Hillary Clinton

'Daily Show' Alum Jordan Klepper's Risky ‘Opposition' Strategy

His new program, which debuts Monday, boldly attempts to wrest laughs from mocking political fear mongers.

"The Colbert Show" debuted on Oct. 17, 2005 with a new word – "truthiness" – and a unique, if seemingly thin premise: a nightly satire of "The O’Reilly Factor."

Colbert quickly succeeded against the odds – and against established late night stars Jay Leno and David Letterman (albeit before Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien moved to pre-midnight shows).

Now Colbert's fellow "Daily Show" alumnus Jordan Klepper takes over the old "Colbert Report" slot Monday with "The Opposition." Klepper embarks on a comedy high-wire act by skewering the likes of raging conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Breitbart News in the comic guise of a true believer.

“The Opposition” debuts amid more competition and more initial scrutiny faced by Colbert, who raised the bar high by playing a blowhard conservative commentator for nine years.

Klepper also has far more to tackle.

That's less a blessing than a major challenge in the aftermath of the hate-fueled tragedy of Charlottesville. Armed with a show tagline of "embrace the fringe," Klepper is out to resist by mocking the so-called opposition.

He's also on a mission to wrest back the term "fake news" from President Trump and return it to where it belongs: to current events-driven late night TV comedy.

Klepper's new character appears to be a mutated extension of his "Daily Show" persona: a clueless, privileged Middle American doofus.  

Promising clips touting "The Opposition" show him railing against the "mainstream media" and spouting absurd conspiracy theories ("Chuck Todd has a ponytail!"). 

Klepper also attended a pro-Trump rally in Phoenix, where he got some attendees to sign a petition calling for Hillary Clinton's impeachment. While the segment proved sobering, it also ran the risk of punching down at the woefully ignorant rather than striking up at powerful, manipulative forces. 

But no one ever said leading "The Opposition" would be easy.

Klepper joins a crowded late night landscape, filled primarily with other white males – including Colbert, now his direct competitor, along with Jimmy Fallon, Kimmel and O'Brien. It's a tough time slot: Just ask Klepper's predecessor, Larry Wilmore, whose strong “Nightly Show” got canceled after less than two years amid poor ratings.

"The Opposition" also becomes TV's first journalism-fueled late night comedy entry in the Trump era – an age of truthiness that Colbert predicted, one where facts are frighteningly fungible. 

The hard truth is that Klepper's biggest task, amid all else, is to make audiences laugh before bedtime. And he's setting out to find humor during a divisive and troubling period that might make some folks want to crawl under their beds.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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