Democracy Dies in Darkness

Post Partisan | Opinion

How Jordan Klepper does satire in the age of Trump

May 15, 2018 at 6:01 AM

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On Friday, April 27, Comedy Central’s Jordan Klepper, host of the “The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper,” sat down with Washington Post Opinion Writer and host of the “Cape Up” podcast, Jonathan Capehart, to talk about news, politics and satire. Klepper and Capehart discussed how the Comedy Central host parodies conservative politics, his on-air persona and what he really thinks about the dynamics in Washington.

“I think this character is selfish. He’s privileged, He’s a little bit dangerous.”

Whereas Stephen Colbert was a nightly send-up of Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, Jordan Klepper channels Alex Jones and the conspiratorial ethos of Infowars on Comedy Central’s “The Opposition.” But the goal of Klepper’s show is the same as Colbert’s: making sense of the news through satire. “The purpose of our show is not to inform people of the news. I hope they seek out news sources to get that,” Klepper told me during a live-event recording of the latest episode of “Cape Up” on April 27 at The Post. “We need to ask that second question of, like, ‘Do we have something to say about this if we don’t have a spin on it?’

“And also through the point of view of our show, which is a little bit of a weird dance,” the “Daily Show” alum explained, “because, often, I can’t just say a funny thing about it. I’m usually saying a funny thing about it from the point of view of a character who would say the terrible thing about it.”


For more conversations like this, subscribe to “Cape UP” on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

“People used to turn to the late-night TV as like a way to escape. I think now it’s sort of a way to synthesize the chaos of the day,” Klepper said in response to a question from the audience about the power of shows like his to affect public opinion. That got at something I’d been wondering. How does he make comedy out of news that already lends itself to comedy? And how does he make a television show for an audience that doesn’t watch television?

“Yeah, who doesn’t want Pruitt jokes for eight straight minutes?,” Klepper said about the congressional testimony of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt the day before our sit-down. Also making news that day was the guilty verdict against Bill Cosby and President Trump’s audible meltdown on Fox News. “For us, a show like us, we decided to compartmentalize and make what we call ‘ice cube trays’ so we can hit three different stories. And so an audience who might not be watching linear television can watch one of those little trays, one of those little three minutes so that it feels packaged so you can enjoy it as a whole, but can also understand it when it’s broken up in smaller pieces.”

Comedian Jordan Klepper hosts the premiere of Comedy Central’s “The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper” on Sept. 25, 2017 in New York City. (Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

Listen to the podcast to hear Klepper discuss his previous comedic life on the liberal side of things. Like that time he interviewed a Georgia militia in the woods and strode out in a tailored camouflage suit. “I was happily surprised to see that everybody wanted to take a picture with the suit,” he said, “touch the suit.” And we talked seriously about the gun debate, the state of American politics and the gumption of the Parkland, Fla., generation. “I think we have grown complacent, and to watch kids not want to wait is something that I think is a little bit of a wakeup call for everybody else,” Klepper noted.

Of course, I wanted to know how on earth Klepper gets folks to talk to him when they know he’s going to make fun of them. “It’s two things. People love to be on television. … And two, people think they can win,” he said. “They might completely disagree and they’re like, ‘But I want my point of view to get across, I want to be on TV and I think I can beat you at that.’”

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj
Subscribe to Cape Up, Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast

Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Post editorial board, writes about politics and social issues, and is host of the "Cape Up" podcast.

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