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Before Late-Night Run, Jordan Klepper Examines Gun Debate In Comedy Central Special

Variety logo Variety 6/9/2017 Brian Steinberg
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Jordan Klepper often tries to make people laugh. But his newest project runs the risk of making them think as well.

Before Comedy Central viewers see Klepper at work on a new 11:30 p.m. late-night show that is slated to launch this fall on the Viacom-owned network, the comedian will debut an hour-long special that plunges  into America’s gun debate. “Jordan Klepper Solves Guns,” airs Sunday night at 10 p.m., and mixes documentary-style filmmaking, comedy and even some investigative-journalism techniques to explore one of the nation’s most polarizing topics.

“I was lucky enough to do a series of pieces on the gun debate in America” on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” Klepper recalls, “and I found it incredibly fascinating and incredibly frustrating how little progress there was. I found myself having the same conversation with people on both sides, who were frustrated and felt like their voices aren’t being heard.”

He’s geared for battle. The opening scene of the special shows Klepper clad in a bullet-proof vest, telling viewers he’s about to jump out of van and enter a country that is plagued by gun violence. That nation happens to be ours, where, he says, “guns are as American as apple pie – and short-changing female workers.”

Klepper is no stranger to nosing around thorny issues. On “Daily Show,” viewers have grown accustomed to seeing him interview supporters of Donald Trump at political rallies in a very neutral way that brings out humor.

For this project, however, Klepper said he needed to have a broader arsenal of techniques at the ready. He wanted to do more work with a central character – he calls his protagonist “a liberal buffoon” who is excited to make change but has little idea of how to go about it – and narrative. He has been working on it with producers, he said, for about a year.

Klepper even traveled to his hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan, where a shooting had generated conversation on the subject among his family members. While it often makes for great TV to get people with extreme views on a subject to speak to the camera, Klepper says he was more interested in “showing some of these moderates, people on the fence you don’t get to see on TV. It might be a terrible idea for making television, but we found it to be a great challenge.”

Viewers may well tune in to see if they can find any clues in the special to how Klepper’s late-night program is shaping up, but the host demurred when asked about those efforts. “We are in the early stages with the 11:30 show,” he said, noting that he intends to start focusing more intently on it after the special debuts.

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