'The Opposition With Jordan Klepper': TV Review
Comedy Central updates 'The Colbert Report' for the Trump era with another 'Daily Show' veteran.
In the not-quite three years since Stephen Colbert ended The Colbert Report, the political and political comedy landscapes have been reconfigured by massive quakes.
We were so naive once: Six months after the final episode of Colbert's Fox News spoof, Jon Stewart called Donald Trump's presidential candidacy a comedic "gift from heaven" before abdicating his throne at The Daily Show. Trump's election has ushered in a new era in which Colbert's "truthiness" — or the belief in something because it feels true, whether evidence supports such a reality or not — has metastasized into fake news and the more conspiratorial-minded matrices of the alt-right. Late-night comedians have responded in kind, mostly following in Stewart's footsteps to play the angry and flabbergasted everyman (or Samantha Bee's everyfeminist) and struggling to breathe while being blasted in the face by a fire hose of news and takes from TV and social media.
With The Opposition, Daily Show alum Jordan Klepper distinguishes himself from the pack by providing an update on The Colbert Report. The new Comedy Central series satirizes the likes of Alex Jones, the InfoWars nonsense-peddler arguably best known for claiming the Sandy Hook massacre is a hoax. Making Jones a primary target makes some sense, as Fox News isn't what it used to be. Longtime chief Roger Ailes and popular host Bill O'Reilly, Colbert's model for his conservative blowhard persona, were fired for sexually inappropriate behavior. And, as Klepper notes, the network has received challenges from the far right via sites like the Steve Bannon-run Breitbart.com, which counts the president himself among its loyal readers. Still, Jones is such a fringe figure (and easy target) that it remains to be seen whether a wider audience will stay interested in skewering such an obscure bozo four nights a week.
Klepper hit The Daily Show running in early 2014 and has consistently stood out as one of its strongest correspondents (among an already stellar troupe). During his first episode Monday night, his commitment to the new "Jordan Klepper" was confident and agile. It helped that the half-hour was full of terrifically stinging one-liners. "There are dark forces at play," he intoned. "The deep state. Globalists. Bill Nye." Perched in front of a gloomy gray-and-black wall that wouldn't look out of place in a James Bond villain's underground lair, Klepper offered The Opposition's Golden Rule: "May you only hear from others what you've already been telling yourself." Lampooning the twisted patriotic consumerism for which Jones is infamous, the host sold "emergency panic rations" with the assurance that "no human society has ever enjoyed such an abundance of facts, which is why in America in 2017, you get to pick which facts are right for you."
Klepper spent the first two segments of his initial installment overly explaining the concept of the pro-Trump series, leaving little time to preview how the show will tackle topical themes going forward. The only news that got any play was Trump's feud with NFL players choosing to take the knee during the national anthem. Lines about how the government is "genetically modifying" American knees to make the citizenry more "subservient" are funny throwaway jokes, but fail to meaningfully engage with any of the issues at hand. Klepper also fails to wring much out of the interview segment — his weakest by far — which appears packed with liberal journalists and activists like Kurt Andersen and DeRay Mckesson for the show's first week.
Can Klepper and his somewhat shaky cadre of young correspondents (an addition to the Colbert Report format) out-yell the Tomi Lahrens and out-absurd the Alex Joneses of this terrified new world? I'm not sure it's possible to top the clip we see of Jones, in which he bellows that Bill and Hillary Clinton practice demonic possession.
More importantly, do we want to watch such a thing? Whether The Opposition has much staying power will depend on the public's appetite for even more obnoxious grandstanding in political commentary than there is now. Sure, Klepper's ironic yowls would be in service of lampooning the scolders and scare-mongers, but I'm just not convinced yet that I should sacrifice my eardrums as the battlefield where the culture wars are fought.
Cast: Jordan Klepper, Laura Grey, Aaron Jackson, Kobi Libii, Josh Sharp, Niccole Thurman
Creators: Jordan Klepper, Stuart Miller & Trevor Noah
Airs: 11:30 p.m. ET/PT (Comedy Central)