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UPDATED: Bill Maher is back: Real Time

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(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.

Random quotes:

• 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.

About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Noooo – I missed it – never mind – it’s on HBO West – and then on Demand – TYTY for the reminder

  • HW Saxton

    I’m glad Maher is back.I was non-plussed
    when ABC cancelled (unfairly IMO) “P.I”
    a few years ago.I agree that 30 minutes
    was waaaaay too short for that show.
    Thanks for the heads up.

    PS: Ethiopian jokes are so 1990′s.

  • http://www.4theshallowend.blogpot.com mike g

    Bill Maher is defiantly one of my faves. The best thing about Real Time is that it ain’t a network show.
    Good article.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Bill Maher is a pompous idiot and should be legally prohibited from calling his socialist ass ‘libertarian’.

    Dave

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    See Dave has trouble being prodded on that thinking thing.

    I kid Dave. I kid …

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Arizona time. Grrrrrrrrr. I think it’ll be on at midnight my time, not now. Aaaaah.

  • aacool

    Robin Williams was phenomenal. Much insightful conversation.

    And really, why the freak is no one demanding a full explanation of the security breakdown in Jeff Gannon’s case? This guy was close enough to kiss Karl Rove!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    TS – if I want intelligent and humorous political commentary I can watch John Stewart or Dennis Miller both of whom make Maher look like a congenital idiot masturbating infront of a full-length mirror – well, that’s what he makes himself look like – but their excellence accentuate his shortcomings.

    Dave

  • Nick Jones

    “Bill Maher is a pompous idiot and should be legally prohibited from calling his socialist ass ‘libertarian’.”

    You mean you didn’t know that there is “Left Libertarian” as well as “Right Libertarian”? Tsk tsk.

  • http://www.biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    I’m with Temple Stark! It was a breath of fresh air to see Bill Maher return.

    Of course, I had more questions I would have liked to ask, especially regarding the Jeff Gannon situation.

  • Warmwarrior

    Robin Williams ruined Bill Maher’s show. Williams simply would not or could not permit anyone with any real inside knowledge, influence or power (Biden, Thompson) to engage in anything but peripheral commentary. I am now convinced that Williams was either on something or just plain sick (and truly in need of help). What a selfish pig.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Not sure how you can ‘ruin’ Bill Maher’s show, though you could improve it by jumping on Maher and muzzling him so he couldn’t talk.

    Dave

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Post updated includes show summary. Thank you.

  • sydney

    Dave Nalle says: “Bill Maher is a pompous idiot and should be legally prohibited from calling his socialist ass ‘libertarian’.”

    – Why do republicans use “socialist” as if it were an insult?

    Your so obviously stuck on your american version the capatilist free-enterprise schtick that you have lost what ever good-sense you might have otherwise had.

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Van Gogh’s Starry Nights – “The Night before I stopped drinking”

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    hahahhha that’s right. I’ll update. Thanks Aaman. :)

  • Dr. Gonzo

    Where are the “Real Time” torrents?

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    You can catch repeats of Real Time on HBO through the week, and on HBO on Demand anytime.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>Dave Nalle says: “Bill Maher is a pompous idiot and should be legally prohibited from calling his socialist ass ‘libertarian’.”

    – Why do republicans use “socialist” as if it were an insult? < <

    Not sure I used it as an insult there. I think I used it correctly and descriptively. He calls himself a Libertarian, but he's a Socialist. That's not an insult unless you think being a Socialist is a bad thing.

    >>Your so obviously stuck on your american version the capatilist free-enterprise schtick that you have lost what ever good-sense you might have otherwise had. <<

    Seems to me like capitalism is the essence of good sense. Certainly hard to dispute when you compare the negative GDP growth of socialized countries like Germany and France with the robust positive GDP growth of more capitalistic countries like the US or even the UK.

    Dave

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Dave, valid points about owning up to political preferences – not a perfect example, though: China’s GDP growth was quite high, and they’re quite Marxist last I checked.

    Also, I would consider the current form of social contract in the United States quite socialist, perhaps not as much as Europe, though.

    Be that as it may, Bill Maher is a blowhard, and has a mostly uneven show, but it still is frank and open, unlike, say, O’Reilly. No match for Jon Stewart, though

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>Dave, valid points about owning up to political preferences – not a perfect example, though: China’s GDP growth was quite high, and they’re quite Marxist last I checked.< <

    China is Marxist only in the most nominal sense. The Red Army is basically a megacorporation, and their recent economic growth is being driven by an influx of capitalistic ideas from Hong Kong.

    >>Also, I would consider the current form of social contract in the United States quite socialist, perhaps not as much as Europe, though.< <

    A sobering thought, but we do have the fall-back of the Constitution, which ought to drag us back on track if we deviate too far from what the founding fathers had in mind.

    >>Be that as it may, Bill Maher is a blowhard, and has a mostly uneven show, but it still is frank and open, unlike, say, O’Reilly. No match for Jon Stewart, though<<

    I’d say Maher and O’Reilly are about comparable, but Maher gets more amusing guests. They both think they’re funny but are actually painfully not funny.

    Dave

  • http://counter-point.blogspot.com Scott

    Well, O’Reilly is NEVER funny. Maher has his moments of funniness.

    No one can hold a candle to Jon Stewart though.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    >>Well, O’Reilly is NEVER funny.

    That was so obvious I didn’t think it was worth mentioning. But I’m glad you did. It won’t make a blind bit of differnce to people who like to repeat themselves until they’re blue in the face ad nauseum. Originality is tough. Being wrong is tougher and hard to swallow so often

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Yes, but the point is that O’Reilly THINKS he is funny – he’s one of those guys who laughs at his own jokes even when no one else realizes they are supposed to be jokes at all.

    Dave

  • http://counter-point.blogspot.com Scott

    “he’s one of those guys who laughs at his own jokes even when no one else realizes they are supposed to be jokes at all.”

    Yeah. People like that annoy me.