chat room

Jordan Klepper on the End of The Opposition and the ‘Jordan Klepper’ Character

Jordan Klepper. Photo: Getty Images

After nine months on the air, The Opposition With Jordan Klepper ends its run on Comedy Central tonight at 11:30 p.m. Ordered to series after Klepper rose to fame for his wildly popular Daily Show field pieces at Trump rallies during election season, The Opposition enjoyed a short-lived run on the post–Daily Show time slot once filled by The Colbert Report and similarly served as a Daily Show devil’s advocate by parodying the far-right extremism of conspiracy-theory-pushing figures like Alex Jones. While Comedy Central opted not to renew The Opposition for more episodes, the network has plans for Klepper to host a new weekly show to debut sometime next year — a show that will take him back out into the field where he belongs.

Ahead of tonight’s Opposition finale, we chatted with Klepper about the end of the show, what to expect on the next show, and his plan to have his character and team of Citizen Journalists “self-destruct in this world one last time” this week.

The final episode of The Opposition is just a couple days away now. How are you feeling?
You know, it’s definitely feeling bittersweet. We’re doing a lot of fun stuff this week and writing fun chats for the CJs (Citizen Journalists). We’re filming in the field for this extravaganza for our last show, so it’s really exciting putting everything together. But it’s definitely sad to think this chapter of The Opposition is closing — we’re working our fingers to the bone but trying to enjoy each little moment.

It’s one thing ending, but then also this new thing to look forward to with the new show you’re developing. I would be very confused about how to feel about all that. Seems like a weird place to be.
[Laughs.] Yeah it is. It is weird. I definitely do feel like this thing that I love and that I created with such wonderful people, we are putting it to bed, and that comes with a full human’s worth of emotions. It comes with emotions like pride and sadness, so that is happening at the same time this other thing is starting, which comes with another full human’s worth of emotions of excitement and optimism, and just the idea that you can paint with brand-new colors is something I’m very excited about as well. So I’m sort of living inside two bodies, although the good thing is I have practice doing that over the last year with this so-called “Jordan Klepper” character. So this isn’t entirely new for me.

How did this decision to end the show and start working on a new one come about? Is this a discussion you’ve been having with the network for a while?
It’s fairly recent. It was only a handful of weeks ago that the network started talking to us about next steps, and they wanted to take some big swings — and so did we — to figure out how to stand out in this environment and best utilize this team that we have. And so just literally a handful of weeks ago that discussion started up, and it got put out there that maybe the next big thing we can do is put me back in the field so I can integrate with people, cover those stories out there again, build a team out of the things that we’ve learned out of this, and give ourselves a swing at doing something weekly so we can craft something that adds a little more depth to these stories.

I really enjoyed what this day-in and day-out show is, and playing it through a character is honestly something I’m super proud of and is something that I think is unique in the landscape, but it’s stepping back and looking at, like, how are people feeling in the Trump administration in 2018? What are people tired of? Are they tired of the chase of the day-to-day with him? That was part of the discussion, so when it got thrown out that we could possibly do something that was a big shift, that was weekly, that gave us the ability to not have to chase tweets and the ability to kind of respond to stories out in America and put me out there as well, it felt like that was the right next step for us.

You did a lot of field pieces on The Daily Show, but on The Opposition it’s usually you at the desk while the Citizen Journalists go out into the field. Did you miss being able to do that more often?
You know, I definitely did, although I really enjoyed being in the studio. It’s a totally different muscle. I love being behind the desk — the ability to play off a Citizen Journalist and craft the day’s stories in response to what is happening is an amazing muscle to flex. I love being out in the real world and I love being able to curate a story from start to finish, so I was able to help the field pieces on the show do that, but there’s still a part of me that likes to get my hands dirty and go talk to these people face-to-face. That’s why I think the interview segments and what I do on the show are all so fun, because I could interact with people and respond in real time.

Do you have specific priorities for the next show? I’m also curious: Is it still going to be the “Jordan Klepper” character? Will the next show be in the same world as The Opposition?
I think it’s going to be Jordan Klepper as a person. It’s going to start from there. I think that’s what the new unique challenge is. We want to finish this “Jordan Klepper” who lives in the paranoid state of the old fringe of The Opposition, and I think this new Jordan Klepper is going to be built out of the person who I really am. I want to respond to the real America without the veneer that is an alt-right asshole. I want to bring the true asshole that’s inside of me to the real world. You know, it’s time to be a little bit honest!

