Usually, it’s a bit unrealistic to piece together what a comedy show is after only one episode. Especially in the world of late night, each successive half-hour brings host, writers, and assorted crew alike a chance to really drill down on a show’s strengths.
But “The Opposition,” the latest 11:30 slot-holder on Comedy Central, took its first episode as a chance to deliver what seemed like an effective mission statement for what this conspiracy-adjacent satire would be going forward. Not only did host Jordan Klepper take the opportunity to define some of the edges of this particular brand of late-night blowhard, he introduced the various members of his staff and doubled down on the logical loopholes that will theoretically provide most of the laughs as the show progresses.
In doing so, the show might not be the show at its funniest, but it did indirectly touch on the reason why a show like this could theoretically be successful (and maybe even necessary) in the future. By having a nightly series that takes on the idea of being against everything, the show can illustrate why, more than ever, there’s a growing need to stand for something. Through the first half hour, “The Opposition” has the first part down. Whether it achieves the second half of that idea remains to be seen.
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Klepper didn’t skirt around the Alex Jones-sized elephant in the room, not only addressing this new character’s inspiration by name, but taking on with Jones’ direct issues with “The Opposition” itself. Playing a single InfoWars clip on “The Opposition” only reinforced how far the latter has to go to even reach the former’s level of hysteria. IndieWire’s Michael Schneider has written about this in the past, the idea that the noted conspiracy theorist is too outsized and too dangerous to be made into an effective laughingstock. Stephen Colbert’s “Tuck Buckford” probably has come the closest to taking Jones’ vitriol and snake oil salesman nature and putting it in its rightful satirical place.
But so far for this first episode of “The Opposition,” Klepper as a character still feels closer to his “Daily Show” persona than an unhinged school-shooting denier. Aside from the occasional twitchy suit-readjusting in his seat, Klepper comes off more as inconvenienced than aggrieved. In the run-up to the premiere, the stated goal of “The Opposition” was to take on distrust and disinformation on all sides of the political spectrum. But if the goal is to really understand why people believe things that are demonstrably false, invoking Jones right away seems to be a counterproductive move (and something to which John Oliver beat him to the punch a few short months ago).
The governing idea that this character will only see facts and deny their existence can only be effective when coupled with that next layer of understanding outlining the consequences. In a way, it’s the same problem facing progressive politics overall in response to the current administration: it’s not enough to simply combat everything that comes out of the White House. There have to be effective alternatives proposed as well.
That balance between a boisterous persona and a deeper understanding of the issues being discussed is one that Klepper found pretty effectively in “Jordan Klepper Solves Guns,” the hour-long special that premiered on Comedy Central earlier this year. When IndieWire spoke to him, Klepper explained how going out into the field and speaking with activists on opposing sides of the debate gave him a fuller comprehension of the issue at hand and a greater grasp of the changes that need to be made to make Americans safer.
At the risk of making an overly simplistic comparison to a previous Comedy Central show in the same timeslot, “truthiness” on “The Colbert Report” made for such an effective premiere because it not only outlined the main idea that the show would take on, but it did it in a way that signaled very clearly how it would learn from the mistakes of the people that it was satirizing. “The Opposition” idea of “mental nationalism” gets close to that idea, but with so much evidence-wall and correspondent check-in business to get through, there wasn’t much time to really make that stick.
By making Jones and his ilk the emphasis of the first show, “The Opposition” isn’t leaving itself much room to come up with anything surprising that hasn’t already been detailed elsewhere. The strongest piece of writing in this premiere actually happened off-screen: if you follow the link to ifyouarealexjonesclickthisifnotdont.com, it hints at what the show is capable of in the future if it can hone in on how (and why) ideas like “prominent political figures are running demon-possession rings” have percolated into the mainstream.
Perhaps the correspondents on the show will bring more insight when actually traveling from outside the confines of the studio into the field, as Klepper has explained will happen in future episodes. Tim Baltz’s small debut in particular (a valuable piece of the “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$” puzzle) seems to be on his way towards the kind of healthy skepticism, both in performance and in content, that may help illustrate the show’s ideas best.
As a Monday-Thursday “Daily Show” follow-up, we’ll get plenty more chances to see how the show treats its evolution. With its guests and the supporting cast, “The Opposition” does have the chance to become more than a gathering place for viewers to point and laugh at the “facts are bad” crowd. “The Opposition” has found the problem. We’ll see if they can help solve it.
“The Opposition” airs Monday-Thursday at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.