It’s fair to say The Daily Show had a difficult rebirth when Trevor Noah took over hosting duties in 2015. Audiences and critics were both polarised as the show began to find a new identity. Though following on from a long-serving comic genius like Jon Stewart was no easy task.
Teething problems now over, Noah is now doing a respectable job as host of the long-running satire. His commentaries on current events continue to be both thoughtful and amusing. Despite this, the show doesn’t have the same bite or hit the same heights of hilarity it used to. It’s still shown here in the UK by Comedy Central, so it’s obviously still resonating with audiences worldwide. On that note, though, it’s a shame Comedy Central haven’t also picked up it’s new spin-off show, The Opposition. Not just for completist reasons, either – it’s the superior programme.
The Opposition is hosted by Jordan Klepper, who joined The Daily Show late into Stewart’s tenure. It can be described as spiritual successor to The Colbert Report. A comparison that extends to both being broadcast at the same time, immediately after The Daily Show. After Larry Wilmore made an ill-fated attempt to take the show in a new direction, Klepper stepped into the breach.
As host, Klepper adopts the persona of an alt-conservative. He is scathing about the left wing while he defends all questionable choices by the executive office – and softly defending radical groups. Not really, though, it’s all satire, but the uninformed could be easily fooled. Klepper’s embodiment of a Fox News anchor is quite uncanny. He also cites incendiary American TV and radio personality Alex Jones as an inspiration for his persona on The Opposition. He spends half an hour putting a ludicrous (yet unfortunately believable) right-wing spin on current events. Or presenting news items from genuine conservative outlets and revelling in their insanity.
It’s not just the premise that makes The Opposition the better show, though. Of the two, it’s more focused, better written and not afraid to be funny. There’s also no issues with identity or waffling. Under Noah, The Daily Show keeps flipping back and forth between a news magazine, a late-night talk show and a Youtube vodcast, and there isn’t really a consistent viewpoint. In contrast, The Opposition knows what it’s trying to be, has a more concise range of targets and a more exacting agenda.
As with all shows in Comedy Central’s format, Klepper is joined by a team of correspondents. Referred to as ‘citizen journalists’ – highlighting increasing distrust in the mainstream media – they join the host and affect alt-right identities. Like real-world news anchors have done before, Klepper here uses his correspondents to validate his extreme views. Their gender and ethnic diversity also aids the effect of these actual journalists who uses such pundits to deflect accusations of bigotry.
The Opposition even manages to inject new life into what has long been the format’s weakest and most criticised segment, the guest interview. Klepper goes a different route with interviews, first by introducing his guest, almost always someone of a liberal viewpoint, as his ‘opponent.’ He then, in the style of an actual conservative journalist, jokingly disregards his guests on all matters they disagree on. In doing so, this shines light on the closed-mindedness of populist journalism, while at the same time giving greater credence to what his guests are saying.
In taking on the persona of the populist right, The Opposition is able to expose the absurdity and deep-ingrained intolerance of this increasingly influential movement. Best of all, though, is that it’s funny as hell:
Comedy Central UK’s continued commitment to The Daily Show is laudable. Surely, though, there’s room enough on the channel for two quality topical shows. Clips of the show are available online, but it would be better viewed as a whole and on the medium it was created for. We shouldn’t be held back from seeing great comedy – and there’s a lot we here are missing out on.
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