Comic Jordan Klepper Assumes An Anti-Fact Persona On 'The Opposition'
Former Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper remembers a time, not so long ago, when he was barely aware of far-right media outlets like Alex Jones' Infowars and Breitbart News. That changed during the 2016 presidential race.
"I was going out into the field and covering a lot of Trump rallies and talking to people," Klepper says, "and they were getting a lot of their ideas and their news from these far-right sources. So what first felt fringe, suddenly felt mainstream."
Today those sites are required reading for Klepper's job. As the host of Comedy Central's satirical political show The Opposition, Klepper delivers commentaries in the persona of a far-right conspiracy theorist.
"He creates his own reality," Klepper says of his character. "He sees the two dots and he fills the spaces with the things that make him feel more comfortable."
On developing his character for The Opposition
The character that I play lives in this world of Alex Jones, but is not a one-to-one satirization of Alex Jones. We kind of wanted to create a character that stood alone from those characters. So it's got the paranoia and the opportunism of an Alex Jones; it's got the Trump support of a Sean Hannity. It feels like state-run media. It's got the snark and smarm of a Jesse Watters, and it's got a little bit of Midwestern Jordan Klepper in there as well.
The look that we've started to cultivate is less like "I'm a New York guy with skinny ties and thin suits." ... These guys like to have flashier suits, bigger watches, big stripes and things of that nature. And so costume-wise we try to go in that direction. They sort of all preach the prosperity gospel; they're going to talk about God. But the best way to show that you are a person of God and living a righteous path is that you are successful. I think the Jordan Klepper character on the show wants to show he's successful in how he looks and how he holds himself.
On how he relates to the people he satirizes
I don't want to overplay my hand as someone who has lived a really difficult, tough life. I've been very fortunate. I had a great upbringing. [But] trying to become a professional comedian had its toil. I didn't have a lot of successes. I had a lot of failures, and I think out of that comes this [insecurity of], "Am I smart enough? Am I thoughtful enough?" And I do think we're all dealing with those issues and we all have those fears deep down inside. ...
When I look at these characters who might be more on the fringe, who I disagree with ideologically or the things that they're pushing, and I try to find what is really going on right there — "Why are you pushing so hard against this anti-intellectualism? Why are you so angry?" — it's like, I think I can relate to [you] because you are scared.
On how "resistance" is a theme for both the left and the right
You see the ideology that exists on these far fringier sites like Infowars and even Breitbart — they're not like traditional Republican ideologies. They're based in conflict and opposing the mainstream — anti-mainstream, anti-intellectualism, anti-fact in many ways.
As we wanted to build this show, we saw that, "This is all opposing something. Find an enemy. Call it out. We want to be that." We also realized what was so interesting is [Jones] was calling himself "the resistance" at the same time Keith Olbermann had a show calling itself The Resistance, and it felt like a very American moment that we could all be united in being against something. We're all resisting something. We all want to be the underdogs.
On getting cast for The Daily Show over his wife and comedy partner, Laura Grey
They had us both audition and we went through a bunch of rounds. We both came in and read with Jon [Stewart] and they could only take one person, and I was the person who got that job, which was one of the weirdest, strangest, happiest, saddest moments of my life. ...
We had worked together for so long, worked on these projects and gotten so close to this really cool dream job — one which she was so perfect for, I felt I had a strong chance for. ... So I got to go along with it and she didn't and started working on other things. ...
It's kind of the truth of this industry. On the outside everything is a dream and you get to have dream jobs. And, again, I am so fortunate with the opportunities that I had, but up until that point, Laura and I had both been doing comedy for 15 years and we had some successes, but a lot of that was us making videos ourselves on no money, teaching improv 40 hours a week to try to get by, hustling, getting really close to opportunities and then failing. So this idea of this dream thing happening and everything is great is a fallacy. I think when I had that opportunity ... it was a mix of so many emotions. It's always going to be complicated.
Heidi Saman and Seth Kelley produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Nicole Cohen adapted it for the Web.
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