During this particularly turbulent election season, it can sometimes be tempting to just take a moment and laugh at the absurdity of what’s happening in the news. And that’s exactly what Jordan Klepper and Roy Wood Jr. get to do for a living as members of “The Best F#@king News Team Ever.”
The two correspondents from “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” are coming to Lehigh on April 8 for a stand-up comedy performance at Zoellner Arts Center, which is sponsored by University Productions. Tickets can be purchased online, at the Zoellner box office and on the second floor of the university center during the week leading up to the show.
“Every day it’s like, ‘Can you believe what happened last night?’” Klepper said with a laugh, quoting the conversations among writers on “The Daily Show.” Because the electoral process is unique, there is no shortage of issues to talk about or react to, he said. This allows the show to adapt to the ever-changing presidential election.
“The crazier it gets, the easier it is to write an episode of ‘The Daily Show,’” Wood said. “So bring on the crazy.”
After the success of last fall’s stand-up performance by Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson, Christian Dietz, ’18, and Noah Marcus, ’18, University Productions co-directors of comedy, said they wanted to replicate that success by finding an act with similar appeal and a recognizable name.
“It’s a lot easier to attract people with a name that pings in their mind versus some rogue comedians who just do stand-up,” Dietz said.
The package deal including the two “Daily Show” correspondents sold itself, he said.
Marcus said each comedian will have his own 45-minute set. Klepper hinted there is also a chance he and Wood might collaborate for a bit during the performance.
The show will be an opportunity for the two comedians to talk about things on their minds, as well as topics that are more personal that they don’t necessarily get to bring up on the “The Daily Show.”
Dietz said they don’t know what the comedians are planning until the last minute, and recalled the spontaneity of Davidson’s performance, which included a half-hour delay and an impromptu Q&A session that was a big hit with the audience.
“I think (the comedians are) not even really sure what they’re going to do, and that’s why we hire them,” Deitz said. “That’s why they’re so famous, because they know how to read a room, to make a crowd entertained without looking like they pre-planned the whole thing.”
Klepper said when performing at colleges, he loves doing crowd work and interacting with students.
“It’s always interesting to gauge what the students are thinking about, what they care about and what they’re excited to both talk about and listen to,” he said.
Marcus expects Wood and Klepper’s performances will have a political component, which he hopes will be entertaining and topical, as well as a way to get students engaged with these sorts of issues.
Wood said working in an environment of great writing at “The Daily Show” undoubtedly has an impact on the work he does outside of the show. Both comedians agreed their performances at Lehigh will be influenced by the work they do on TV.
There is a wide range of issues Klepper cares about addressing, and he has particularly spent a lot of time over this past year on “The Daily Show” talking with people about gun rights and gun control.
Wood said he is proudest of his segments on the show that are related to racial issues.
“I think getting past the racial divide in this country will be important in our progress as a nation — finding inter-racial harmony,” he said, “and I hope that the pieces that I’ve done thus far on that help shine a light on that issue.”
The genre of late-night political humor is expanding, with programs like “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” also gaining popularity.
Incidentally, many of the shows are hosted by former “Daily Show” correspondents.
Wood thinks the trend toward satirical shows is a byproduct of supply and demand, which has been heightened by a particularly tumultuous political situation.
“Laughter makes everything a little bit better, a little bit more easy to consume,” Wood said. “There are a lot of tough truths out there, and laughter is a little sprinkle of sugar on top to sweeten it just enough for it to go down.”
Marcus said satire is an outlet that allows students to become engaged in current events and politics, and bringing people like Wood and Klepper to Lehigh is a good way to start these sorts of conversations.
“I’d say the college-aged crowd is a very hard one to break into as far as politics are concerned,” Dietz said. “It’s very hard to get them to sit down and think about the issues unless it directly affects them. And I think that political satire really allows students to understand and be passionate about issues that they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of.”
While he agrees that getting a comedic take on the news is beneficial, Klepper said he also hopes the audiences that watch “The Daily Show” are not just relying on that show as their only news source, but are also inspired to get their news from a variety of perspectives.
“I think the fear that I have is that everybody gets caught in some sort of an echo-chamber and then just get what they want to hear being fed right back to them,” Klepper said. “I think that’s a little bit dangerous.”
Klepper said satire is meant to take a common human experience and shine it in a different light. It strikes a nerve as it connects people who feel similar things but may not have necessarily been able to articulate them before.
“Comedians always shed a light on something in a way that you’d never ever think of,” Marcus said. “It does give a new perspective on things, and you’re laughing at it, and after the show you think about it. I might be giving comedy too much credit, but it does help further our academic lives here at Lehigh.”