In the crazy world that we currently live in, there’s never been a better time to be a satirist than today. But there’s also never been a worse time. The Presidency of Donald Trump has dealt a great blow to political satire, how can you make fun of a man who is so ridiculous? How can you make people laugh with an absurdity when the man continuously one up’s you with another absurdity?
That’s where Late Night comedy in America struggles. Writers have grown lazy during his tenure, a Late Night host doesn’t have to actually recite a proper joke but rather just deliver a petty insult and the crowd goes crazy. It’s a real tragedy.
The political news program is a recent development in TV, up until this point Satire was mainly reserved for cartoons in newspapers or sketches on Saturday Night Live. But with the coming of hundreds of thousands of channels and the development of a twenty-four hour news cycle, programmes such as the Daily Show were born.
Now when you talk about the Daily Show, the first name that usually pops up is Jon Stewart (not to be confused with the Green Lantern John Stewart) but he wasn’t the show’s first host. That was Craig Kilborn, who worked from 1998-1998. Back then the show mainly talked about Pop Culture and celebrity news, but it only took it’s turn to political satire when Jon Stewart arrived in 1998 and decided to cover the election of George Bush and Al Gore.
After the election there was a great uproar with George Bush winning despite losing the popular vote, alongside the fact that the deciding state of his victory was Florida (which was then governed by his brother, Jeb) and the Supreme court ruled in his favour. So having a complete moron as your President was a great source of material and so Jon Stewart and various other Comedy Central programs decided to make fun of this ridiculous man.
Then 9/11 happened and things didn’t seem quite funny anymore. The US rushed itself into an illegal war, with overwhelming support from the Press with the only real objectors coming from news pundits from obscure channels and a few satirists. One of these satirists being Jon Stewart, his coverage of the Iraq War and general criticisms of George Bush’s America sealed him as the Conscience of America.
The Daily Show is a half hour long program.It starts off with the presenter summing up a few headlines and then diving into two deep stories, followed by an interview with a politician, journalist, activist or even a celebrity. The show had a few correspondents who’d go out in the field searching for stories and people they could interview and then make fun of.
Most of these correspondents would later become successful media personalities. Stephen Colbert started off as a parody of a Conservative Pundit which later garnered him his own show, the Colbert Report. Which lasted ten years, until he took David Letterman’s job as host of the Late Show.
Other correspondents include people such as Steve Carrell, who became a Hollywood A-Lister. Louis C.K, Samantha Bee, Michelle Wolf and Larry Wilmore. The latter three got their own late night shows, all of which are mostly terrible and Larry’s got cancelled barely year in.
Jon Stewart had a few defining moments in a seventeen year long career but right up until his retirement in 2015. Probably the best thing he’s ever done was dedicate an entire show about this bill regarding the healthcare of 9/11 first responders who’d received excessive damage to their lungs during the falling towers and the recurrent ash.
By putting a spotlight on the bill it gained a lot of outrage from the American people about how the government were treating the first responders, the bill got amended and the first responders got their healthcare covered. But for only five years, when Jon Stewart interviewed them once more most of them had already perished to lung cancer.
The Daily show was a revered programme as it challenged the toxic news cycle in general. Jon Stewart often mocked Fox News for hosting conspiracy theorists such as Glenn Beck, but he wasn’t too fond of MSNBC or CNN’s coverage either. Even referred to the latter as “Fake News“on a few occasions.
He believed that the twenty four hour news cycle was created for one reason and one reason only; reporting on 9/11. Outside of that it’s practically useless, no one needs to know the news twenty four hours a day. With such programs in existence the stories gotten crazier, they desperately needed viewers.
Jon Stewart retired in 2015, right before the Presidential Election started. He was succeeded by South African comedian Trevor Noah, who’s been working there ever since. He’s been doing a pretty good job but it’s a little hard to compete with Jon Stewart. Both men have varying personalities, Jon’s energetic ramblings fitted the satirical news program while Trevor is a little more calm.
The latter however does have superior impression skills, but his political commentary and interviewing skills are lacking compared to Stewart. One of my favourite moments of his was when he first got the job and did a whole monologue about how Donald trump would be the first African President, pointing out how he resembled so many African Dictators in his weird antics.
