Thirteen months after cancelling The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Comedy Central has finally found its 11:30 p.m. companion to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Tonight, the network is launching The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, which will satirize hyperbolic alt-media outlets like Brietbart and Infowars.
Klepper, the former Daily Show correspondent, will follow in the footsteps of Stephen Colbert by hosting the 11:30 show as a fictionalized version of himself, a character he described over the summer as “a know-nothing provocateur who fights for the common man … Alex Jones meets Garrison Keillor.”
As he prepared to launch the show—which will finally solidify Comedy Central’s late-night lineup—Klepper spoke with Adweek about how The Colbert Report inspired him, why The Opposition could be a great fit for brands and how much late night has changed in the past year.
Adweek: Comedy Central President Kent Alterman told me that when he made the deal with you for the 11:30 show, he didn’t know exactly what it was going to be. How long did it take to determine that?
Jordan Klepper: When I talked with Kent, we had a great conversation about what we thought was missing and what we wanted to start covering, and where we’ve landed is this alt-media world and this alt-media landscape. It took us a month or two to narrow in how the show was going to feel and look. How are we satirizing? Am I playing a character? It was a month or a month and a half after we talked to him, when we were like, I think this is what the show is and how it feels.
You haven’t talked with Stephen Colbert about how he was able to pull off something similar with The Colbert Report, but have you at least watched Colbert Report episodes to get a sense of how you modulate a character like that for a decade-plus?
Colbert proved that you can do a character and filter a show, day in and day out, through this point of view, which is very inspiring, and as a fan of that show, I was able to watch that and say, “Oh, this is a sustainable idea.” What we wanted to do is, let’s understand that we can filter it through a point of view that might not be our own. In the same way that Trevor does it on The Daily Show, we can filter it through a point of view of somebody who we find more interesting than us. So from there, we wanted to find the points of view that were already out there—the Breitbarts, the Blazes. And then, let’s start to build out of that. Stephen obviously was proof of concept years ago for that. So now, let’s figure out how to make this work in 2017.
Another thing that worked in Stephen’s favor is that The O’Reilly Report was on for the entire run of The Colbert Report. Will you be prepared if people pivot away to the Infowars of the world to something else? Certainly with a title like The Opposition, you’d have an opportunity to expand your parameters as alt-media evolves.
Exactly. We’re not seeing this as a one-to-one parody of any particular thing that exists out there right now. What we do feel exists, and is going to continue to exist, is this feeling that we can’t trust mainstream culture, that only outsiders are going to be able to take us back to the America that we remember, this fear of change. We talk a lot about the paranoid style of American politics that has always been a part of American culture, this desire towards an almost conspiratorial mindset and fearing the worst and filling in those holes with fear and hyperbole. And so, even if some of these alt-medias fade, I think the perspective is still fueling even mainstream media. We look at how it lives and how the point of views live in shows like Hannity, and we hope that this show can continue to satirize that mentality that is out there.
The Colbert Report figured out how to incorporate brand partnerships. Will you also try to bring brands on board, or do you need to get your sea legs first?
We’re still in the phase of, let’s figure out exactly how this show feels and what this show’s point of view is towards the world. I think this character is somebody who very clearly wants to reach the everyman in America, but also, you can see these alt-media sources also try to sell to the everyman, and so I think there are opportunities in there to already utilize what we’re already seeing being done in media and not only use that but comment on that in our own show. We’re not quite there yet, but I think there’s definitely room for it.
Social media is such an essential part of many alt-media outlets, so will social become a bigger-than-normal element of your show?
Social media is going to be a very large part of our show. The Daily Show has been a shift towards much more social media engagement, and we’re using that as an example of the way in which we can start to engage. What we are satirizing is the politics of the news of today, which didn’t exist just on a television show. It exists on the internet the way it comes out through memes, through bloggers. So we’re going to have to use the web in a way that feels new and modern, both because that’s interesting place to be but it also feels necessary to the world of the show.
Kent said he wanted to get back to having a cohesive hour at 11, with both shows being two halves that fit together. With The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, there was often a very literal handoff between Jon and Stephen. How will you and Trevor bridge your two shows?
We see them as living in the same world. We want to see it as, the world of this show, The Opposition, sees what you’re getting at 11 o’clock as far from the truth. It’s a liberal claptrap, and now it’s time for the free thinkers to tell you the truth. So they’re going to work together in concert. How functionally that’s going to happen, we haven’t quite worked out the nuts and bolts of it, but we want people to have that experience of, you get The Daily Show, and you get The Opposition to The Daily Show.
As you’re preparing to launch the show, what has kept you up at night more than anything else?
Its size. If we were doing six episodes of something, we could start writing them right now and then put it out there. Knowing that we have, in a successful year, 100-plus shows to create can be an intimidating thought and one that affects my sleep patterns immensely. So we’re trying to boil that down. Don’t think about it as this giant show, but how do you respond today? And baby-step it. At least, that’s what I tell myself, but for some reason, I still have these bags under my eyes.
More and more late-night shows are broadcasting live from time to time. Is that something that might make sense for The Opposition
Everything’s on the table right now. I’m just trying to get the show up; now I’ve got to do it live? Jesus! [laughs]
The Opposition couldn’t even have existed a year ago. How has your view of what late night means shifted in the past year?
We definitely saw a shift to the immediacy of late night and how much we needed to be in response to the day’s events and the comings and goings of the president, and that takes up a lot of our time. There used to be more choice as to what you covered in late night even two years ago, and now it seems like what you cover is being handed to you. And that’s what the audience wants. They need to see a response to the thing they experienced that day, and so that is something we are excited about dealing with.
The challenge we have in creating The Opposition is that there are a lot of great shows that already do that, that are in response to that. What is missing from our point of view is playing in that world. A lot of people are telling you how they feel about that, but we want to show you how these characters interact within that world, and that’s how we’re going to respond, respond to the mindset of the people that are defending the things that are taking place during the day. But you have to be on it. I think the internet is faster than any late-night show now, so you have to find new, unique ways in which to respond.
The Opposition’s set features a staple of every movie and TV show in which a character tries to solve a crazy conspiracy: a huge corkboard with red string connecting dozens of disparate subjects (below).
“This is what we were told is called a ‘murder board.’ It will always be evolving,” Klepper said. “So we’re going to keep adding to this as a part of the set that I’m both in front of and playing with but also a visual representation of what’s going on inside my mind.”