When Jordan Klepper talked to The Daily Beast this past June, he was hesitant to give away too many details about the “character” he would be playing on his new Comedy Central show. But even if he was still figuring out the details, we already knew that Klepper would be taking on an alter ego in the mold of his time slot predecessor Stephen Colbert.
In the months since, we have been getting to know this new version of the former Daily Show correspondent through appearances with Trevor Noah and early sneak peek videos. If Colbert was parodying Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on The Colbert Report, Klepper would be taking on a newer and even more pernicious right-wing blowhard: InfoWars’ Alex Jones.
And on Monday night, we finally met the host of The Opposition in all his glory.
In his new role, Klepper takes the confident idiot persona that Colbert perfected for so many years to the next level. He is ultra-paranoid and has zero self-awareness, meaning he has as much in common with President Donald Trump as he does with someone like Alex Jones.
And while Colbert’s very first show introduced the world to the concept of “truthiness,” Klepper began his premiere by coining the phrase “mental nationalism.”
“I know why you’re here,” he told his viewers. “You’re here because you’ve noticed that all mainstream media sounds the same.” And those “puppet masters,” he said are smuggling “dangerous ideas” across the “open borders of your mind.”
“I want to shut down those borders,” Klepper declared. “I want to close your mind.” He described “mental nationalism” as “an idea whose time has come.” That’s why he was introducing a new “golden rule” for The Opposition: “May you only hear from others what you’ve already been telling yourself.”
The “good news,” Klepper added, is that now, you can get your “facts” from anywhere, including “your phone, your computer, your intercranial chip implant.” In 2017, “you get to pick which facts are right for you.”
From there, Klepper celebrated some of his kindred spirits in the “alternative media” including Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren. “You know what kind of courage it takes to talk about issues that don’t affect you personally?” he asked. “A lot.”
But Klepper also had a message for his true inspiration, Alex Jones: “This man is a full, glistening slab of Texas truth,” he said. “Jones is a raging bull of truth, his whole show, total bull, and I respect that. Which is why, why this broke my heart so hard.”
Just as “Colbert” made everything about himself, Klepper is already relishing the moments when his character interacts with the real world. And he got some early help from Jones, who actually ranted against his new show before it even premiered. “They are trying to divide us,” Klepper told Jones. “We can’t let them.” He then directed Jones to a secret website that he said only he could access.
Klepper also introduced some of his contributors to offer up their insane takes on everything from Berkeley “Free Speech Week” to the NFL’s #TakeTheKnee protests, because, he said, “Just like Lee Harvey Oswald, I can’t do it alone.”
The six “citizen journalists” barely got a chance to introduce themselves during the first night’s show, but each showed promise for the future—most notably Niccole Thurman’s black Trump supporter who hates Obamacare but loves the Affordable Care Act.
Later in the show, the host tried to help clarify the difference between the Jordan Klepper who served as a Daily Show correspondent for the past three years and the one we see on The Opposition. As he explained, he was merely working as a “mole” on the liberal comedy show.
“The real truth is, this is not a character,” he said. “This is the real me. So, if you see me in an interview or a deposition say that I’m playing a character, that’s because in that moment I’m simply playing a character who, to throw them off the scent, would say that he is playing a character. Because the truth is, I’m not playing a character, except when I am.”
Like most new late-night hosts, Klepper’s weakest segment was his interview with author Kurt Andersen. But his approach of conducting the sit-downs in character while still allowing his guest room to share their insights could prove enlightening down the road.
As anyone who was an early viewer of Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, or even Stephen Colbert when he shed his character to take over for David Letterman will tell you, it is pretty fruitless to judge a late-night show by its first episode. Even Larry Wilmore, who held Klepper’s time slot most recently, was just starting to hit his stride when Comedy Central canceled The Nightly Show after less than two years.
But with that said, Klepper is starting from a place of immense strength. He fully knows his point of view and has clearly surrounded himself with talented and funny writers. If he’s this solid on day one, The Opposition can only get better—especially as our country continues to fly off the rails.