“I want to close your mind,” former “The Daily Show” correspondent Jordan Klepper said to the audience in his first episode anchoring “The Opposition.” Klepper distinguished himself on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young comedian eager to make a fool of himself. Now on “The Opposition,” he is stepping into a role vacant since Stephen Colbert left Comedy Central for CBS in 2014 — the role of the person-as-satire, in a comedy bit that can last for years. Where Colbert played a Fox News-ish patriot, with stern affection for “truthiness” and a bald eagle cawing behind him, Klepper plays an Alex Jones type of conspiracy theorist, with a crazy wall and a (fake) talk radio station but a similar disregard for provable fact.
“The Daily Show” and its heirs — “The Colbert Report,” “Last Week Tonight,” “Full Frontal,” and now “The Opposition” — are all preoccupied with the correlation between humor and truth. But as the news increasingly feels like a poisonous hydra with infinite horrifying headlines, a show devoted to the proliferating faces of fake news seems long overdue.
Klepper isn’t the gifted performer that Colbert is; his face, in particular, isn’t quite pliant enough to maintain the double-talking punch lines that full-time satire requires. It’s a pity, because so much of the strength of this show is in the lead’s performance. Colbert’s schtick worked because he threw himself into the role of airheaded conservative pundit with an enthusiasm that was almost loving; he inhabited the butt of his humor, with an affection that turned into stinging mockery. It was exact opposite of the shrugging exasperation adopted by his former boss Jon Stewart, and as a result, it worked in a totally different way. Klepper is caught a little being a conspiracy nut and laughing at conspiracy nuts, and that might in the end be a harder balance to strike. But for the very first week, this seems understandable. Faux-imitation is a hard needle to thread, and it’s fair to assume that Klepper’s show is still finding its tone.
“The Opposition” follows the same format as “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” before it: Quick cold open, topical monologue, secondary news segment with correspondents, and then an interview to tie it off. The first two episodes indicate just how much material there is for “The Opposition” — Milo Yiannopolous’ thoughts on feminism, Tomi Lahren’s thoughts on race, and anything, basically, that comes out of Jones’ mouth — and that alone is a case for the show’s existence. “You are already behind,” Klepper said in the first episode, in a nod to what is both the show’s greatest gift and greatest problem: It’s hard to know where to even start with these people.
“The Opposition” has some ideas. The first episode devoted a few minutes to Jones’ pre-emptive slam of Klepper’s show by directing Jones to ifyouarealexjonesclickthisifnotdont.com. “Please: This is on the honor system. Don’t go there unless you are Alex Jones.” In the second, two of his “alt-right” correspondents, Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp, pose as conservatives at UC Berkeley trying to get Yiannopolous on campus. They proceed to explain how the left doesn’t really “get” jokes, because jokes are statements that produce any reaction at all. (They add that they have a secret weapon in the humor wars: They’re gay, so they can say whatever they want.)
The show is not without growing pains. “The Opposition” leans on a silly conspiracy corkboard without totally knowing what to do with it, and it’s hard to tell who the titular “opposition” is supposed to refer to — the audience? But there’s already evidence of strong material. Klepper, like Colbert before him, is readying to offer a performance of idiocy four nights a week. It is a scathing indictment of conservative media that we have been bereft of for too long.
TV Review: ‘The Opposition With Jordan Klepper’
Late-Night News/Satire, 2 episodes reviewed. Mon. Sept. 25, 11:30 p.m. 30 min.
Executive producers, Jordan Klepper, Stuart Miller, Trevor Noah.
Cast: Jordan Klepper, Tim Baltz, Laura Grey, Aaron Jackson, Josh Sharp, Kobi Libii, Niccole Thurman