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'It's been scary since day one.' Daily Show correspondents on covering Trump, COVID

The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper interviews Jaimi Fay outside the Knapp Center on the Drake University Campus about her support for President Trump ahead of a rally.

When a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, many people around the country expressed shock, but Jordan Klepper was not surprised. The correspondent from the Comedy Central series "The Daily Show" spent the Trump years on the ground at rallies and events talking to the former president’s ardent supporters. 

“It’s been scary since day one,” he said, noting that as he listened to what was being said at these rallies, he had a clear picture of the conspiracies and the mindset that had taken hold. 

As the insurrection unfolded, he was on the ground outside the Capitol with a team that included a camera crew and four bodyguards “talking to folks I’ve seen at other rallies,” he said. 

In a lively South by Southwest panel, Klepper and fellow "Daily Show" correspondents Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan and Roy Wood Jr. talked about the end of the Trump era and late night TV during the pandemic.

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As the correspondents and host Trevor Noah worked from home last year, the show has expanded from 30 to 45 minutes and critics have applauded the way the team adapted.  

Much of the success can be attributed to Noah being able to go “deeper into Trevor, pursuing his curiosities with the guests,” in longer, more in-depth interviews Wood said.

For the rest of the cast, it’s been a process of “figuring out the performance within this (virtual) box,” Wood said.

As the weeks stretched into months, the correspondents created segments about their new realities. Costa led a tour of his apartment. After giving his son an unfortunate haircut, Wood did a check in with his barber and Lydic’s young son crashed one of her bits. 

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They also continued producing topical pieces covering the news, and with the most diverse cast in late-night television, they were well-poised to cover the events of the last few years. 

“Any story, we’ve got someone who can talk about it,” Costa said. 

The beginning of a new, less bombastic administration has been freeing for the comedians and the show’s staff. The Trump presidency with its breakneck pace of scandals sucked the air out of the room and forced a certain kind of coverage. It was harder to make each day’s stories funny than people might imagine. 

“It’s really hard to parody a parody,” Lydic said. 

“Now we can pitch a little bit more about what we care about,” Costa said. 

The correspondents described a feeling relief about moving to the next phase, but after years on ground with the pro-Trump faithful, Klepper doesn’t believe the Trump era is over.    

“It’s not just one crazy guy in the oval office,” he said. He believes the ideology that Trump fueled will remain for some time.