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Jordan Klepper Takes Us Inside His Week Hosting ‘The Daily Show’

Jordan Klepper‘s time at the desk has come as The Daily Show continues trying out myriad guest host options to find the right fit long-term. And Klepper’s resume is impressive. Forget that he’s been with the show for 9 years, that his “Fingers The Pulse” segments on the (endless campaign trail) crush on YouTube while also being fan favorites. Klepper also has experience as a host both behind a desk with The Opposition and in the field with Klepper, two experiences that are obviously going to inspire what we see when he has the big chair.

A frequent interviewee for us, we naturally wanted to check in and get a sense of what Klepper has in store for this week of shows while getting him to give us the dirt on the fiercely competitive behind-the-scenes drama at the show (or lack thereof). And because he is who he is, we fingered his pulse on the campaign trail (slash indictmentapalooza) and Trump’s chances in 2024. As always, laughs were had along the way while Fox News, gun culture, and conspiratorial thinking elbowed their way into the conversation.

How are the woke mind virus treatments? Are they working? You’re not reading right? Don’t read.

They’re slowly working. For a long time, I’ve been reticent of books and all of the knowledge they contained. I’ve always been very skeptical of getting more information.

Those books behind you are just props.

Oh yeah, exactly. In some ways, it’s like garlic to vampires. I’m inuring myself to it.

I imagine most of those are from the Bill O’Reilly mystery collection.

(Laughs) Exactly. I love the Fox anchors and their non-fiction projects. Give me some Lincoln history. I want to see what’s inside Kilmeade’s head, just like anything, any kind of literary experience they want to have. I’m willing to go down that road.

So, are you looking at guest hosting The Daily Show as an audition or just a fun week at work?

Well, they say this is not an audition, but…

They’re lying.

For me, there’s really only one way to approach it: have as much fun as humanly possible. That being said, I’ve been busting my ass the last couple of weeks, prepping for this week. I wanted to go out into the world and grab stuff. We have a bunch of surprises. I went to the world’s biggest gun show. So I’m packing this week full of field elements, and interviews with big names. But then walking into next week, I think you can’t be too precious with it.

What I’ve learned from my time with The Opposition is to enjoy it, stay open, and stay playful. And so next week we’ve done all the work, and the news will play out as it does. And I think such a benefit of getting to host a show like that is you walk into a room with such funny people, so be open to the fun in the room, and then be playful. One of the things I’m most excited about is playing with Roy (Wood Jr.), playing with Desi (Lydic), and playing with Ronny (Chieng) to get that energy again. I don’t get to have that out on the road.

Is it competitive at all with the people that work on the show all the time?

Let me tell you, this sounds pat, but I love The Daily Show. I’ve been a fan for 20 years. I’ve been on the show since 2014 in various forms. And so it’s fun and strange and it changes your perspective of what the show is, suddenly seeing these guest hosts come in. And I think it proved how strong the show and the staff is over the first few weeks of seeing guest hosts succeed. And then Roy pops in, the first person who is a part of the news team, a colleague of mine who I got to work with, and I will say it was so enjoyable to watch that thing soar because of it. You talk to any of us, we love that show. Would I want to be behind that desk, of course, I think I could do a killer job behind that desk. I can’t wait for the opportunity, but I also love working with those folks and so you’re rooting for one another.

I was there the night Jon (Stewart) came in. I was editing a piece, talking with Jon, then he goes out and does this great segment with Roy. It’s so fun. The audience is in love. I get to go out and talk to Roy about what I just did in downtown New York a few hours earlier. It was alive. It was playful. Those are the things that I love so much about The Daily Show and so competition is way in the rearview because it’s so live right now.

This is our 415th interview, so I feel like we’ve had enough back and forth that I can say what you’re saying feels genuine. You’re a good actor, it feels genuine. (Laughs)

You know me well enough that I’m not that good an actor. It has to be genuine. If I were that good an actor, I’d be on an NBC spinoff right now. The fact that I’ve worked here for so long is just proof that I’m not a good enough actor to get that sitcom to pay for my condo. No, I will say this, part of how that show is built is it moves so fast that assholes don’t stick around for that long. When Trevor came in, it was a weird time for the show. I’d been there with Jon for a couple of years. Trevor comes in and he brings in this new crew of folks, Desi, Ronny, Roy, and we kinda had to figure out what that show was together. And remarkably, they’re all really wonderful people and so it’s been a weird few years. We’ve been through COVID together. You’re trying to figure out how a show works that way. I’m on the road a lot too, so I’m not always in the office, but when I do get to get in the office and bounce off of these people, they’re my colleagues, but they’re my friends.

I don’t know what is happening with The Daily Show six months from now, two months from now, two years from now. And I don’t think anybody really knows what’s happening with late-night TV two years from now. So if you are approaching it with anxiety about what that’s going to be and holding onto that too closely, you’re going to be miserable. So that’s where I do think there is a lot of good energy, good vibes, and people rooting for one another because I think this is what we have right now and it’s actually pretty fun.

Are you able to share what interviews you have booked? I’m curious to see you having a conversation with someone not wearing a t-shirt with Trump’s rippling abs on it. Is that going to throw you?

To be clear, we will have those T-shirts on the ready. Everybody is more than welcome. I’ve learned some things. Sell T-shirts no matter what. I’m gonna make a killing with this host thing. (Laughs)

I’m doing a couple of remote interviews. It’s been so fun to go out and sit with people in a field setting. I went to Michigan to talk to Governor Whitmer and we had a big chat over beers about gun control, abortion, Michigan football, important things. I have another big interview I can’t announce right now that we’re putting together and then I’ll have a few in-studio guests as well. I love chatting with people in the real world, but it’s really nice to do it in an air-conditioned studio. And so I think it will be wonderful to talk to somebody and keep the possibility for a “JFK Jr. is still alive” reference to a minimum.

