“It was like Trump was such an existential evil that even joking about it is unseemly,” Mr. Gutfeld said, seated inside his ample Soho apartment (previously occupied by Lindsay Lohan) with a vape pen between his fingers and a large painting of himself in plain view. “I was very anti-Trump up until when he won, and then I had to realize, ‘OK, do I continue as a broken person?’ Because he legitimately was breaking people. Because once the thing that you hate wins, what do you do?”
What Mr. Gutfeld did, in part, was capitalize on a defining talent that he and the former president share: a kind of insult conservatism that can frame any serious argument as a joke and any joke as a serious argument, leaving viewers to suss out the distinction.
“There’s sort of a nihilism at the core of that,” said Nick Marx, a Colorado State University professor and co-author of “That’s Not Funny,” a book about right-leaning comedy. He suggested that Mr. Gutfeld’s shtick was the troubling culmination of Fox’s commingling of news and entertainment.
The host’s swerves can come quickly.
Hours after Mr. Trump’s federal indictment was unsealed last month, Mr. Gutfeld sounded initially earnest about the ostensible hypocrisy of Democrats. “I’m not that interested in locking up Hunter or Joe Biden,” he said on “The Five.” “But the other side would lock up every one of us if they could.”
Something shifted in his voice.
“So, let’s go,” he said. “Let’s put ’em behind bars.”
Some co-panelists smirked.
“All of them! Every Biden! Doctor Jill!”
Now he was jabbing his finger at the air, faux-furious, swelling with recreational belief.
“How long has she been practicing on patients,” he demanded, “telling them that she’s an actual doctor?”