How ‘Daily Show’ Contributor Jordan Klepper Became the King of Humiliating Trump Fans
The “Daily Show” contributor reveals the best ways to troll Trump supporters and the “desperation” in the air at recent MAGA rallies in his return to “The Last Laugh” podcast.
Jordan Klepper attended his first Trump rally in New Hampshire in January 2016. “At that point, nobody knew what the Trump phenomenon was going to be,” he tells me on this week’s new episode of The Last Laugh podcast. Over the course of that year, as he continued to report from MAGA land for The Daily Show, the comedian started to notice how the bar for what Trump fans “were willing to divulge on camera” began to shift.
“Even if you were a birther and you didn’t believe Barack Obama was born in America or was an American citizen, that wasn’t the kind of thing you shared on camera,” Klepper says. “Six months later, seven out of 10 people were divulging that Barack Obama wasn’t born in this country. And then the other three were talking about how he was the one who bombed the World Trade Center. At the beginning, people were like, what can we say? That was January. And by the end, the answer was, anything you want.”
In Klepper’s telling, Trump “exploded what people thought and he changed what people could say.” If there’s an “upside,” he says it’s that “there’s not a whole lot of stuff that’s being hidden anymore.” The “downside” is “there’s not a whole lot of stuff that's being hidden anymore.”
This year, after leaving The Daily Show to host his own Colbert Report-esque short-lived late-night show on Comedy Central and then another series in which he traveled the country out of character, Klepper is back to what he does best—this time amidst a pandemic.
“Well, you know, I’m a hero first, comedian second,” he jokes. “So it’s always worth it to risk my life.” So far, Klepper has decided to stay in the parking lot instead of actually going into the events themselves. “I tend not to go in because that’s where you catch COVID and die,” he deadpans. “It’s the Herman Cain rule: stay outside.”
“Also it’s really hard to interview people when ‘Macho Man’ is playing on repeat in the background at full volume,” he adds. “The purpose of this isn't necessarily the chaos that happens inside the rallies, the purpose of it is to talk to the people. So we hang out in parking lots for a good 10 hours. And after 10 hours in a parking lot talking to people about Donald Trump, you’re ready to go home.”
In his second appearance on The Last Laugh, Klepper talks about what makes 2020 Trump rallies feel so different from 2016, shares how his own experience with COVID-19 made him skeptical about the president’s apparently rapid recovery and explains why he doesn’t feel as bad for Trump supporters as he did the first time around.
Highlights from our conversation are below and you can listen to the whole thing right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
On the difference between Trump rallies in 2016 vs. 2020
“It’s hard to keep the party going with 200,000 dead. But you’d be surprised, people still show up drunk. It’s more of a wake now, I think, is what these rallies have turned into. People literally have to get their temperature checked as they go in, so they can’t be completely naive to the reality around them. It’s still a tailgate party, but there’s a slight difference there. I compare it to going to see the Spin Doctors for the first time. And you might've loved the Spin Doctors when they came out and got their album and seeing them perform live was quite the experience. And you might be a Spin Doctors fan for the rest of your life. But four years later, playing the same songs, they don’t have any new hits to sing. And so you’re grinning through more clenched teeth. I don’t want to downplay the excitement at those rallies, but it’s not fresh anymore. ‘Build that wall’ doesn’t quite ring with the power it did four years ago. There are smaller numbers, partially because you could die going to these now. But there’s also a different feeling than there was before. There's a little bit of desperation I see in the air.”
Why it’s so cathartic for viewers to watch him confront Trump supporters
“I do think in some ways I’m providing an avatar for a lot of frustrated people who want to have these conversations and want to retort things that they think are insanity and call out contradiction and call out hyperbole. And it does feel like sometimes those videos and those pieces I do serve as substitutes for people who don’t get a chance to have those conversations. I get to be you at Thanksgiving. And so I’m happy to do that. And it’s nice to see that it has reached people in that way. Perhaps it's also an example of how far we are from talking to other people who are different from us. I get to see something true about the American spirit.”
What his experience with the coronavirus taught him about Trump’s recovery
“I was lucky I didn’t have to go to the hospital, but it was a real beast. It was two weeks of feeling like crap. I felt like I got beat up. My symptoms primarily were a little bit of a fever, but then my body just ached like I’d been in a fist fight. And I lost my sense of taste. And then my wife also got it. It was a really scary few weeks. It’s scary. And I was being careful. I don’t exactly know where I even got it. I was washing my hands and it still got me and it still affected me and it was really scary for a while. So it's no joke. My experience was you get sick, you feel better, and then you feel terrible and fingers crossed you get through it. So I don’t think we know exactly how tough it was for Trump. I’m not surprised that he came out on the other end. He has the worst diet I’ve ever seen and I’m sure he’ll live to be 127 years old. When you’re born with a silver spoon up your ass, you tend to fly by with this stuff.”
Why he believes Trump fans should ‘know better’ this time
“I empathize, but more so four years ago. The big parade comes to your town, and if you feel like you haven’t been on a winning team in life for a while, you hitch your wagon to the underdog. And that was Donald Trump four years ago. Now, four years later, I understand a lot of people bring different things to these candidates. And I do empathize with that, but people didn’t know better and were taken advantage of by people who did know better four years ago. People know better now. And so my temper is shorter, my fuse is shorter, because we’ve been through four years that I think have been actually pretty consequential for this country. And I think the rhetoric he used four years ago could have been considered ‘that’s just talk’ and he’s not racist, these are just illusions. I think he’s been pretty clear. There’s a reason I’m not interviewing Donald Trump—probably because he would say no—but also because there’s nothing revealing about Donald Trump. I don’t think he's hiding anything. And so I think it’s more interesting to talk to the people at the rallies because they’re doing the hard work of trying to turn the B.S. into some sort of logic that makes sense inside their head.”