Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper Breaks Down MAGA Voters’ Embrace of Putin

Shortly after Jon Stewart returned to “The Daily Show” as its weekly host and executive producer, he gave his Comedy Central team an order: Let’s focus on the climate, not the weather.

“That was such a good articulation of something that we’d all been craving,” Jordan Klepper told TheWrap. “During ‘The Daily Show,’ you’re constantly talking about the news of the day, obviously, and finding humor in what happened in the chaos of the 24-hour news cycle. Jon is such a great reminder of, what is the ‘climate’? What is the big story that all of these smaller stories are happening underneath?”

That ethos is at the center of the latest edition of “Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse.” Entitled “Moscow Tools,” the Monday night special chronicles the shocking trend of Donald Trump supporters praising Russian president Vladimir Putin — a sentiment that seems unthinkable from the political party that elected Ronald Reagan during the Cold War.

“Over the last six months, we started noticing this shift in the way people at Trump rallies talked about Russia and Vladimir Putin,” Klepper said. “What once used to be a dodge suddenly became an embrace. Putin was suddenly seen as, not this bad guy autocrat, but seen as somebody who was even preferable to Joe Biden.”

In fact, the first-ever Vanderbilt Unity poll found that 52% of MAGA Republicans believed that Putin was a better president than Biden.

“This feels like a seismic change in the GOP. Then, simultaneously, you’re seeing Marjorie Taylor Greene pushing Russian propaganda out there and stop funding to Ukraine,” Klepper said. Earlier this year, Greene opposed a bill that would provide military aid to Ukraine. “Suddenly, there are people dying across the globe based on propaganda that’s affecting the GOP here in America.”

“The Daily Show” used the opportunity of its “Fingers the Pulse” offshoot to dive deeper into this stranger-than-fiction news story. That meant flying Klepper to the Russian-bordering nation of Estonia to bond with the country’s volunteer army and interview Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

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Jordan Klepper and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas on “The Daily Show Presents: Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse: Moscow Tools” (Photo Credit: Comedy Central)

Klepper’s interview with Kallas is nothing short of harrowing. After spending half the episode with Trump supporters who confidently proclaim that Russia is better than the United States because of some pictures of the Moscow Metro they saw online, Kallas outlines the real and pressing threat Russia poses to her country. Klepper noted that a comedy show interviewing a world leader makes for “strange bedfellows” but that he and “The Daily Show” team were careful to handle this complicated story “the appropriate way.”

“We never want to minimize the realities of what’s happening on the ground in a place like this,” Klepper explained, noting that the joke is never about Estonia or their fears.

“What we want to hear from this prime minister is, what are we missing? What is the American media not covering, and can you articulate that for us?” Klepper said.

True to his explanation, the joke in the special is never about Estonia. Instead, it’s largely about Klepper — from his big goofy American smile to the poorly planned gift he offers a member of the Estonian Defence League. “I always try to make it about us. It’s a story about Americans and how they approach misinformation.”

Kallas wasn’t the only surprising guest who said yes to an interview with “The Daily Show.” “Moscow Tools” features an interview with John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who has worked with Reagan, Trump and George W. Bush.

“There are a lot of disagreements about John Bolton and the ways in which he handled foreign policy, but he is so staunchly against what is happening within the Republican Party right now,” Klepper said. “It was fascinating for us to be able to sit down and talk about how he sees his own party shifting.”

“Fingers the Pulse” always serves as a deep dive into a lesser-explored topic, but with this one, Klepper and “The Daily Show” wanted to push the concept even further.

“We were able to walk through the goals of Russian propaganda, and then show how it manifests itself out in the field. That, to me, was such a nice evolution of what the ‘Pulse’ can be and can do,” Klepper said. “Ultimately, it’s a story about American gullibility. We need to reckon with, are we choosing to be this gullible, to be these useful idiots who can be pushed around at the whim of a foreign government? Or are we knowingly gullible because we want to embrace some of these darker sides of our own persona, personality and points of view? Is this something that some of these American voters truly want?”

Despite exploring such a heavy, morally complicated topic, Klepper knows he’s a comedian first and foremost — not a journalist — and that “we shouldn’t confuse the two.” But he still believes that “the magic trick of good satire” can go a long way when it comes to politics.

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Jordan Klepper and a member of the Estonian Defence League on “The Daily Show Presents: Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse: Moscow Tools” (Photo Credit: Comedy Central)

“When I watched ‘The Daily Show’ in college, what I loved about it is you understood where it was coming from. You understand that there is somebody who has a bias towards comedy but is going to give you what they think is funny and bulls–t about the world,” Klepper said. “Where a lot of people find disillusionment, when they watch more traditional news sources, is this illusion of no bias or this illusion of straight news.”

It’s this comedy-first approach to exposing hypocrisy that “The Daily Show” plans to double down on this election year.

“Honestly, the vibe at ‘The Daily Show’ is great right now. We’ve been through some evolutions over the last few years, and to get Jon back steadied the ship for us,” Klepper said. “We were looking for a way we could buckle down and focus on, ‘How are we going to approach this [election year]?’ Immediately Jon comes back into the building with a clear point of view. He has his history, and he has an excitement to attack the news.”

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Jordan Klepper and John Bolton on “The Daily Show Presents: Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse: Moscow Tools” (Photo Credit: Comedy Central)

Aside from Stewart himself, it’s hard to find a “Daily Show” member more experienced than Klepper. The comedian was first brought on as a “Daily Show” correspondent in 2014. Since then, he has done field reporting under two hosts (Stewart and Trevor Noah), hosted his own satirical program titled “The Opposition With Jordan Klepper,” starred in his own docuseries titled “Klepper” and has hosted “The Daily Show” on multiple occasions. Still, the comedian and intermittent late-night host feels like he has more to learn from Stewart.

“My perspective has shifted in the last eight years. I’ve got to host shows outside of ‘The Daily Show’ and got to sit behind that desk. I’ve had to show up on a day where news is chaotic, where a shooting takes place and you’re trying to wrap around your head around what is our role in addressing this piece of news,” Klepper said. “Now I get to see Jon from this new perspective and see how he handles those things and suck all of the information I can from him.”

“The Daily Show Presents: Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse: Moscow Tools” premieres on Comedy Central Monday at 11:30 p.m. ET.


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