That sketch was back in mid 2015 when a Donald Trump presidency was little more than a fever dream. Ever since Trump became a viable candidate the show has kind of gone down hill despite receiving it’s best ratings ever. It simply reported the news with some half baked jokes, there was no concise political commentary but rather just pointing at something and saying “This is fucked up” and then moving onto the next story.
Personally I blame the writers, even though a lot pf people don’t like Trevor Noah. You can’t fault him, because he is genuinely funny. There’s a reason why the in between scenes are the best parts of the show, because it’s just him talking to the audience.
The Daily Show struggles to be funny in this environment, mainly because of Trump and lazy writing, but also because of shitty correspondents. Outside of Ronny Chieng, Jordan Kellper and Roy Good Jr the correspondents are usually quite shit. Although I have to admit Hasan Minaj had a few redeeming moments, such as his field story about the 4,000 towns in America with no access to water and the sketch about Charlottesville in which he suggested that America could solve the whole Confederate Statues problem by incorporating Sharia Law.
No statues, no problem.
Out of all the correspondents and contributors, Jordan Kelpper was the one who showed the most promise. He played a parody of a conservative pundit, a discount Stephen Colbert if you will. But he differed from Colbert with his energy and general smart ass demeanour, while Colbert presented this stoic moron.
Klepper was often sent out to Trump rallies and other political protests, but he also did a number of great field pieces. One of his best was the thorough debunking of the “Good Guy with a Gun” narrative that the NRA are so fond of regurgitating.
When Trevor Noah took a week off to get a surgery, it was Klepper who filled his space. Ever since then people knew he was going places. John Oliver was once just a correspondent until Jon Stewart took an entire Summer off to film a movie about the Arab Spring. After which it was pretty apparent Oliver couldn’t just go back to being a correspondent, so he got his own show on HBO.
The same was for Klepper. Comedy Central tested him out by giving him his own hour long special titled “Jordan Klepper solves Guns” in which Jordan does an entire field piece trying to solve the various issues around guns in America.
The special was a success and he was greenlit to start his own show; the Opposition.
So the Opposition is a Parody News program and ultimately a Satire of American Conservatism. It’s similar to the Colbert Report in that manner, but while Colbert was parodying Fox News Anchor Bill O’Reilly, Klepper is parodying Alex Jones.
It’s similar to the daily show in that it talks about two main stories in a humorous manner with the help of some contributors, referred to as Citizen Journalists. But while Noah breaks down the ridiculousness of the news with his liberal perspective, Klepper one ups it by parodying a Trump supporter digesting the news and trying desperately to fit it into his political narrative.
He does this by parodying such techniques as Gas Lighting, in which Jordan literally brings out a gas light and goes on these insane ramblings trying to muddy the waters of a particular issue. Alongside some segments such as just between us, in which Jordan pretends to take an add break in the hopes of losing the attention of his liberal viewers so that he can talk about some subjects that he’s really concerned about.
There’s also a few running gags, such as how Klepper is just an asshole because his Dad was mean to him. Or how Tim Baltz is a deranged alcoholic.
After a few witty stories, Klepper talks to his guest who he refers to as his Opponent. It’s a similar kind of layout that Colbert used to follow in which he tries to grill his opponent but only shows how stupid he really is. One of his best interviews was with Yeomni Park, a North Korean defector turned Human Rights Activist.
Most of the correspondents of this show are caricatures of people in Right Wing media, or at least the fringe off the Right Wing- such as your Alex Jones’, Mike Cernovich’s, Paul Joseph Watson’s, Tomi Lahren’s, Candace Owens and many more.
The two Gay contributors (Arron Jackson and Josh Sharp) are obvious parodies of Milo Yiannopolus, a Conservative Provocateur who really fell from grace after he said that it was ok for a grown man to have sex with a fourteen year old boy. The best description I’ve heard about him is that he’s the market brand Trump, both are provocative but while Trump has been able to thrive despite his controversies, Milo falls apart a year after he’s elected to office.
The others on the other hand are a little unclear upon who they are parodying. But despite that all of them are great. Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp brilliantly play these maniacal attention whores who’ll say literally anything for attention, Tim Baltz plays a great deranged moron, Laura Grey and Nicole Thurman play very interesting roles as useful idiots but the main stand out in the great cast is Kobi Libii.
Now Kobi plays this down right insane Citizen Journalist with such passion that it’s truly inspiring. They’re all great at improvising but Kobi is capable of getting right up to Alex Jones and calling him a crisis actor right to his face, it’s down right ballsy.
