Jordan Klepper is the physical embodiment of cringe Resistance comedy, a liberal arts bro who dunks on crazy people like he’s Michael Jordan when he’s actually your drunk cousin dunking on a four-foot plastic hoop as he sweats out a couple of White Claws and spikes the ball over the fence. If you’re unfamiliar with his act, Klepper’s recent trip to a Manhattan protest against vaccine mandates should do the trick.
You could actually just watch the first 20 seconds. Klepper opens the segment by joking that he normally “heads to the heartland of America” when “in search of” angry conspiracy theorists. “It turns out I can find those very same people right here in my own backyard,” he says. What luck! The toothless rubes who watch “Hannity” know how to drive and use the subway.
Of course, the joke only works if you’re ignorant enough to believe sophisticated urbanites are above the kind of conspiracy-mongering found in the “heartland.” (Klepper, by the way, is from Michigan.) This is the worldview that informs Klepper’s entire schtick, which probably explains why his solo show failed miserably. Calling it “tone deaf” would be accurate but too kind.
The rest of Klepper’s report from the protest features him condescending to minorities, mocking working-class white people for smoking, and delivering smug rebuttals to the craziest people at the demonstration. It’s a great illustration of why so much Trump-era comedy fails, including Klepper’s repeated trips to MAGA rallies that get feverish applause at The Daily Beast and HuffPost but likely do little for Comedy Central’s ratings. You can’t mock other people’s partisan brain worms while pretending you’re immune to partisan brain worms.
The irony is that Klepper and other self-styled media sophisticates see themselves as champions in the fight against bigotry and conspiracies. But his act is predicated on smug classism and often perpetuated the Russia conspiracy. Let’s not forget this 2017 segment entitled, “How Trump Ended Up in Bed with Russia.” That headline would actually be great comedy if it had been satire.
Klepper isn’t funny for the same reason Stephen Colbert is no longer funny, “Saturday Night Live” sucked in the Trump era, and Hollywood now fails miserably at political satire. There’s a deficit of self-awareness and a surplus of condescension. That’s a bad combination. It also, by the way, is only going to drive more people to bitterness and conspiracy theories, whether they live in the heartland or Manhattan.