The Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium hosted comedian Jordan Klepper for its fourth and final event of the semester. Klepper is a stand-up comedian, currently known as The Daily Show correspondent who attends President Donald Trump’s rallies for his “Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse” segment.
At the event Klepper highlighted that current events in the world are the basis for modern humor.
“Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to,” he said.
Senior Alex Goldberg noted in an email to The News-Letter that he found truth in Klepper’s definition.
“What he was saying about comedy being a mechanism to get to the truth quickly really resonated with me,” he wrote. “That explanation really crystallized why I enjoy watching comedy news shows as much as I do. They can explicitly say what normal news programming can’t or won’t.”
Klepper recalled his start in comedy as being at improvisational shows in Chicago.
Junior Sandy Clancy appreciated hearing about Klepper’s journey to his correspondent position on The Daily Show, citing the similarities between his career and her desired career in an email to The News-Letter.
“I'm interested in going into the news and reporting business, so it was nice to hear from someone who, like me, had a background in performance (him with improv and me with theatre) and was able to make it into a fulfilling career,” she wrote.
Klepper’s talk centered around the state of comedy in 2020. He discussed how comedy has evolved under Trump’s administration and the tangible transition he felt in the comedy landscape as time progressed.
In 2015, while Klepper was working at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he explained that the initial reaction to Trump’s candidacy for president was to laugh at the absurdity. Since then, comedy and politics have become more intertwined than ever for many reasons.
“When folks ask why things have gotten so political, that answer is easy: Read the room. Comedy can be used as an escape, but it’s a language, not a monolithic experience. There’s a lot of stuff we can’t and shouldn’t talk around,” he said. “In the end, laughter is not the best medicine — that’s remdesivir — but it is a decent weapon that can puncture the bubble of those in power.”
He also recognized a shift in the demeanor he uses to approach his comedy now, mainly out of a necessity to offer realness in a time of absurdity.
“People are playing versions of themselves now. You can’t help but want to engage in things that are important,” he said. “I have definitely lost a little bit of silliness from four years ago.”
Klepper detailed his experiences of attending Trump rallies and interacting with his supporters. According to him, Trump supporters’ answers to his questions are often full of contradiction. He cited a specific example when a woman praised Trump for his transparency and honesty but supported his blocking of witnesses from testifying at his impeachment trial.
The comedian is looking forward to a potentially tamer media landscape under the Biden administration. He also hopes the media will figure out how to portray Trump in a way that does not contribute to his prestige in order to lessen the spectacle American politics has become.
“Politics, or governing, should not be a game. Presidents should be boring. People are mad about the wrong things,” he said. “They shouldn’t be mad about not winning; they should be mad that officials aren’t doing their jobs.”
Klepper believes Trump has not been good for comedy; he noted that he is an exhausting subject to cover.
“In the time before Trump, you got to choose the stories you told. Even now Trump won’t disappear, but until that happens, I look forward to choosing the things I get to talk about,” he said.
Junior Husain Hakim enjoyed Klepper’s talk and appreciated the unique topic he brought to the symposium this year.
“Klepper offered more of a focus on his political effects of humor, and it was really interesting to hear that twist and very fun and different from the other ones in that sense,” Hakim said. “It went really well, and he was a nice and charismatic guy.”
The entire MSE Symposium series allowed Hakim to appreciate the merits of a virtual event, even despite the circumstances.
“Normally the event requires registration because in a physical building there’s limited space, so it’s much more accessible and easier to attend,” he said. “The events felt more intimate and enjoyable than I was expecting them to be, and it still felt like all our speakers were here to talk to Hopkins specifically.”