Conservatives finally have their answer for Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.” The result is as cringeworthy as you’d expect.
Headline News is the latest show from One America News Network (OANN), Fox News’ slightly more radical right wing cousin. Former counter-terrorism officer Drew Berquist hosts, and according to the show’s description he “brings his own light-hearted approach to the headlines.” The jokes are shoddily written modern conservative tropes—AOC is dumb, Joe Biden is creepy, socialism is bad—punctuated with corny bits, terrible timing and a brutally fake laugh track.
All that adds up to the comedy news show conservatives have waited their whole lives for.
Late-night television’s political evolution has been difficult for conservative viewers. Liberal-leaning comedians constantly call out Donald Trump’s blatant hypocrisy, stupidity and outright evil. Saturday Night Live has dedicated its last few seasons to becoming the leading comedic commentary on the Trump administration (much to the show’s detriment). Conservatives have clamored for their own topical comedy show since Trump’s election. It doesn’t matter if the jokes suck or it’s poorly produced or the host isn’t a comedian—it just has to be sympathetic to the president and conservative views.
Headline News checks all those boxes—the writing genuinely sucks and the production value is horrible. But Berquist might be worse than both combined. Sitting behind a news desk, he reads copy as a laugh track intermittently roars in. To say Berquist lacks timing would be an understatement—he either awkwardly pauses for the fake laughter or ignores it altogether, propping up his punchlines with ad-libs like “yep, not good” or “yeah…there’s that.” Berquist’s entire comedic relief during a cringingly uncomfortable man-on-the-street segment amounted to scoffing at the interviewees for rambling off topic. Later, he barely pauses for breath during his interview with a replacement-level Bernie Sanders impressionist. The camera might as well have been trained on the cue cards.
OANN and Berquist aren’t the first to tackle demand for a topical conservative newscast comedy. Mike Huckabee’s been trying to become conservative Johnny Carson for years, with garish results. Headline News doesn’t showcase the same hacky stand-up or Christian fundamentalism of Huckabee. But they’re essentially the same show, borne out of the right’s desperation to gain ground in the culture war and laugh at something—anything—made specifically for them. It’s deeply unfunny, but at this point that doesn’t even matter.