The first time Jordan Klepper and Roy Wood Jr. worked together was for a 2015 Daily Show field piece that asked the question, “Are all cops racist?” Now, they are kicking off 2024 by joining forces once again for a series of “comedic town halls” across the country.
In this episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Klepper and Wood return (for their fourth and third appearances, respectively) to let fans know what they can expect from their “America: For the Last Time” tour, and share their thoughts about the inevitable Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump rematch nobody seems to want.
The pair of Daily Show correspondents also speak openly about that show’s very public search for a host to replace Trevor Noah, including why Wood decided to step down when it seemed like it wasn’t going to be him; whether Klepper is still gunning for the big seat; and what they both thought about the recent controversy surrounding their old colleague Hasan Minhaj.
“Anytime I get to work with Jordan Klepper is generally a good time, with the exception of the the anti-gay barbecue food truck in North Carolina,” Wood says, referring to another Daily Show bit that found them testing the limits of a state law that said businesses could deny service to customers based on their sexual identity. “That was one of those, ‘Oh, shit, I think I’m going to get shot’ moments,” Wood recalls, a feeling that Klepper—and anyone who spends time with him on the road—has become accustomed to in recent years.
“You’ve got to be prepared for feeling like you’re going to get attacked,” Klepper jokes, “and that definitely happened at that one.”
It was in their very first field piece on the show that a white cop used the N-word in front of Wood 10 minutes into what was supposed to be an hour-long interview. “Klepper was sitting right beside me, didn’t do shit!” Wood jokes.
“It was a dicey, awkward, strange interview right from the get-go, and I do remember calling him out on it, playing around in that, and being a true hero in that moment—even if the edit doesn’t show it that way, that is my memory of that moment,” Klepper jokes.
They aim to recapture some of this magic on stage in their upcoming tour, which builds on the increasingly stale format of presidential candidate forums. “We were joking about how we could do these town halls better than the ones we were watching on TV,” Klepper says, explaining that they plan to engage with audiences directly about the hard issues that are plaguing America.
Or, as Wood jokes, “Jordan Klepper and I are giving Americans the exclusive opportunity to ask the questions that matter to two men who do not have the answers.”
The tour also comes at a time when both Klepper and Wood are trying to figure out what role they will play in the future of The Daily Show and political late-night TV more broadly.
“Ultimately, it’s about not knowing where I fit in the show in the long run,” Wood says of his decision to walk away on his own terms. “So in the short term, let me take a little sabbatical and go figure some shit out. And if you need a host, call me. If not, thanks, I love you all, and I’ll see you at the Emmys.”
While Wood does reveal that he’s had conversations with other networks, he says he’s not looking to do a “similar” show to The Daily Show in the way that former correspondents like John Oliver or Samantha Bee did when they were passed over to replace Jon Stewart nearly a decade ago.
“I don’t necessarily want to just go right back into late-night. And if I do, it wouldn’t be the only thing I do,” Wood says, adding that he’s even received “offers and invitations from a few news networks as well to come aboard and do stuff during the election year.”
“They’ve offered creative runway to come up with something,” he says, “but I’m still not completely sure how committed cable news is to humor revealing truth.”
Below are highlights from our conversation. You can listen to the whole thing by following The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Wednesday.
Why Roy Wood Jr. gave up his role as ‘Daily Show’ correspondent
Wood: “If they want me as a host, hopefully what I’ve done up until this point is enough to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on me. But I cannot risk staying and [guest] hosting again, because being a correspondent, that’s not some shit you can do with one foot out the door. I don’t think I could have done that, and continued to tour on the comedy dates I’d already booked and have the proper real estate I need mentally to think about what’s next for myself. So I saw October, when the show came back [from the WGA strike], as an opportunity to jump out of the plane comfortably with a parachute, or potentially in January, get kicked out of the plane and not have any plan on how and where I’m going to land. So to me, leaving the show was more about creative self-preservation.
I love the job of correspondent. I’ve done it for eight years. It’s OK if I don’t do it for three months. I need to go and figure out other stuff in case this is where the show ends for me—in case this is the end of the line for me in political satire. Thankfully, I’ve had opportunities since then to have some talks with a couple of networks about a few projects and trying to write a film. So there’s things in motion. And looking back on it now, a couple of months later, I feel comfortable with that decision.”
Will Klepper stay on as a correspondent even if he’s not made host?
Klepper: “I want to be out in the mix. I’d love to be at that desk. I’d love to be out in the field. I want to talk about what’s happening in the most consequential election of our time. So I’m looking for the place that best allows me to do that. I think there are a lot of unanswered questions over at The Daily Show. I love The Daily Show. I’ve been there for close to a decade, on and off. I’ve been able to do so many wonderful things. We get to work with wonderful people. I hope it lands in a place that is productive and a machine that can attack this election. It should be the show that everybody is tuning into to get the deepest, most interesting takes on the world around us and this election that’s going to affect us and generations to come. So I’m looking for the best vehicle to do that, to be quite honest with you. It could very well be with The Daily Show. I would love that to be the case. If that’s somewhere else, I just want to be a part of that mix.”
On Hasan Minhaj reportedly losing the host job after allegations of lying on stage
Wood: “I thought that it would not be enough to cost him the job, regardless of what people felt about it. Basically, what we did was we took Hasan’s comedy, and we flipped it over and read the nutrition facts. And then you find out your favorite juice isn’t 100 percent fresh juice. And some people are pissed, some people are OK with it. The question that was never brought up was like, why now, why is this article being written now and then? But I think when you look at the issue of integrity within that chair, and what Jon Stewart built, and what Trevor built, I completely understand why there would be people who would not want to see Hasan in that seat. And I get why that scared Comedy Central away from him. But it just felt like something where y’all would have just weathered that storm together. I just wish there was a deeper analysis into why that all came about.”
Is the power of political late-night TV waning?
Klepper: “It’s hard to gauge influence. I think in the Jon Stewart era, that was the only name in the game. It was the only big late-night show that was devoted to that. And I think things have shifted. There are more voices, and so the influence of any one particular show is totally affected by that. I will say, as somebody who came in during Jon’s time, the shit mattered. Jon was a comedian, and approached it comedy-first. But the guy was serious as a heart attack, as smart as you could get, and people tuned in to Jon—I tuned in to Jon, because I trusted him. I trusted that he wasn’t bound by party politics, he wasn’t bound by bullshit. I think a lot of people were drawn to that, and I think that is, at its core, what is cool about The Daily Show. That’s what I love about that institution.
And whoever comes in, whatever the next piece is, I do think it is imperative that that person cares about the show that deeply, that the audience has that kind of trust in that person, that they’re not going to waste their time with somebody else. They’re tuning into somebody who knows that this is a rarefied space, knows that they’ve got to do the research so that they’re not spewing bullshit, and that they will look unflinchingly at that bullshit and cut it down as efficiently as they can. I think that is not only a necessity for that job, I also think it’s an opportunity for that job. And so I think its best days could lie in this next year, because it’s never been more important.”