Plenty of people are skeptical of Jordan Klepper. He's a little smarmy while interviewing Trump supporters on The Daily Show, a bit of a preening doofus in his hour-long comedy special, Jordan Klepper Solves Guns—and now he's got his own late-night show on Comedy Central, The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, which premieres September 25. (It takes the slot previously occupied by Larry Wilmore's The Minority Report, but we'll come back to that.)
When I meet Klepper on the last day of July, he's buoyant. The premiere's only seven weeks away, but the show is still being formed and writers are yet to be hired—but he's nonetheless confident and enthusiastic about his hosting job, playing a character who is, in his words, a "know-nothing provocateur."
"I see myself as an opportunist," he says with enthusiasm. "Riling up fear and excitement is something you can feed into, and my character is definitely going to play into that. Leaning into conspiracy and sometimes going to the right is what is in vogue right now on the alt-media sites, but my [character] sees himself as not attached to a party. He's more attached to… being on television for years to come."
The show intends to satirize alt-media to the right and left (though Klepper says his character leans right), zeroing in on InfoWars, Breitbart, the Blaze, and other "news" sources. When he was interviewing people at Trump rallies for The Daily Show, Klepper recalls, "I'd be walking around, and they'd be yelling 'InfoWars' at me. Six months ago, I didn't really know what they were talking about. As this new world came into being, the fringe had become mainstream."
And it's the fringe that appeals to him. Since hanging out with militia members for Jordan Klepper Solves Guns, he's pretty comfortable out there on the edges. "We were like, 'Let's go to the source,' and the source lives now in this internet world of 'Choose your own reality, choose your own news.' So we decided to dive into that world, which sees itself as anti-everything, anti-mainstream, anti-knowledge, and anti-progress. We were like, 'That's us!'"
Klepper will be taking it all on from behind the desk, sending out what he calls "citizen journalists" into the field while reserving the central role of host for himself. "I felt like my strength and what I like about being a correspondent, even going back to my sketch days, was trying to embrace the logic as opposed to just screaming at the logic."
But when it comes to replacing Wilmore and the near-total white male dominance of late night (Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee being the two exceptions), he waffles, spouting preprogrammed lines like, "Having diverse viewpoints on this show is of the utmost importance to us." I asked how many people of color and women were in the writers room; being in the midst of the hiring process, he couldn't give me numbers. "I think I understand what privilege looks like for a white person like myself, to have a late-night show, to be able to talk like this," he claims. "What I can do is, I can give you Jordan Klepper, the character on the show, who doesn't understand that privilege. I think that kind of a person exists in this world and is all over right now, and I think I'm going to attack those diverse viewpoints through a character that doesn't understand that privilege."
He compares this person to InfoWars' Alex Jones, who's less a traditional Republican than a right-leaning conspiracy theorist who wants to destroy the system and sell you supplements at the same time. This controversial space is where he sees himself standing out from the late-night crowd. "There are so many good people on television right now who are articulately telling you what is happening, and outraged by what is happening within the news," Klepper states. "Where there's an empty spot is living the machinations of this bullshit and taking it even farther. A lot of shows are going to tell you what is wrong with Donald Trump. I think it's more fun to try to defend that son of a bitch for a little while."
How successfully you can satirize the oblivious, the privileged, and the conspiracy theorists by pretending to be one of them is debatable (though The Onion's right-wing skewering PatriotHole series is in on this joke too. Sample headline: "Did Bill Clinton Cheat On Monica Lewinsky With KILLARY? Yes, And Our GOVERNMENT Doesn't Want You To Know"). But the turbulent political now might be just the psychological moment for this show to succeed. It's still a gamble, and there's a chance that audiences will tire fast of having the alt-right infiltrate their day-to-day even more than it already does. Effectively satirizing something already so cartoonish involves a high degree of difficulty, but hey, Klepper's a white dude. If he fails, he'll get another chance.