Jordan Klepper is used to playing either the correspondent with “distanced irony” on “The Daily Show,” or the “satirical bad guy” on “The Opposition.” But for his new self-titled Comedy Central show, Klepper decided to do away with personas.
In this new series, Klepper follows a pro-gun control organization in Texas in one episode, while in another, he meets undocumented students running an underground university in Georgia. Given the serious nature of those subjects, Klepper knows it’s probably for the best that he cut back on “telling d— jokes” or saying the “most obxnoxious, ironic” thing possible as a reflex.
Here, Klepper speaks with Variety about the format of his new show, getting arrested and asking Hillary Clinton to read the Mueller report out loud.
For both “The Daily Show” and “The Opposition with Jordan Klepper” you spent the majority of your time reporting from behind a desk. What made you decide to take things out into the world with “Klepper”?
There was an initial discussion of well maybe it’s partially in the world, partially behind a desk, but we really started to realize that we had an opportunity to go deeper and spend all of that time out there. There are all these stories that you can’t touch from behind a desk. With “The Opposition,” I enjoyed the day-to-day of it all, but you get caught up in Trump fatigue, you get caught up in the city of New York, and with this I’ve had the luxury of getting out there and talking about stories that other people don’t talk about, to spend time with people who are actually doing something.
Which of the causes that the show covers do you feel you became closest to?
I mean it’s no secret, I got arrested during the episode on Freedom University, but I was moved by a lot of episodes. We thought this would be a show about the tribalism and the sides people take, and we started to find that people are dividing themselves more on the causes and the things they love and the things they wanted to change, so it became a show about activism and people trying to make a change.
How did the arrest play out?
I spent a few weekends with the students at Freedom University in Georgia, they’re undocumented students, they’re DACA students, and they meet in secret because there are hate groups who are trying to flush them out and threaten them online. What ended up happening was at a board of regents meeting, and at that meeting a group of faith leaders and teachers stood up and extended a prayer to draw attention to these students who don’t have the luxury of going to school and there’s nothing you can do about it, so I was there and surrounded by them, and I stood up with them to add my voice to that protest, and seconds later they threw some handcuffs on me. They make it pretty clear, if you’re going to continue doing this, you’re crossing a line and we will arrest you, but we stood firm. We wanted these voices to be heard, and they threw me in the back of a car that I didn’t fit very well in and I spent the next 12 hours in jail.
What was that experience like?
At one point, four hours in, they came to pull me out of the holding cell and were like, “Do you have a TV show?” I said yes, they must have gotten wind somehow that I worked in TV, so they put me in a separate — what I like to think of as VIP — jail cell, which I sat in for an hour. Then they said, “Oh, you can come on back to the general population,” so whatever celebrity status I had didn’t buy me a whole lot of VIP treatment.
You caused a stir recently by having Hillary Clinton read the Mueller report out loud as part of a proposed audiobook, how game was she to do that?
She was 100% game, I was surprised to find how game both she and President Clinton were. She tweeted at me a few days later how cathartic it was, and I think you saw that in the interview. She had fun with it, but with the conversations we had both and off camera, she’s very serious about this issue altogether, and getting to see her engage with a report that validates some of the things she was talking about 18 months ago was really something to see in the room. Now you’ve started to see a reaction, some people on the right and I’ve seen people on Fox News see this video and be sniffy and what have you, but when we reach a point where somebody reading is seen in and of itself a threat, I think we’re talking about people who are a little emotionally and or intellectually insecure.
If she were to read the intro and maybe chapter one of the Mueller report audiobook, who else do you think should read some chapters?
Oh God, I think there’s a lot of folks who would line up. I would give Secretary Clinton most of it, I think James Comey would want to be a part of it, but I think it would be better for all sides to let him sit this one out.
“Klepper” premieres May 9 on Comedy Central.