He made a name for himself as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Now, Jordan Klepper hosts his own show, “Klepper,” airing Thursdays on Comedy Central.
“If you were to take a snapshot of me in the back of a police car uncomfortably bent over because I can’t fit my legs, that’s what it is,” Klepper told WTOP. “We wanted to get into that position, which is about as far away from behind a desk in New York City that you can find.”
This week’s episode, “Underground University,” saw him arrested at the Georgia State Capitol.
“Undocumented and DACA students can’t go to public colleges in Georgia,” Klepper said. “There was a protest at the Board of Regents with faith leaders, teachers and other members of the community, so I stood up with them, they threw the handcuffs on me and took me off to jail. The officers were professional, kind and treated me fairly — it was the cars themselves who are not so accommodating for someone who is 6-foot-4. … You add a few inches of Plexiglas and your arms behind your back, you’re going to see a chiropractor afterward.”
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1979, Klepper made his way to Chicago at Second City.
“I grew up watching ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ and ‘General Hospital’ with my mother after school, so by the time I got to college, I could either go into ‘General Hospital’ or I could go into improv comedy,” Klepper said. “I found improv comedy to be exciting and fun. It took me from Kalamazoo to Chicago. From there I studied, I performed for Second City in the Improv Olympic, I met my wife on a touring company and we toured the world doing comedy.”
From there, he and his wife joined the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy group in New York.
“Improv teaches you community and it also teaches you curiosity, so I was able to get some writing and some performing gigs,” Klepper said. “Eventually, the big break came when ‘The Daily Show’ came a knockin’ and wondering if I wanted to do some political comedy, which was a dream come true for me because I had been watching that show for decades.”
The “Daily Show” opportunity was intense, putting him on TV just four days after his audition.
“I auditioned on a Thursday and got called Friday, ‘You got the job, can you show up Monday in a suit?’ I brought a suit from my wedding and I was on the show that night. They throw you in, partially by design, you gotta be ready to go, you do it in one take, you write it in one day and you try to keep your nerves away from the audience. It was trial by fire, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was a whirlwind. By the time you’re a week in, I’d been on the show a couple times, I had helped write pieces, then you know, ‘Alright, maybe I can have this job.'”
He said he was immediately impressed by host Jon Stewart.
“Jon was amazing,” Klepper said. “It was incredible to come in and see how thoughtful and smart the guy is. You immediately see his depth of knowledge and point of view. … He was a good boss, he knew how to run that office … but what jumped out was his certainty. … Jon knew what worked and what didn’t work. … Those are the types of decisions that could take a long time; Jon would do it between commercial breaks. You’d be like, ‘We’re a minute over,’ and he’d pull out a script and be able to decide the exact minute to cut — within seconds.”
Klepper remained on staff during the show’s transition to Trevor Noah.
“Those are insanely large shoes to step into,” Klepper said. “From the first time I met Trevor, I was amazed at the ice-cold water running through his veins. He is able to jump into things with confidence and kindness. … He has really found what that show means to him and what works best for him. His between the scenes pieces are such a good fit. He’s such a charismatic and thoughtful guy that the more you can hear his own earnest take on topics the better.”
Shortly after, Klepper broke out on his own with “The Opposition with Jordan Klepper” (2017).
“‘The Opposition’ was playing a character behind the desk,” Klepper said. “I loved that show, but the network said there’s a way to stand out more: ditch the desk. There’s a lot of people at 11:30 talking about what’s happening in the news that day from a desk. Let’s do something that’s not about the Trump cycle day in and day out. Let’s do something that is out there in America, it’s experiential and takes the audience away from things that they normally see.”
Thus, his new show “Klepper” (2019) was born.
“It’s really exciting to call some shots and run a team,” Klepper said. “You get to bring people on board who you love to collaborate with, who make you look better and smarter than you are. … I’m a fortunate guy who gets to come to work each day with those people. Then those days that are mostly spent on the road hustling to get to La Quinta Inn, those days are less glamorous and I wish I were perhaps back in the studio, but outside of that, it’s pretty great.”
He recently went viral by having Secretary of State Hillary Clinton read the Mueller Report.
“I’ve got a hell of a Rolodex,” Klepper said. “The Clintons reached out to me about moderating a conversation with them. In addition to that, they mentioned doing some sort of a video for that event. I pitched a few ideas, one of which was helping me spend $1,000 on worthwhile causes. One of them was to fund an audio book reading of the Mueller Report. Secretary Clinton jumped right in — I think she got a lot out of being able to air those words publicly.”
In another recent episode, Klepper unexpectedly grappled with gators in “Battle in the Bayou.”
“I follow some pipeline protesters who chain themselves to pipelines to stop that from going through Louisiana,” Klepper said. “We hop in a boat and we sneak off in the middle of the night, but that boat sinks and I have to swim away from gators — so that went slightly awry.”
He even put his body on the line by hitting the mat in the episode “Wrestling PTSD.”
“I go down to Texas and find a bunch of veterans dealing with PTSD by creating a professional wrestling group,” Klepper said. “They put on makeup, don the outfits and get into the ring to work through their internal demons. They also bring me into the ring and work me right through a table. … They make sure that some of the metal in the middle is gone, but it was still a table! … Professional wrestling is pretty darn real, maybe a little too real for my taste.”
After piledrivers, gators and handcuffs, how on earth do you top that?
“I’m gonna be executed in Season 2,” Klepper joked. “Set your DVRs.”
Find more details on the “Klepper” website. Hear our full conversation with Jordan Klepper below: