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iO alum and former Whirled News cast member Jordan Klepper (“The Daily Show”) explains how Chicago Comedy prepared him for Comedy Central in an interview with Chicago Reader.

CHICAGO READER: On The Opposition, you’ve brought in a lot of Chicago folks as writers and onscreen “citizen journalists.” Is there a particular perspective Chicago-trained comedians bring to a project?


JORDAN KLEPPER: I do think there’s something about the Chicago improv scene that breeds smart, thoughtful, collaborative people. My time at iO helped me become adaptive in the field [at The Daily Show], able to go with the flow and collaborate with people in morning meetings so small ideas could become big ideas quickly. It also helped me lose the idea of being precious about my own ideas and jump on other ones, which is a necessity in creating a show four times a week. It also made me curious.

You have to be able to interpret the world around you in a way you find interesting so you become interesting onstage. I came to Chicago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, right after college, following the one thing I knew I enjoyed. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be good at it. I was a math major and theater major and was still figuring out in college if I wanted to work in math or another field. But year after year I kept coming back to: What do I find most enjoyable and most freeing? I came to Chicago with the expectation of following through on a question I hadn’t answered.

READER: Wait—you were a math major?

KLEPPER: I was a nerdy kid who was pretty good at math, and I got a scholarship for it that paid for my college. [Laughs.] Humble brag. I like the ability to put things in order. At the same time, improv comes along and it forces you to embrace chaos. Those two things are really nice living side by side. Improv pushed me to be more curious; the mathematical side made me feel uncomfortable, but ultimately it was better for me. Life is a mixture of those two things. It’s both the brainstorming period where we can be free, but we also have to do a show in a couple-hour period, so it becomes all about editing, crafting an argument, functionally putting pieces in place. You have to use both sides of the brain.