A quick look around Jordan Klepper’s Midtown Manhattan office tells you all you need to know about the man: an electric typewriter, a bar cart, original artwork by a friend, a Peabody Award. This is someone who prefers tactile experiences to efficient ones, and as a result, his perspective has been celebrated. It was no surprise during this photo shoot, when he tasked me with playing a ’60s psychedelic rock album on a cardboard record player. This is a performer whose talent for exploring the present is rooted in a passion for the past.
But his reaction to digital progress isn’t without a purpose. “Technology ups the speed of what we can all ingest,” he says. “I think if we can slow it down and sit in something, we have the greater opportunity for revelation.”
Full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Jordan for 16 years. He’s always been a tall drink of water with a puff of well-coiffed hair, directed by a moral compass that unfailingly points to Michigan nice, playing the egotistical dummy for show.
Klepper came up on the legendary comedy stages of Chicago before becoming a national figure as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He soon found himself behind his own late-night desk, portraying an alt-right newsman on The Opposition. Now he’s back out in the field for his new Comedy Central docuseries, Klepper, exploring not just what Americans are angry about, but what they’re fighting for. “The more time you spend with people, the harder it is to put them in a box,” Klepper opines. He claims this is a point of view he’s discovered over time; I’d argue that knowing it innately has always been the secret to his success.
When a Polaroid camera appeared during the photo shoot, his eyes predictably lit up. “That’s what it should be! Wait for it, and get your moment.” In a world in which most content is disposable, Klepper still wants to do work that deserves permanence.
Here’s a look at his day, in his own words, as he prepares his new show for your screens.
6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A regular day when I’m on the road filming involves waking up in a Hilton Garden Inn in Texas/Georgia/Arizona/Texas/Michigan (but probably Texas) and eating a 76-egg omelet before getting swept into a whirlwind of interviews and activities that are totally different every day. Sometimes I’m in a ring with veterans who are battling PTSD through professional wrestling; other days I’m on a bike ride with open carry activists cycling with AR15s. They are strange days that usually end by watching footage in the director of photography’s hotel room, drinking beer, and eating delivery from the best Indian restaurant in Temple, Texas.
But luckily, filming only lasts so long. As we near the launch of our show, I’m back in New York grinding out the final cuts.
I’m up. No alarm clock, just anxiety. It never runs out of batteries. I try not to check my phone. My goal is for the first idea of the day to be internal and not belong to a pundit on Slate.
I’m carefully crafting my morning pour-over coffee, a process that I’ve miraculously transformed from what’s normally a three-minute activity to a full 10. Simultaneously, I’m scrolling through news stories to get my juices flowing and catching up on network emails about the show’s launch. The free-spirited artist in me has always been excited by integrated corporate brand rollout strategy.
I listen to the New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast to get a quick deep dive into today’s headline news. My meditation app dings on my phone—I will get to it tomorrow. They say you should meditate every day to stay calm and focused. I say screw them…and something else that I can’t remember.
I walk to work, which is a great way to collect my thoughts and watch sightseeing guides prey on tourists who don’t know the protocol for getting to the top of the Empire State Building.
Check-ins with everyone around the office to get all the balls in the air. I talk to executive producer Kim Gamble about our edit delivery schedule, writer Russ Armstrong about an upcoming bit we’re doing on The Daily Show, and then executive producer Stu Miller to see if we’ve locked in plans for me to pal around with a certain presidential candidate on the trail this week.
I head across the street to our edit bays and bounce among work on three different episodes. We have a final cut due today on a piece covering Texas gun protests and a rough cut of a story on America’s current role in the space race due tomorrow, and we are three days out on sending the network its first look at a story about the implications of legalizing marijuana in California. Guns, space, and weed: I’ve got myself a cable television programming bingo.
Lunch. I escape the edit bays and grab a chicken shawarma sandwich from Omar’s up the street.
I text my wife a picture of an adorable Brussels griffon dressed like an accountant. This is how you keep a marriage working.
I need to punch up the jokes in the voice-over for our marijuana story. Luckily, weed puns are layups. But maybe I’m wrong and this whole story will go up in smoke.
Afternoon coffee run to Culture Espresso. Best chocolate chip cookie in New York. Test me.
This is my least favorite part of the day—I have to kill babies. That’s the industry term for cutting the things you love, which usually happens about this time of day. We’re three minutes long in the cut, and as much as a tangential bit I filmed in a Hawaiian Mars habitat makes me laugh, it’s got to go.
Tonight is a late one. Meeting deadlines for edits is always a sprint, cramped in small rooms, eating old Pret A Manger sandwiches, and arguing over minutiae. It’s a slog, but damn is it fun. You have all these stories that you have to build up and break down and build up, over and over again. I’m lucky I have an incredible staff that stays late and works hard. I’d name them if I wasn’t so selfish and deserving of all the credit.
I’m with my wife at home, where we talk about the important things, like dog accountants and her insistence that we watch Terrace House, a Japanese reality show that she is obsessed with. I pour myself a bourbon and get ready to read some subtitles.
I do some light reading in preparation to interview the Clintons in a few weeks. Did you know former President Bill Clinton’s autobiography is 3,000 pages long? Tonight I make a two-paragraph dent, and then lights out.
Main image by Jung Kim