Is he the interview you can’t mention?

Tune in. You don’t know. I’m not saying that JFK Jr. will not be on the show, or Tupac, or Aaliyah. Are these people out there? Am I able to interview them? I don’t know. Listen to the podcast, understand the talking points behind it, and show up next week to see if they’re there too.

Circling back, what’s in the goodie bag at a gun show? Are there any door prizes?

(Laughs) Well, you tend to walk in with a lot of weaponry is something that I realized. Going to the world’s largest show, 11 acres of guns and so you’ve got your Nazi paraphernalia, you got your make-an-AR kit, anime tables, Kamala Harris gun clips, just a little bit of America packed into 11 acres of guns.

Honestly, this is what I love about doing field work and why I go to places like this. The gun argument and the gun debate is something that’s close to my heart, and that I’ve covered for a long time. And so in working on this week, I wanted to go to something that, sadly, is a part of the discussion around gun violence. The discussion around the necessity of having a AR-15 is something that has been in the news and will not go out of the news. And so going to a place like this is just this microcosm if you can call 11 acres of guns micro in any sense.

There’s something definitely micro about the whole vibe of that, I’m guessing.

(Laughs) Yeah, I think there’s perhaps some overcompensating that’s taking place there. I’m aware of that. Honestly, what I got to see going there is what the gun show loophole looks like, up close. I’m living in New York reading about ways in which people are passing guns off at these gun shows. But then you go to a parking lot in Tulsa and you see a guy throw a gun on his shoulder, a little stick in the barrel of the gun with a price on it and start walking around the parking lot and then exchange guns for cash, go back to his car, get another gun and start walking around the parking lot again. You’re like, “Oh, oh, that’s the loophole, right then and there.”

Just like the Founding Fathers intended.

(Laughs) Exactly.

How have the rallies changed, not just your approach, but just what you’re seeing from the attendees? Are there more people, less people? Are they more rabid, less rabid, literally rabid?

Quite literally, the last rally I went to was Donald Trump’s indictment, which if you zoom out, is a funny evolution. I don’t know if I have a great sense of what a traditional Donald Trump rally is because the ones I’ve been to have been shielded in ways that the other ones weren’t before. The one in Charleston I went to was invite-only, which had its cast of characters and conspiratorial thinkers, but was small and wasn’t set up to be a big outside rally. I went to the indictment, which in and of itself had its Trumpsters and MAGA world there, but they were in New York surrounded by almost twice as many media folks who were egging them on. And so that was, I don’t think, representative of the traditional MAGA movement, but it is showing you how much of a circus it is. So it’s hard for me to get a sense of the power of this movement right now.

There’s been a lot of calculated moves on his part to not exactly show his hand or perhaps be afraid to put out the call to see how many people actually show up. And I’m getting only bits and pieces here and there. I’ve missed a few larger rallies. I didn’t get to go to Waco. There have been conflicting reports. The energy was there, it sounds like, but the numbers were smaller than expected. So we will see. I think it’s way too early to call. The fervor is going to be there, people like a good party. But whether these 10,000-person gatherings suddenly become 4,000-person gatherings. I think that’s yet to be told.

I think what’s been compelling is to watch the DeSantis conversation and we have yet to see them turn on Ron DeSantis. So there’s the small segment of folks we’ve talked to, we bring up these other folks in the party. And even though Trump has started to vilify these potential contenders, I haven’t seen the crowd do that yet, which has been odd for them not to be in lockstep on his enemies. I think that’s an evolving story, but right now they’re still keeping options open.

Is it weird when Lindsay Graham makes an appearance on the first episode with Franken a couple of weeks ago? Because I thought that was a little weird.

I wasn’t there in the building for it. I think The Daily Show should always be a place where different opinions can come in.

Yeah, but isn’t there a difference between a different opinion and a bad-faith actor?

Yeah, I think you’re right. I think you can’t be afraid to challenge somebody who has power, who might have a different opinion. Lindsay Graham is somebody who is in a position of power. He talks out of both sides of his mouth, but if he’s willing to engage in a conversation around it, I think it’s worthwhile to engage him. Now, there are times where perhaps if it’s just talking points and it’s just pushing that thing, yeah, maybe that’s not somebody you book onto the show. I think that’s always something there should be a conversation around. But I also get fearful of the knee-jerk reaction to not engage with these folks.

Oh, sure.

A good example, the podcast I did with John Kasich, people on the left did not like the fact that I was talking to somebody who was on the right, and that always scared me because if we lose the ability to engage with somebody with a different POV — a bad-faith actor is a different story — then we’ve lost the entire battle. And so that I think that is always important. I hope there’s a space on the show to engage with folks who might not share your point of view.

It’s hard because it seems so much like that battle is lost on the other side. But you’re 100% right, if we just bubble everything over, we are, maybe not in a literal civil war, but for all intents and purposes,

Yeah. You should be challenged with outside opinions. I think you’re right though, the arbiter of that is viewership numbers. And so perhaps on the right, it’s like, well, what do we get from bringing this point of view on there? And there’s the fear of that on the left as well. So I hope we keep engaging. I hope we keep trying. We need to be careful not to platform ideas and bad-faith actors, but we should be engaging with ideas that make us uncomfortable or at least we have a hard time understanding. And through that conversation, you have, perhaps, a view into it.

Or if you have bad-faith actors on, mock them as furiously as you can right to their face like you do.

I will say, a weapon in the back pocket of everybody at The Daily Show, is that you’re a comedian, you got satire, go at them. And I think that is the benefit of The Daily Show.

‘The Daily Show with Jordan Klepper’ airs Monday through Thursday this week on Comedy Central at 11PM ET