The show almost always get’s a home run as far as jokes and political commentary goes. Some of their best sketches include that time where they were able to turn the story about a guy who stopped an active shooter while being unarmed into an open social commentary on racism and police brutality.
Other favourite moments of mine was the whole coverage of the Roy Moore campaign in Alabama and the Las Vegas shooting. The Opposition is able to break down how conservative media reacts and reports stories in such an intricate manner that it puts the Daily Show to shame.
The Daily Show is really hit or miss. Occasionally they’ll have a really good sketch or bit but it’s generally just a person reporting the news in a general manner with a few half baked jokes to get an easy laugh from the audience. I remember one instance with this bit between Roy Wood Jnr and Jordan that was just painfully unfunny.
I can’t recall exactly what story introduced the sketch, but basically Trevor Noah introduced Jordan and Roy to the audience and they say how because they’re of different ethnicity and backgrounds their friendship is proof that they can surpass racism. To prove this Jordan says some casually racist shit talking that greatly offends Roy and he asks him to stop…that’s it. That’s the joke. It was just Jordan being an ass hole.
See, the way you could make this sketch work is by having both men engage in this racist roast. In which they bring up racial stereotypes and social issues as a means to insult each other. At the end they’re both obviously angry and deeply hurt but neither will admit that the racism has affected their perception of another. It takes Trevor, acting as the voice of reason, to point out that Racism is so toxic that it can never be handed- even in a joking manner.
That’s how it could’ve worked, but what we got was just painfully unfunny. It was literally just Jordan being an asshole. And don’t get me wrong, Jordan is brilliant at playing an asshole- so long as you’re capable of presenting how he is wrong and a complete moron in a humorous manner.
Now despite the Opposition being a great program, it didn’t really perform too well ratings wise. The reasons I can see is that the show was slated after the Daily Show, a time slot that is in direct competition with Stephen Colbert’s show- so Klepper never stood a chance.
There’s also the fact that younger audiences are used to watching their content online, that’s why John Oliver was able to make a name for himself since he posted several of his big stories on YouTube for people to watch for free. That in turn allowed him to develop a loyal fanbase, which before simply contained people that used to watch the Daily Show.
Klepper didn’t have this opportunity and I’m afraid that his content would have been better suited for an online streaming service rather than TV. There’s also the fact that Klepper is parodying these really obscure, fringe personalities which the general audience are oblivious to. That’s why he stopped focusing on Alex Jones and relied more heavily on Sean Hannity, in the hopes that he’d attract a more mainstream audience.
But the main issue I think the show had was that the general audience just didn’t get the sense of humour or what exactly they were making fun of. I know that humour in and of itself is subjective and therefore it’s a little redundant describing what is and isn’t funny, but I genuinely believe that American audiences are just too dumb for this type of satire.
I mean the fact that Klepper and his correspondents could go out into the field and be able to get into real arguments with dumb-fuck liberals who genuinely believed they were actual Conservative pundits is either a compliment on the cast’s acting prowess or an indictment on the critical thinking of the average American.
Probably one of the most notable moments of the Opposition was that time when Carter Page, a former Trump adviser and suspect in the Mueller investigation, staged a bizarre interview with Jordan- believing him to be a genuine Right Wing personality, not a comedian parodying Alex Jones. It was one of the strangest pieces of television I’ve ever seen, it felt like a fever dream.
Klepper was parodying obscure characters while debunking talking points that the audience was probably oblivious to since apparently none of them have actually interacted with anyone from the Right Wing. This inability to relate to mainstream audiences is one of the reason why the Opposition has just been cancelled, it’s final episode airing in a few days.
I’m a little bummed out that the show is coming to a close. Honestly I think it’s one of the best satires coming out of America in the past decade. It had an ability to break down the ridiculousness of the Right Wing while remaining both funny and critical. But the general audience doesn’t find casual references to George Soros funny, mainly because they have no idea who he is or why a Conservative hates him.
Jordan is set to get his own show simply titled “Klepper” sometime next year. Hopefully he’ll bring his correspondents with him, but Klepper has noted that he’s leaving his Right Wing character behind. Citing that the world could use “one less asshole” so that means that the Opposition is truly dead.
It’s a great shame. There’s very few late night shows that are genuinely as funny or posses such witty improv as the Opposition, that’s why I think it’s a work of genius and I hope it won’t be forgotten soon.