I Like Jordan Klepper

He lets Trump supporters hang themselves with their own words. I’m fine with that

Barry Lyons
4 min readFeb 27, 2024
Credit: Comedy Central, Jordan Klepper

There’s an old adage about confronting standup comics in a comedy club: Never heckle or pick a fight because you will always lose. The person on stage is always going to have the last word. Over at Substack, Erica Etelson has it in for Jordan Klepper, not for his standup (Klepper doesn’t do standup; his background is improv) but for his interviews with Trump supporters. She describes Klepper as “a Daily Show ‘correspondent’ who specializes in getting Trump supporters to say dumb things” and that Klepper likes to show how these people can be “unmoored from reality.” All true. However, Etelson also believes Klepper is “smug” and that he is “insufferably full of himself.” What?

Here’s the news about Klepper: He doesn’t do his gig to grandstand. He never humiliates his interviewees. He never rolls his eyes or tells anyone they’ve said something stupid. Klepper’s technique isn’t to tell Trump supporters outright that they are wrong, his technique is to challenge them into thinking about the clueless thing they just said to him. But hold on. Is everyone Klepper speaks to clueless? Etelson says Klepper probably “cherry-picks the most unhinged interviews” for his viewing audience. That may be true, but here’s a scary thought. What if Klepper doesn’t cherry-pick? What if all his interviewees say unhinged things and that Klepper then has to decide on which ones don’t make the cut? It seems to me that any Trump supporter of any stripe is going to say something unhinged. More on that in a moment.

Etelson also notes that Klepper “lays verbal traps for his hapless victims.” No. Klepper never tricks anyone with gotcha questions. Let’s remember that these people want to be filmed. They want to be seen and heard as soldiers in Trump’s army. They want an autocrat in the White House and see in Trump the right guy for the job. And yet when they are encouraged to think about their positions... Well, let’s take as an example the guy with the T-shirt that has Trump’s mugshot on it. Klepper isn’t being smug or insufferable with the guy. Klepper is only asking an obvious question: Isn’t it contradictory, Mr. T-shirt Wearer, for Trump to put “Never surrender” on a T-shirt with a photo that was taken when he surrendered? It’s a fair question, and the guy’s only response is “Huh?” But Etelson has a problem with this exchange. “All we are actually seeing in a Klepper interview is a few stressful seconds in the life of a human being who came unarmed to a fight they didn’t know was happening, a human being whose averageness makes them look stupid.” No. The guy with the Trump mugshot T-shirt wasn’t intellectually “unarmed” except to the degree that it never occurred him that “Never surrender” on a T-shirt of a guy who had his mugshot taken when he surrendered is ironic and intrinsically funny. That’s not being “unarmed,” it’s being as dumb as a fence post.

However, I do see Etelson’s point that maybe shining a light on the most MAGA-looking of Trump supporters is possibly unfair because it characterizes all Trump supporters as being unhinged. Okay, so what happens if you approach some people who seem rather normal? As it happens, Klepper is hardly the only person conducting “man in the street” interviews with Trump supporters. Here’s a Jimmy Kimmel clip that shows his camera crew pranking some Trump supporters in South Carolina. The reporter mentions something that Biden has said — and then admits to making a mistake, that it was something Trump had said. You can imagine how this goes: The Trump supporter condemns the position when they think it’s something Biden has said but then hedge or attempt to explain away the remark when they realize it’s something Trump said. That’s definitely a fun way to prank a person. But here’s the thing. In contrast to the T-shirt wearer or a person festooned with Trump regalia all over their person, Kimmel’s reporter seems to have avoided the most outwardly MAGA-looking people — but got some irrational responses anyway. Nothing cruel went down, but the segment certainly did its job at exposing the hypocrisy of Trump supporters. Isn’t exposing hypocrisy a good thing?

And then there’s Eleven Films’ clip of a Trump supporter speaking to political commentator Luke Beasley (Beaseley isn’t a comedian), who does nothing more than ask reasonable questions. Although there’s nothing funny about this clip, the underlying point made by Klepper and Kimmel is also true here: There is something truly delusional (and sad) about these Trump supporters. Or as this Boing Boing headline put it: “MAGA genius says Nancy Pelosi instigated J6 to halt Biden’s win thereby ensuring it.”

But getting back to Klepper and Kimmel and other comics who might employ subterfuge to expose a Trump supporter’s nonsensical view, I have a final thought. Is going after comedians for how they do their job a good way for anyone to spend their time? Etelson makes clear that she is no fan of Trump, but it seems to me that going after your political allies — and a comedian no less! — qualifies as a good definition of a circular firing squad. As for me, whether it’s Klepper or Kimmel or a surrogate (or Stephen Colbert or Seth Meyers) conducting an interview, I enjoy seeing Trump supporters contradict themselves. Or as Etelson puts it, Klepper is “is not holding a gun to their heads, he’s just putting a rake in front of them and letting them step on it.” That’s fine. More, please.

Barry Lyons is a freelance writer and copy editor living in New York City. He has some thoughts about marijuana legalization.



Barry Lyons

Not a fan of sports or religion. I guess that makes me a bad American.