Kent Alterman mentioned there will probably be some onscreen contributors on the new show too. Is that right?
Yeah. I’m going to be leading us through the show and I will be out in the field, but I definitely want to react to people in my world. Coming from an improv background and coming from the sketch world, I want to talk to people face-to-face, but I’m going to bounce off people too. They’re going to go around the world and tell stories along with me. So I don’t want to lose that at all — it’s one of my favorite parts of The Opposition, it’s one of my favorite parts of The Daily Show, and so there’s definitely going to be a team that’s putting on the show as well.

What was it like to guide the Citizen Journalists along and see how they evolved with their own spotlight on TV?
You know, it’s … again, it’s one of my favorite things to do with the show. With casting the Citizen Journalists, it was a similar process that I went through — having people write auditions, improvise with you, and then pitch ideas about going in the field. So it was something that I spent two years learning from Jon Stewart and all the people in the field department at The Daily Show, so I felt like I had a master’s degree working with people, getting them comfortable as those characters, and then going out. And I was always so excited to see what they brought back from the field. And I think it’s a different comedic process for each person: When you’re talking to Kobi [Libii], Kobi’s going to go out, he’s going to interact with Alex Jones. Aaron [Jackson] and Josh [Sharp] are going to go to a rally, and then we can sit down and be like, “All right, here’s how I approach rallies. These are the tricks of the trade I found. Here are the types of people you’re going to talk to. Let’s build off of that.” And then they would come back and talk about how things shifted, and I would learn from that as well. I felt like a wizened old grandfather eager to hear stories from the road. So I was glad to help, but also kind of eager to get out there myself.

It must be interesting to have a show that Alex Jones has commented on for — how many times has it been? I think I’ve seen him respond to your show multiple times by now.
He has. He did a whole segment on “Keppler.” He loved to troll us with that with his rapier wit. And Kobi confronted him after the whole crisis actor thing went down, so we got to meet good ol’ Alex Jones on his footing and kind of engage with him there. I’ll tell ya, I’m excited to not watch Infowars after this week.

Is there any segment from the show that you think is underrated and didn’t get the attention it deserved that you’d like to give a little bump?
Hell yes. [Laughs.] I will tell you, I think our writers are amazing. What we write, joke per minute, on our show, we couldn’t be more proud of. I think we filter things through character and through satire in a way that I’m always proud of our writers room. I love our field pieces. I think Kobi did a field piece in Baltimore about students who had lost — I may be wrong on the exact number — but it was five to seven students in the last year through violence in their school, and it got no press because everyone was talking about mass shootings at that time. And they were part of the March for Our Lives discussion, but they weren’t part of what the media was paying attention to. And that was honestly one of the most heartwarming pieces I saw, because we got to give voice to them at a time when a lot of people weren’t paying attention.

Our pop-up show also outside of D.C. around the March and the gun debate was something that I really got behind, and our segments where we got to play in the character of victimhood, the wronged men. “I Don’t Recognize My Country Anymore” was a thing where I always really loved to kind of soak up this character and show the ridiculous blind spots of this asshole.

We also did seven minutes on crab penises — that’s something that I don’t know why the New York Times didn’t write about it. Josh and Aaron went out, we shot it like Planet Earth, and it was all about how global warming was saving the penises of crabs. And I just think that kind of cutting-edge satire isn’t being done anywhere else. [Laughs.]

As you start developing the next show, are there any lessons you’ve learned from The Opposition that will be helpful to you? I imagine there are certain things about hosting a late-night show you can’t know about until you do it.
I mean, ultimately you have to learn being comfortable with who you are and with the decisions that you make. And I think you get better. Something I learned from Jon Stewart was his certainty — being able to make decisions and comfortably go along with them in a way that saved him time during the day. Every minute is crucial when you’re writing a show from scratch every morning, and I think that comes from being comfortable in who you are and what you believe. I think in the end it’s the same lesson that you learn when you start out in comedy: You have to trust what your gut is, and that gut is gonna be: Make decisions that surround you with very talented people who will also support those ideas. But make sure you feel good in the gut, and build from there.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jordan Klepper on the End of The Opposition and What’s Next