Former Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper is branching out on his own this year. He'll be launching his own show on Comedy Central this fall in the coveted 10:30 p.m. slot — the same real estate Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore previously occupied — and his documentary Jordan Klepper Solves Guns airs on that same network Sunday night.
In the documentary, Klepper talks with activists, gun owners, policy makers and even members of a militia in Georgia about America's relationship with guns and gun violence. Equal parts comedy and investigative journalism, the documentary includes an interview with Sen. Cory Booker as well as a Bachelor-style contest in which Klepper picks a gun owner with whom he can have a sensible talk about firearms.
The comedian spoke to NPR about his documentary special, his new show and making comedy in the age of Trump. (You can listen to the full interview at the link below.)
On the decision to end the documentary with activists who are working to reduce gun violence
This gun debate feels so fractured right now, but there are so many points of commonality in the gun debate that constantly struck me. And, you realize, so many people want there to be less gun violence, less gun deaths on both sides of the aisle.
But it became really depressing working on this thing for months on months on end. We were looking for what is the ending? And in all honesty, we started talking to a bunch of different groups and there are people out there who are doing, who are actively trying to make something happen, anything. Whether that's on the political side of petitioning your governmental officials, or whether that's just functional. Like, there was a guy who knows how to play guitar and he's like, "I want to teach guitar in areas of the country where there might be gun violence or there's just violence on the streets. I want to help with an after-school program." And to me that was a really potent, effective thing. It's not going to change a thousand lives, but it might change one. It's saving one person's life; that means the world to that person's family, that person's friends. ...
Let's find people who are doing something, whether the political or nonpolitical, ... and let's point to them.
On what most surprised him when he was covering Trump's 2016 campaign for The Daily Show
People cared a ton at those rallies. And I think it's easy to sit up in New York and be like, "He's popular, but he's not that popular." He's that popular! ...
People really do believe in Donald Trump and are looking for somebody who feels outside of the system. And I think I went to so many of those rallies, both inside and outside, and people are lining up around the block. ... I went to Nashville [after Trump won] and there were lines just as far as the eye can see. I say it kind of jokingly, but it is a big reminder that don't underestimate the power of what this guy has said. And you see it. People love and they care, and he's their guy.
On tackling politics as a comedian
I think comedy at its heart is reflecting what is going on; I think the most successful comedy is commenting on a shared experience and having, perhaps, an interesting take on that. ...
In the monoculture ... we are all responding to a time that feels very new to us, that feels maybe dangerous to some, that feels exciting to others. But it is a shared experience. And I think comedians are going to use the world around them to comment on it, and I think that's the thing to talk about right now. ...
I don't want to be seen as a journalist. I am not a journalist. ... I think as a comedian my job is to be funny, but also as a human being my job is to be honest [about] the stuff that I see.
On his worries around leaving The Daily Show to start his own program
I'm going to ask a bunch of my friends and colleagues to work on a show that's got my name on it. ... I think what makes me nervous is, like, I don't want to let those people down. And so I think it becomes: How do I carve something out that feels original and necessary?
The Daily Show was a dream job for me, and not only because it was something I wanted to be a part of since I was watching The Daily Show 16 years ago. But beyond that, like, it's such a great place to work. ... People talked about, when I got there, you can't be an a****** and work there. And there have been, don't get me wrong. But we put on like 140 shows a year and it's exhausting. ... You can't be drama. And so it makes for a place of really passionate, smart people who know how to work together because they have to work together in such an intense environment.
And so I think I learned a ton from Jon [Stewart] and how he put that environment together. And also a ton from Trevor [Noah], who came into an environment that was already created and, like, alien to him and he immediately made it his own, and also has a totally different energy than Jon, but is also so open and kind. ... It's still a place that you feel so comfortable and loved. I'm truly saddened to have to leave that, but excited about trying to figure out how to create that in my own little world.