“We’ll be back with ‘More Ideas with Bill Maher’!” This is how Stephen Colbert facetiously announced the commercial break between the two halves of his interview with Bill Maher last night on the Late Show. Headlines will tell you — if you didn’t watch — that the two comedians’ talk was awkward and tense. It was: It is always weird to watch 16 minutes of people who clearly don’t like each other pretending to have a friendly, jokey conversation about things like genocide, ISIS, and whether or not God exists.
But more importantly — from Maher’s end of things — it was endlessly irritating and unfunny. Against Colbert’s reactive and self-effacing style of comedy, Maher couldn’t have been more unappealing. The juxtaposition emphasized all the tics and kneejerk gimmicks — let alone the hyperbolic ways he spins what would otherwise be valid arguments, and the sexist asides — that make him, 22 years into his career as TV’s most niche “political comedian,” basically anathema to fun.
As Colbert’s statement implies, there are no real jokes in a typical Maher shtick — just Big Talking Points. When humor is there, it is either mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing, or painfully obvious. In the space of jokes as we know and love them, there are condescending, gradual smirks and fake laughter at others or — more often — himself. His Real Time HBO show — on which the only entertaining thing ever to happen was Christopher Hitchens referring to Mos Def as “Mr. Definitely” — is just a platform for rants. They are meant to be funny, but really they just serve to make the kind of bull-headed people for whom political articles are just vehicles for comments sections, and who self-identify as “opinionated,” nod their heads and say “Fuck yeah” or “Truth” under their breath while sipping late-night Magic Hats.
Maher is those people’s simpering golden god (oh wait, don’t even say the G-word! WE DON’T MAKE UP FAIRY TALES!). To everyone else who’s sympathetic with Maher’s position, he just gives liberals of any caste a bad name.
By way of illustration, let’s just look at some of Maher’s best jokes on Colbert: He says “Republican.” A mild titter from the audience. Then: “Even the name gets a laugh.” Ha!
When talking about the international response to the Paris attacks, Colbert claimed that for people having emotional and infuriated reactions, thoughts of retaliation “scratched an itch.” Maher said that it “feathered [their] cock,” then insisted he wouldn’t come back for the second segment if the censors were going to take “cock” out. Then he said “cock” five more times. “It’s not a bad word!”
I’m from HBO, motherfucker! And an atheist! And I don’t play by nooooobody’s rules.
Later: “My response to that is to not make up silly stories.” Yep, folks — it was a retort to a comment about religion.
On Ben Carson: “somehow a brain surgeon and a head case.” Ladies and gentlemen, Shitty Lewis Black!
On long campaign seasons: “Americans are slow and dim and dumb….” Yeah, dude, like Idiocracy, Super Size Me, Fahrenheit 9/11, Fight Club … it’s such a fucked-up time we live in. “Land of the free”… more like “land of the drones.” What kind of country is this?
Colbert: ‘Do you do this kind of stuff on “Real Time’?” Maher: “We do it a bit better.” Snap, my dog. You showed that host of the most popular primetime talk show.
What’s to like about Bill Maher? What “little man” or “alternative outlook” is he even standing up for anymore? We don’t need Bill Maher anymore — there are enough viewpoints and self-righteous assholes on the internet. It’s time to get him the fuck out of there. If he has to be kept around, give him a Maron-like, semi-autobiographical not-really-sitcom on Crackle or something that everyone can ignore.
Last night — after Maher made fun of him identifying as Catholic — Colbert replied succinctly, shifting into character for a moment: “My religion teaches me humility against this type of attack.” The key word here is “humility.” You can only be so funny (or not at all) when you have absolutely no sense of humor about yourself.
So fuck you, Bill Maher — once and for all. You’re not a great comedian — you are just a guy with a TV show and a section on your website called “Blogga Please.”
Now, here’s some dude on YouTube doing an impression of you: