NEW YORK — Someone once famously said that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
That was then, before objective truth lost its power to persuade; before facts were swept aside like pesky tumbleweeds. Now, it’s not just evidence that’s putty in the hands of every partisan. Entire cosmologies are now do-it-yourself projects, made to order for each person’s mind-set.
So say hello to The Opposition w/Jordan Klepper, whose host aims to rally a rash of rabid world views. Following Comedy Central’s nightly fake newscast, The Daily Show, Klepper’s fake rantcast premieres Monday at 11:30 p.m. Eastern with a pledge to push back against the ever-present threat of reality.
A promo for The Opposition with Klepper wearing a know-it-all sneer helps explain: “THEY say, ‘Investigate Trump.’ I say, ‘Impeach Hillary.’ … They say, ‘Our children should learn Chinese.’ I say, ‘China isn’t real.’”
TV-Klepper is opposed to mainstream media. Opposed to Oprah’s Book Club. Opposed to that Vietnamese soup with the name that sounds vaguely like the movement known as “antifa.”
Klepper, 38, was a correspondent on The Daily Show for three years and before that performed with the Upright Citizens Brigade and Second City improv troupes.
Now giving a tour through the rambling, recently occupied quarters of The Opposition in a building across from New York’s Penn Station, the off-screen Klepper is a rangy 6-foot-4 with an affable manner and a hearty laugh. Not the sort of chap for whom mad-dog fulminating would seem to come naturally.
Do the times make the man? Adapting to the current media ethos, with its even harsher, even more absurdist pitch, Klepper will in effect host a supercharged version of The Colbert Report, which from 2005 through 2014 occupied the same time slot with Stephen Colbert posing as a priggish conservative blowhard.
“We’re not ideologically based,” Klepper cautions. “We’re AGAINST it. What’s ‘it’? We’ll get back to you on that. But whatever ‘it’ is, we know we’re taking a strong stance against it.”
Settling in his office (whose walls are painted a surprisingly understated shade of grey), he explains his character’s heritage, drawn from role models such as Glenn Beck (The Blaze), Alex Jones (Infowars), Breitbart News and other voices that share the broad and ill-defined “alt-media” label.
Home base will be a set that resembles a cushy concrete bunker, where Klepper will receive his “CJs” and, most nights, will interview — and mock-clash with — a guest. (First up: Kurt Andersen, author of the recent book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.)
“This person’s not crazy,” real-life Klepper says of his new alter ego. “He’s not from the right. He sees himself as a free thinker. He’s an opportunist who wants to sell you something — mostly, the fear that’s in the world. And he wants to be famous on TV.
“As somebody who’s also an opportunist who wants to be famous on TV,” laughs Klepper, “I think we’re going to get along.”
On The Opposition Klepper will preside over a team of zealous correspondents who, like camcorder-packing conservative activist James O’Keefe, will produce field reports that advance his or her own version of the opposition cause. These so-called Citizen Journalists include Tim Baltz, Aaron Jackson, Josh Sharp, Kobi Libii, Niccole Thurman and Laura Grey, who in real life is married to Klepper (the couple met collaborating on various comedy projects).
“We’ll have correspondents who live in their own ‘alt-media’ silos: a conspiracy of paranoid dunces,” says Klepper. “It used to be a matter of choosing your own truths. Now it’s more a matter of concocting a reality you live inside, complete with its own echo chamber.”
Klepper notes that, increasingly, people take refuge with a chosen media outlet — whether somewhat mainstream or out on the fringe — that reinforces what they want to think.
His guiding principle for The Opposition: “We promise not to challenge you with anything that will challenge you. We are here to make you feel good about yourself, or to feel more afraid so you can feel good about being afraid. But whatever we do, we won’t try to change your mind!”
While The Opposition will embrace the chaos of the current day in its search for laughs, there will be an underlying method to its madness: The conspiracies it lampoons will be mined from real-life theorists.
“Every argument that we make will start with an argument from Breitbart or Milo Yiannopoulos or (Fox News Channel host Sean) Hannity, and, from that, we will concoct an even bigger ‘reality,’” Klepper explains. “It’s OUR job to heighten it. That way, you can see how the little nugget of (crap) we started from can be very dangerous, because it can get so big so quick.”
Yes, the times are dizzying and people are enraged. It makes Klepper and his Opposition colleagues feel fortunate to be part of a de facto support group.
“We get to go into a room and bitch and laugh and find a way to contextualize what’s going on — and find humour or humanity in it.
“There is a world out THERE,” says Klepper, stepping to his window to gaze down on 33rd Street. “But MY world is in this building.”
Lucky indeed: “All I can see out there,” he reports, “is Old Navy and Hooters.”