s not cutting their own throats because if you only allow humor in one direction, ultimately it’s going to be a failed humor.
BUCK: I mean, satire is usually directed at those who are in power.
CLAY: That’s right.
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BUCK: That’s what it’s supposed to do, and this is why political cartoons, for example, throughout our history have been so powerful, because they expose truths that also have a cultural salience, right? They show things in a way, they visualized what we know to be true and is often something you’re not supposed to say or those in power don’t want you to feel comfortable saying.
What’s happening now is, particularly when you’re talking about the gatekeepers of our culture, they determine what jokes are allowed and are not allowed, and they certainly don’t want them being directed at the people who are in power, and that just goes to right now, Clay, what is there to make fun of if you’re Stephen Colbert or if you’re these others?
I haven’t seen their shows in a long time. I see clips occasionally. What is there? You can’t make fun of the Biden administration. You’re not gonna make fun of the fact that there’s a senile buffoon who is actually president of the United States ’cause that’s your team.
BUCK: So all the actual comedy that people might be making is always encumbered by subservience to political belief. And that’s why comedy’s basically dead. That plus everything that’s actually funny now you can’t say out loud in a public forum without possibly losing your job, being kicked out of your housing, you know, that’s where we are.
CLAY: It’s also why I think you’re seeing Bill Maher cut through the noise, to a certain extent now with his HBO show.
BUCK: Clay had mentioned that there’s a dearth of humor from people that have the supposed to comedian positions on TV. They’re really political commentators who occasionally make jokes, and Jimmy Kimmel, who… I mean, he’s gone after people on the right in ways I thought were just… I’m not even talking about to make jokes about but in a more personal way seems kind of nasty. Here he is talking about… This is his version of comedy. Play it.
KIMMEL: Dr. Fauci that said if hospitals get any more overcrowded, they’re gonna have to make some very tough choices about who gets an ICU bed. That choice doesn’t seem so tough to me. “Vaccinated person having a heart attack? Yes, come right on in! We’ll take care of you. Unvaccinated guy who gobbled horse? Rest in peace, Weezy.”
KIMMEL: We still got a lot of pandemwits out there, people are still taking this ivermectin. You know, the poison control centers have seen a spike in calls from people taking this livestock medicine to fight the coronavirus, but they won’t take the vaccine.
BUCK: Apparently, he’s paid millions and millions of dollars by, what is it, Disney, to be a moron and a liar, ’cause that’s what that sound clip says to me. First of all, the horse… Anyone who says it’s a horse drug is an idiot who’s being dishonest. It’s not even possible to be that stupid. But, Clay, this is what we’re up against!
CLAY: Yeah, look. I think the whole — and we need to play, later in the show, the Joe Rogan clip because you took ivermectin. It was prescribed to you when you had covid.
BUCK: Yes, by a highly regarded infectious disease specialist of 40 years almost of practice in New York City. Yes.
CLAY: And it’s not the same doctor, but Joe Rogan, I’m sorry, also had ivermectin prescribed to him by a doctor. It has been prescribed to humans for decades as a drug, right? It has also been used —
BUCK: It has saved probably millions of lives over the course many of years.
CLAY: Yeah, so that clip to me is emblematic of, in many ways, the failure of comedy because it’s not a joke that would have been made, I don’t believe, by David Letterman or Jay Leno. And look. I know Jimmy because I do a show with his cousin, Sal. Jimmy and I…. I mean, he’s a good dude. I like him on an individual basis.
And he’s good friends with Adam Carolla, Buck, who has almost identical opinions to you and me in many different respects except Carolla is a lot funnier. And if you watched The Man Show back in the day, which I bet you watched some clips of back in the day, ’cause you’re around the same age as me.
BUCK: Cannot neither confirm nor deny.
CLAY: Man Show, which was Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel and which my buddy Sal wrote on, is fabulously funny. And I think the distance between late-night television today and what The Man Show could do represents a failure fundamentally of comedy. And to your point earlier, if you are — and I think it’s a big question, and I don’t know the answer.
You know, Gutfeld is having a lot of success by effectively being the anti-Colbert, right? He’s coming to things from a right-wing perspective where Colbert comes at it from a left-wing perspective. Is there still a space in comedy for a guy who is basically right down the middle — or a girl — going after equal-side humor?
I don’t know that there is, Buck. I wonder on some level whether we have so — and I’m making up a word here, potentially — nichified comedy that the only way you can win in society, and I wonder about this and worry about this a little bit, is if you are trying to appeal to a targeted demo instead of trying to appeal to the masses.
BUCK: This is also what happens when you have gatekeepers, those who control platforms, corporations openly going woke and now what you have is — you could call it — the Balkanization of the media. It’s certainly happened in news and commentary. When I got into this 10 years ago, Clay, MSNBC would say, “Buck, we want to have you debate jihadism or something with so-and-so,” and we’d actually get to fight it out on TV.
BUCK: CNN would have people say, “How could you ever worked at CNN?” ’cause they let me go on and crush commies and it was fun. You couldn’t actually do that you. Now, they would cheat, and they would talk over you, and there was a lot of hostility. (chuckles) It was a hostile environment, but at least it used to happen. Now no one really does this anymore. It doesn’t exist.
And everyone just wants what they expect from a host to be said night in and night out. And, I mean, Clay, you know, I understand that, you know, that Jimmy Kimmel maybe is a nice guy person to person. But the stuff that he’s saying, given what we’re going through as a country and the real threats we face?
I mean, it’s reckless, man. It’s bad. It’s not cool at all to pretend that people, that people shouldn’t go… He says that. He makes that as a joke. Other people are gonna say, “Yeah, you know what? You’re right. Unvaccinated people shouldn’t get into the ICU.” I mean, that’s a real issue right now.
CLAY: What’s crazy is at least he’s a comedian saying that. There are real doctors saying that, basically, “Hey, I’m not gonna treat you if you are not vaccinated,” and to me, again, all of this begs the question: Has the left-wing in many ways killed comedy? Have they destroyed all comedy? I think there’s —
BUCK: I think the mockery… I think we gotta be honest. I think the mockery comes in advance of the policy a lot of time. It’s, “Oh, those stupid Trumpers won’t do this or those Trumpers won’t do that,” and they make jokes about it, and then all the sudden it’s Pelosi and Schumer on the floor of Congress who are advocating —
CLAY: Following up on it.
BUCK: — and saying, “This needs to happen,” and enough people have bought in to the lies that the mockery are built on, that they go, “Yeah, you know what? I guess we do have to do it. It’s not funny anymore,” Clay, right? That’s what they’d say. “It’s reality now. We have to make them do this.”
CLAY: And I think this is also a function of Twitter, right? Because Twitter is so far left wing, yet it is for media people catnip, right? Even if you’re a middle-of-the-road or right-wing person, you still understand that that is where stories come and where debates take place.
BUCK: What percent of the country is really on Twitter? Isn’t it like three or something?
CLAY: Two percent of people are actually active tweeting on a day-to-day basis, one in 50.
BUCK: People that live in our world that aren’t.
CLAY: It’s not real.
BUCK: We’ll come back to so many calls. People obviously to want to talk. People are fired up, ’cause this does matter to the culture and to our politics. As Breitbart said, politics is downstream of culture.