(UPDATE on 2.18. episode below)
I’m eagerly waiting for Bill Maher’s Real Time to flicker onto the screen. I like anyone who allows me to think and be entertained. He’s an apparent master at marketing as well. He has an op-ed published in the LA Times today – on the same day that his 2005 series starts: Kids Say the Darndest, Most Stalinist Things
I’ve followed him since his days on Comedy Central with the first incarnation of Politically Incorrect. I always remember being frustrated that the show was only 30 minutes. Today, at 55 minutes long, I have the same frustration.
God knows no one can agree with him all the time – but no one has to. He’s smart which makes his humor funnier. And the half-circle discussion when it works best is not a shouting match. It’s words that make you think. That’s one up on 90 percent of telvision. This is true except when some lightweight celebrity is trounced by their own stupidity or Ann Coulter is on. She’s crazy looking and last time she was on she looked like a crack whore. Coulter exists only for shock value and to engorge herself on publicity (which apparently has minus calories).
And the strange thing is Maher and Coulter are friends. Maher and Arianna Huffington are also friends. That’s a lot of intestinal fortitude right there.
A lot of Republicans don’t like him now because President Bush is in power and he’s the subject of attack. But it was the same when Clinton was in power (though Maher thought the BJ investigation was beneath contempt). That’s what political and culturally relevant comedians do – they make fun of people in the news while enaging in commentary. Both sides are the victims. You shouldn’t need to agree with him to find him funny and if you wait a minute you’ll find you do.
Some people are naturally funny. Ron White (Blue Collar tour), Cedric the Entertainer. Fill in your own blank here.
Real Time is funnier than a legless Ethiopian watching a doughnut roll down a hill. Much much funnier. Well, LTCG has his moments, too – whose joke that was before it was someone else’s.
UPDATE 2.20, off my maxi-sized Post-it notes: Lacked a balance as all former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson could muster was “President Bush deserves much credit for the Iraqi elections” (for which everyone agreed) and pretty much stayed quiet the rest of the time.
Delaware Sen. Joe Biden was and is a smart politician. He’ll work the aisles, has a sense of humor and will speak his mind when he sees something he doesn’t like going on.
Tonight, as an informed Intelligence Committee member he talked about the process he knows about for getting people into the White House – of course, related to James Guckert (Jim Gannon). He’s not just speculating about how difficult it is – he knows how difficult it is. It’s difficult.
Guckert was what led off the monologue and was a constant reference point throughout the show. For which I am happy 1) Because it’s an important matter no matter what partisan’s with blinders say 2) Because it’s a motherlode for comedy – and this remains a comedy show. If you come on the show with a stick up your butt – you won’t be successful in getting your points across. If you can’t do this, then don’t show up.
I’m constantly suprised that currently serving Congressmen and women (Heather Wilson last year) sit in or appear on this show. It shows they are very secure that they won’t be tarnished by actual ideas and discussion. Because that discussion rarely happens in public – even at special Town Hall meetings where the Representatives give pat answers to general questions from constituents who rarely follow up. Often that’s because the people who show up to them are supporters so they don’t mind getting pat answers (It seems this way because I’ve sat there thinking, well they didn’t really say anythng). Those who are not supporters, often quite literally get told to sit down and shut up.
But I digress.
Biden, concerned about a security breach in the White House. How does this happen, he said, unless with tacit approval from someone in the White House (Which wouldn’t make it a security breach but would prove everyone who has spoken on the matter so far from within the White House was lying or opening their mouths when they didn’t know the facts. Ignorance is not a defense.
Robin Williams. He’s a spotlight hog. But though it has really annoyed me in the past – and did a few times tonight when he interrupted Bill, I think I realized that he really can’t help himself. Robin Williams also shut up more than I think he usuallly does as a courtesy from one professional comedian to another to not trample their lines.
Leslie Stahl, on TV, not in studio, was asked about CNN’s Eason Jordan and the fact that he resigned over his stupid words. Though, unless he was asked to resign, he chose to leave because he realized two things. 1) He had been caught in a couple of stupid moments and he was no longer being impartial. 2) He felt his sticking around would not help CNN’s coverage of the area and its relationship with US Armed Forces there.
Bill asked her thoughts on this?
“What can I say?”
“Something mean and catty I was hoping.”
Bill Maher did ask Tommy Thompson about his retirement speech comment that it would be easy for terrorists to poison the nation’s food supply. Thompson hemed and hawed a little but didn’t back down. Maher also said the food pyramid was a creation of lobbyists and ag-business – that “steroid-filled, growth-hormone packed beef can’t really be good for you, can it?
Then Bill went off on a frequent topic – corn syrup and the fact that it is the No. 1 reason for child obesity. Thompson loudly hummed and hawed, though allowed that child obesity was a problem (whew).
Actor Don Cheadle’s appearance pretty much put a hard brake on the flow of the show for me.
A comedy bit late in the proceedings played off the fact that a lithograph in the White House either bought or gifted of two people dancing – very closely – was originally titled “Raunchy Dancing.” The Bushes renamed it: Texas Waltz.
A series of other more famous art pieces were next.
Whistler’s Mother ? – Keeping Social Security Solvent
The Thinker ? – Flip Flopper
Van Gogh’s Starry Nights ? – The Night Before I Stopped Drinking
Michelangelo’s David ? – Jeff Gannon
Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam ? – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Bill Maher repeated his LA TIMES piece about the worrisome trend of youth unreservedly accepting, not questioning authority: the post-9-11 generation.
My summary for tonight from Bill’s POVs:
• The environment is much more important for him than I ever knew.
• Applauds Bush for the Iraqi elections
• Thinks the matter over Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis’ “shooting people is fun” comment was way overblown because that’s what soldiers are paid to do. Williams, Biden agreed.
Oh, and Thompson not only agreed but took this part of the show to make sure everyone knew that he believed “We have the finest soldiers in the world and everything they do they are doing for freedom.” [A paraphrase. I know actual words would be preferable but at this point it was 12:30 in the morning on a Friday night]. Then he shut up again for the next 15 minutes.
• Maher’s shorthand for TV coverage of the Tsunami, mentioned to Stahl: “Earthquake. Big wave. Supermodel hurt.”
• About Gannon: “Boys, I can’t wait to find out who in the White House was spilling the beans while he was spilling their beans.”
• About Gannon: “I don’t want anyone to get the idea I get any joy out of saying the White House has ties to gay prostitution.” Sarcastic.
• Robin Williams, talking about the difficulty ahead with the new Iraqi government: “Then they still have to write a constitution. Well, take ours, we’re not using it.” [See? Humor. Obviously an exaggeration for comedic effect. If you take comedy seriously as truth, well .. just don't.]
NEXT WEEK: Tim Robbins. Tucker Carlson. Two smart people, though one more wonkier than the other. Should be good.