“Gutfeld!” crashed Colbert and co.’s late night party last year, rocketing up the ratings charts in the process.
Can a YouTube-based series follow in Fox News’ footsteps?
Ian Haworth is betting it can.
“Off Limits with Ian Haworth” gives John Oliver’s brand of late night satire a conservative makeover. Haworth isn’t interested in uncorking more “Orange Man Bad” rants. He’s dragging liberal politicos like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the satirical coals.
And a few right-leaning souls along with her.
Haworth shared with HiT how his show differs from the “Gutfeld!” model and why he won’t pull punches like Colbert and co. do for Team Biden.
HiT: Conservatives have been clamoring for late night shows that speak to them … did that inspire “Off Limits?”
Haworth: For me, it was a combination of factors, and yes, one was this gaping hole in the market for a conservative voice in this space. It was also inspired by the blatant radicalization of existing shows, and the fact that they’re simply no longer funny.
Just a few years ago, I enjoyed figures like John Oliver and (sometimes) Stephen Colbert, and I watched Jon Stewart religiously on “The Daily Show” until his final episode. But over time, they’ve become nothing more than sanctimonious mouthpieces for the radical Left, replacing laughter for “clapter.”
For me, this is an opportunity.
HiT: Late night avoids so many subjects that make the Left look foolish. Are you finding an abundance of targets given that reality?
Haworth: Absolutely! Politics is inherently ridiculous, and there is power in going after both sides.
The problem with current late night is that it takes easy shots at the Right (don’t get me wrong, the Right is hilarious, but endlessly making jokes about Trump being orange is hardly creative), while they do their best to protect the Left.
Biden has full-blown dementia, but comedians will hold his hand through interviews to avoid upsetting the Left.
That will never happen (on either side) on “Off Limits.”
HiT: How do you see “Off Limits” as similar to existing shows, and in what ways is it different (besides the ideological angle)?
Haworth: It’s obviously early in the show’s development, so the similarities are going to be the fundamental core of each one of these existing shows: political and cultural commentary from a light-hearted angle.
What makes it different is that it’ll be targeting both sides of the political aisle with a conservative lean, and build on an honest and analytical foundation. “The Worst” is the final segment in each episode, where we uncover an issue in our modern society, and the goal is to be both entertaining and informative.
This is one important difference. Too many late night shows give their audience exactly what they want, even if it means lying to them. Again, the “clapter” issue. That’s not what comedy is about.
HiT: “Gutfeld!” is the only late night show that gives conservatives a fair shake — how does “Off Limits” differ from Greg Gutfeld’s showcase?
Haworth: I think the main difference is style, with my show being a single host (for now), and Gutfeld! being a panel. The success of Gutfeld! is not only a testament to Greg’s talent in this space, but also the desire for lighter content on the Right.
I don’t view my show as an alternative, but rather a partner in a growing list of conservative alternatives to the Left’s domination of the comedy/analysis space.
HiT: It’s one thing to critique an existing program, but I’m betting creating one from scratch proved humbling. What did you learn about news satire in the process of launching “Off Limits?”
Haworth: It’s definitely been a huge challenge, but massively rewarding. I have an awesome team (Austin Stephens and Nick Sheehan) who have helped me turn this idea into a reality, and I think we’ve done a great job so far with limited resources compared to network shows or existing channels.
Of course, we still have a long way to go!
When you build anything from the ground-up (whether it be starting a podcast, designing a product, or launching a company), you realize the true complexity of success in any of these areas.
It’s humbling, but also exciting when you start the process with an almost insurmountable “to-do” list and make it to launch day!
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HiT: Can you share your professional background and how previous gigs led you to this moment?
Haworth: My career trajectory is…random, to say the least.
I graduated from Oxford University in 2012 with a Bachelors and Masters in Computer Science. I always had a dream of working in the United States, so I then moved to Silicon Valley as a programmer. I worked for a few companies, including four years at Facebook.
During that time, I became concerned by the spread of radicalism in the Bay Area, fueled by the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearings in 2018, and so I started writing political commentary pieces.
One got published by The Daily Wire, and soon after I was writing for them on a freelance basis — all while working for Facebook at the same time.
In January 2021, I joined The Daily Wire full time as a writer and editor, and moved to Nashville a few months later.
This show is the culmination of a lot of these experiences — understanding that the world of politics is absurd, understanding that the Left has an iron-grip on reality through the world of entertainment and understanding that an outside perspective on key issues can help shift the goalposts in a way that existing methods cannot.
HiT: You’ve mentioned “Clapter” a few times … how do you guard against those moments?
Haworth: This reminds me of the first few episodes of late night shows during COVID-19. Without a studio audience, there was no applause and no laughter, and you realized just how…unfunny these shows truly are.
However, you don’t need a laugh track to be funny — some of my favorite British comedies don’t have a live audience, and they make me cry with laughter to this day. The reality is simple: you have to be funny alone.
It’s definitely harder to make people laugh without the contagious effect of an audience, but I think that makes you work harder as a writer in the process.
HiT: Big Tech and fact checkers alike routinely attack right-leaning comedy … have you had any experiences like this yet, and if not is there a way to work around them?
Haworth: The reality of censorship is something almost all online content creators (on both sides, but more often on the conservative side) have to deal with, and it’s only a matter of time for “Off Limits.”
The goal of the first season of “Off Limits with Ian Haworth” is to grow the show, and so the unfortunate reality is that we’re going to have to find that balance between digging into important subjects and being wary of censorship efforts.
But one principle of the show is to be factual (aside from satire, of course), which helps!
HiT: Will “Off Limits” be YouTube based moving forward? Would you consider aligning with a right-leaning platform to carry the show?
Haworth: Right now, full episodes are available exclusively on YouTube, while clips are available on multiple other platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, etc).
We are also working on releasing the audio version in the future. You can find link to all of these platforms at watchofflimits.com.
We would certainly consider aligning with right-leaning platforms, but I would also be careful not to limit the ideological lean of my audience.
The goal here is to expose people across the political spectrum to this style of conservative commentary, and it’s hard to expose Leftists, liberals or moderates to this content if they’re not on the platform.