Culture

Jordan Klepper On Covering A Possible Uprising And Not Getting Punched At Trump Rallies

As the 2016 election winds down, we’re spending the next week talking to some of the people who’ve been on the campaign season’s frontlines, the correspondents of The Daily Show With Trevor Noah in advance of the show’s live election day show on November 8th.

We’ve all gotten used to watching the goings on of this election with mouths agape, shaking our head as both candidates continue to drill down past rock bottom, but few have been able to see the spectacle of it all up close and personal, and even fewer have had the temerity to jump into the snakepit and poke around. Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper is quickly becoming America’s favorite troll, highlighting the absurdity and hypocrisy of some of the most angry and hate-filled among us, but in talking to Klepper, it’s clear that he doesn’t think all Trump supporters should be thrown into the basket of deplorables. Also, he’s really looking forward to the day after the election… whether there’s an uprising or not.

It’s obviously becoming a more and more hostile environment for the press at Trump events. How do you pick a Trump supporter [to interview] that won’t get you punched?

You have to look past their eyeball and into their soul and see if they have the guts to punch a 6 foot 4 tall man and if they’ve been drinking during the day. That rules out about half of the people there and then you just… you roll the dice.

It’s funny with these rallies. They’ve definitely gotten more and more hostile. This last one that I went to a few weeks ago, for sure. The media, they’ve got targets on their backs so we were being heckled as we walked through there. People are screaming nasty things at us, so you do have to be careful. That’s why I’ve got security within arms reach in case things get nasty because Lord knows I can’t throw a punch.

Do you wish for the anonymity that the early Daily Show team had? Would that make the job easier?

I think sometimes the ability to sneak on in would be kind of nice, but also people still do want to talk to the Daily Show and talk to television. I don’t know if I’m also that well known at Trump rallies in particular, but, those who do, some want to get on TV and try to bat things back and forth and others just know to stay away.

Does that surprise you, that attitude where it’s, “I’m going to go on the Daily Show and I’m going to tell this guy what’s what?” I mean, if they’ve seen the Daily Show, they know people don’t usually wind up looking great. What comes out of their mouth doesn’t exactly endear them to the mainstream.

What I’ve quickly learned is that people like to be on television and they love attention. Even if it comes with risk, they want to say their piece. Also, people come on with conviction and they believe those things they’re saying. I think if this election has taught us one thing… Donald Trump has said some pretty outlandish things and we all stop and wait to hear him take it back and say that was a slip of the tongue and 99% of those things he stands by and you’re like “Oh, he’s not embarrassed by those things.” I think that trickles into a lot of his supporters and a lot of people out there, you quickly realize that thing that might sound crazy to my ears sounds completely sane to theirs. So I think that shows itself over and over again with the interviews that we have with people on the show.

To look at it from the other side, he is speaking to a lot of anger out there and that definitely is scary, but it has a power. I was reading an interview with Glenn Greenwald regarding Brexit and how the media underestimated that anger and underestimated the power of it in Britain. Do you think the media here is possibly making that same mistake?

Well, I do think it’s easy to pay attention to some of the extreme rhetoric at the rallies and of Trump. I think right off the bat it was very easy for the media and for a lot of people to write Trump supporters off as racists or bigots or some of the more extreme ideologies. I think those people definitely exist within the campaign, they exist on all sides, but I think what that did miss is the people who are just incredibly upset and feel like they have been overlooked and are unhappy with where they are and they’ve reached out to somebody who, they might not be responding to the things that we’re all talking about, they might be responding to the basic need for change or are anti a democratic candidate. I think there are a lot of people who are disgruntled middle class who don’t fit in the categories that most of us are trying to put Trump supporters in. I think that is the thing that is being overlooked.

With the charges of media bias and a rigged system, obviously, you’re in a unique situation with the Daily Show. The coverage is all pretty much reactive, isn’t it? It’s not like people put Trump’s picture on a bulletin board and said “Let’s go bring this guy down with our reporting!” You can’t look away. He’s like a car crash, right?

