The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph Over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage
By Greg Gutfeld
(Crown Forum, 256 pages, $26)
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but how about by its intro? On page xii of Greg Gutfeld’s new tome, the author sets the tone with a tasteful joke about herpes.
Then on page three, readers are introduced to a teenage Gutfeld—young, liberal, and clueless—collecting signatures in support of a “nuclear freeze,” which he says sounds like “a Finnish sex act involving a popsicle.” (One way, I suppose, to avoid the aforementioned herpes.)
On page 28, Gutfeld gives us the phrase “prophylactic potpourri,” though how the book stumbles into such a vivid image, I’ll leave to your imagination. Later on, we have “a wolverine with hemorrhoids,” “Range Rovers made entirely from Fabergé eggs,” and “government support for performance artists shoving yams up their ass.”
None of this is to say that The Joy of Hate is necessarily a bad book. If you have an abiding love of non sequiturs, pop culture references, and poop jokes (one chapter is simply titled “Poop Stars”), you will probably giggle your way through. If, on the other hand, the preceding paragraphs have left you staring at the magazine with a furrowed brow, muttering to yourself in disgust as you clutch your ulcerated stomach, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
Gutfeld, of course, is best known as the host of RedEye, the late-night talk show on Fox News that airs at 3 a.m. on the East Coast. I wasn’t fully familiar with his schtick, since I have neither cable TV nor insomnia. But having watched about an hour’s worth of clips online, I can confirm that Gutfeld’s style is the same whether delivered on a printed page or over the airwaves. He writes like he talks, which is to say, frenetically. The book’s pace is heightened further by the fact that some chapters were originally conceived as 50-second monologues for his show. To get a feel for the total effect, imagine locking a 10-year-old in a room for several hours with Mountain Dew and Pixie Sticks, and then suddenly opening the door. The result: a burst of maniacal energy, followed by sudden and complete exhaustion. The Joy of Hate contains several four-page chapters. As in, chapters that require only one page turn to finish.
The underlying point of the book is to knock down a peg those “tolerati” who claim tolerance as a liberal virtue even as they stifle dissent. Gutfeld mocks comedians such as Bill Maher and Mike Tyson (how else would you categorize his recent career?) who say awful things about conservative women. He calls out journalists for romanticizing Occupy Wall Street while scrutinizing the Tea Party. He lampoons our Twitterfied culture, in which anyone who tells an off-color joke can go from funny to outrageous to apologetic in a matter of minutes.
Some chapters are based on themes, such as “The War on Moobs” (moobs being, of course, man boobs). Others are roughly autobiographical. This humble magazine plays a bit part when Gutfeld describes his journey out of liberalism, spurred by a copy of the magazine lent to him by a friend. “That night I read The American Spectator, and understood almost none of it. It confused me, because it was funny—and it was poking fun at things you weren’t supposed to laugh at. The targets were all liberal icons. What the Spectator was committing in my world was sacrilege.” Just a few years later, Gutfeld found a job at AmSpec managing the mail room before he moved on to other right-wing rags like Prevention and Men’s Health.
Still, he gets a few things wrong. For decades, each issue of the Spectator has included a spread called Current Wisdom, which excerpts pablum from such founts of popular opinion as the Nation and the Progressive. As Gutfeld describes it: “They ran without comment—as a statement that these ideas are so ridiculous, they require no explanation.” Except exactly the opposite is true. Current Wisdom items always come with comment, written by editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. Later, in the book’s acknowledgments section, Gutfeld gives Tyrrell a tip of the hat, but spells his name incorrectly. One can only imagine the result had Gutfeld instead tried to thank our editorial director, Wladyslaw Pleszczynski.
BUT LET’S BE charitable. We can blame a Crown publishing copyhand for the typo. As for the larger mix-up, well, memories can be hazy, especially when a person has ingested as many drugs as Gutfeld—probably in jest—claims to have. Or perhaps we can chalk it up to literary license. President Obama famously created a composite girlfriend for his memoirs. Similarly, it could be that for simplicity and dramatic effect, Gutfeld has merged several publications that shaped his early years. (Maybe the Spectator, Pravda, Private Eye, Modern Drunkard, and Meat Goat Monthly News?)
On the whole, The Joy of Hate is a solid effort. Humor, of course, is subjective, so your mileage may vary. That said, here’s the way I see it: At worst, Gutfeld is conservatism’s sidekick, like a wisecracking midget Tonto to the solemn Lone Rangers at National Review and Fox News Sunday.
At best, he’s a hip nanny to America’s young and disaffected, earning their trust with curse words and then sneaking healthful and sensible politics into their diets where he can. Whether this will work remains to be seen. But as another nanny—Mary Poppins—once sang, “A spoonful of poop jokes makes the medicine go down.”
In the interest of full disclosure, this review was funded in part by a grant from the Wastewater Treatment Association of America.
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