Right. I mean, I think a lot of this, you hear about this rigging of the media, some of the most egregious things the media has done is to turn on the microphones. I do find it a little outlandish that Donald Trump is shocked by the things that the media is covering. They’re just covering what he is saying and some things definitely ring louder than other things. We’re seeing our culture definitely drawn to more tawdry details but they’re not false details that Donald Trump is bringing out, those are the details that exist.

I think we’re seeing it come to a head. It’s fascinating to watch that Megyn Kelly/Newt Gingrich fight the other night…

Yeah.

You’re just starting to see, oh boy, we don’t know what to talk about. Donald Trump’s going to give us constant… I mean, he’s a reality TV star. He’s great at giving us things to talk about. He can fill time. I don’t necessarily see the bias of a media system by reporting what he has been talking about. I do think we are obfuscating a lot of issues here, but I think Donald Trump made that bed and for some reason he doesn’t want to lay in it right now.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFQhw3VVToQ

Have these field pieces changed your perspective about politics? About humanity, even?

Overall with the field pieces, what I tend to realize in my time here at the Daily Show is it makes me more enraged and invested in the politics of the day to day, but I have been more empathetic to the individual nature of politics. Like, when you sit in a room with somebody for three hours, it’s very easy to write them off as crazy or extreme if you’ve just read about them or seen the clips. But you see the humanity in where these feelings or these biases come from. So, I think that has been a very nice process. I’ve gotten to kind of understand where people come from. Even with these Trump rallies, it’s good to talk to people for a little while and figure out where some of this anger or frustration gestates.

How tired are you of this election?

I am done. I am exhausted. I cannot wait until November 9th.

Oh, are you sure about that considering the muskets and rebellion chants? Are you really looking forward to November 9th?

[Laughs.] You make a good point. I’ll just be excited to cover a war. I think that will be exciting. I mean, the election is boring, but man to be on the front lines of the Revolutionary War Part 2? That will make for some great TV.

He said sarcastically.

[Laughs.] He said mildly sarcastically. It’s not going away right away. That’s what will be… Oh boy. It’s just so tiring.

Is a Trump presidency better for the show?

Trump is such a double-edged sword. On one side, he is such a comical character and he’s constantly providing fodder and things you have to react to and things we haven’t seen before, which makes for good comedy shows. On the other side, it is exhausting and dictates what American’s tune into every day. So, we’re constantly responding to the chaos of Donald Trump and everybody is now, across other shows, other mediums, everybody’s responding to the craziness that is Donald Trump and so that’s tiring. I’m tired of talking about him.

I’m excited to talk about other topics that happen in this world. I’ve been told that there are other issues and there are other transgressions. There are other characters outside the United States and within the United States but outside of Donald Trump. I can’t wait to try to find the humor and the outrage.

If there is a Donald Trump presidency, I think buckle up: It’s going to be a chaotic and bumpy ride and we will try to find the humor and the humanity in that. If it’s not a Donald Trump presidency, I think the ability to kind of open up and see the rest of world that has been out there for the last year and half, that I can’t wait for.

I’m sure there’s a lot of cool shit to cover in Canada.

That’s what I hear! I can’t wait to see all of the satirical news shows pop up in Canada in about six months.

Is that the future for you if Trump wins? Are you going to go host a show there?

I’ll go there, it’ll be for all the ex-pats who run up to Canada.

Exactly. That’s gonna be a big audience. Allegedly. It seems like, if you look at my social media feed, it’s going to be a huge audience.

According to social media, my God, Canada is really going to explode. I don’t know. I don’t know if I really trust the… I mean, everybody. The hyperbole is in abundance right now, everybody is leaving town. Maybe it’ll happen this time, who knows?

You hosted the show recently when [Trevor Noah] was out sick. How was that?

It was a blast to do. I mean, I’ve gotten to do a lot of things on this show but to sit in that chair and see kind of how the show revolves around that. I left humbled at how talented all the other folks that work on this show are from the writers to the executive producers, to the guys in graphics. We had to turn that show around in just a few hours. Trevor got sick mid-day, and it was a real dream to be able to sit in that chair. That was both nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time, but just so fun to see how talented everybody around me was. The show really does pull together. I mean, it’s kind of amazing you have to do this four times a week and sometimes in a couple hours how we make sense of the things we just experienced the night before. To get to see that from the chair, that was great.

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