"Contains Strong Language"
June 24, 2015 3:44 AM   Subscribe

Whether you like his stand-up or his HBO show or not, you may appreciate Bill Maher's matter-of-fact laying out of US politics during this Q&A at the Oxford Union Society. [58m]
posted by hippybear (39 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I worry about driving on the same roads with anyone who doesn't like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Michael Moore, George Carlin, Anthony Bourdain or any of the other great intellectual smart-asses.
posted by Yosemite Sam at 3:50 AM on June 24, 2015


Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Michael Moore, George Carlin, Anthony Bourdain
One of these things is not like the others.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:58 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's right, Carlin is dead.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:18 AM on June 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


I too reject the notion that Maher is in the same class/group as Stewart and Moore and Bourdain. I agree with most of the things he says, but he has a misanthropic spirit that runs through it all that takes away a lot of his potential effectiveness.
posted by jbickers at 4:28 AM on June 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


Yeah, every time I'm about to take in Maher, he does something like devote half a monologue to transphobic jokes about Caitlyn Jenner or bring on Ann Coulter as an interview guest. (And this is really just within the last month; it's pretty hard to find any three-week stretch where he doesn't do something shitty with his show.) Even on the stuff where I broadly agree with his insights, he invariably turns out to be less informed and less thoughtful than most of the people listed above.
posted by kewb at 4:46 AM on June 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


Loved the ending. Sex with a chicken, everybody! Thanks for the link.

Fun video, but yeah if you aren't already a Maher fan it's probably not going to be worth your time.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:55 AM on June 24, 2015


I agree with most of the things he says, but he has a misanthropic spirit that runs through it all that takes away a lot of his potential effectiveness.


This is like the very definition of a tone argument. Bill Maher sucks because he is wrong about several issues, not because he is impolite.
posted by cnanderson at 5:07 AM on June 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


I enjoyed the first half of the video more than I thought I would; I'll have to finish it later.

But Maher in general—yeah, blecch. I agree with him on so many issues, but when he speaks about them it's always tainted with crass, undeserved smugness and often outright bigotry (see above re: transphobia and sexism). He points out in the video that if you're not upsetting someone, you're probably not telling any important truths (or, at least, you're just inoffensively bland). I agree with that, but—it doesn't mean that when you do offend someone, that it's because you're speaking truth to power or calling out the Emperor's nudity. Sometimes it's just because you're being an asshole.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:08 AM on June 24, 2015 [23 favorites]


This is like the very definition of a tone argument. Bill Maher sucks because he is wrong about several issues, not because he is impolite.

Tone arguments are, ironically enough, Maher's preferred tactic for deflecting criticism on certain issues: he simply describes anyone who disagrees with him as if they're tone-policing -- "political correctness" or "not getting the joke" -- rather than disagreeing with him.
posted by kewb at 5:45 AM on June 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


I agree with most of the things he says, but he has a misanthropic spirit that runs through it all that takes away a lot of his potential effectiveness.

--This is like the very definition of a tone argument. Bill Maher sucks because he is wrong about several issues, not because he is impolite.


I disagree. The reason Maher sucks is because his misanthropy leads him to be wrong on the issues. That's not tone policing, that's identifying the source of his dumbshittery.

Maher is one of those fellows who is best treated with Charles P. Pierce's "Five Minute Rule." If he says something insightful or you find yourself agreeing with him and thinking he's not so bad, keep listening to him for five minutes. Within that five minutes, he will have said something grotesquely stupid to remind you that yes, he may have his moments, but he's not to be trusted or considered a serious person.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 5:45 AM on June 24, 2015 [19 favorites]


cnanderson: Bill Maher sucks because he is wrong about several issues, not because he is impolite.

Harvey Jerkwater: I disagree. The reason Maher sucks is because his misanthropy leads him to be wrong on the issues.

I don't understand? The first poster said Maher sucks because he is wrong about several issues. You then say you disagree because you believe that Maher sucks because he is wrong about several issues.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:57 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


He also sucks because he hangs out at the Playboy Mansion.

I mean, you don't go to Hooters for the wings.
posted by box at 6:14 AM on June 24, 2015


You know, "House of Lords" really does sound like the name of a gay bar.
posted by echocollate at 6:17 AM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Like many others, I liked Maher at first. Did he change, or did I just overlook his less appealing characteristics back then? I don't know, but, to me, there is no other media figure who personifies smugness as much as Maher. And that complex cluster of complexes known as "smug" is one of the most unappealing personality traits out there.
posted by kozad at 6:20 AM on June 24, 2015


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates: to clarify (sorry for laying out the comment-on-a-comment poorly), I meant that the accusation of "tone policing" in the criticisms of Maher were inaccurate. Pointing out that he's a misanthropic dickhead is not critiquing his tone but his substance.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:25 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, okay, thanks for clarifying.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:26 AM on June 24, 2015


Like many others, I liked Maher at first. Did he change, or did I just overlook his less appealing characteristics back then?

I think 9/11 messed him up a whole lot, and not in a good way. That's when he started advocating for racial/religious profiling, among other things, and his Islamophobia, sexism, transphobia, etc keeps on getting worse. I suspect it's largely because he knows it'll get a rise out of people, but he's so consistent in it that there's definitely something nasty underneath it that he refuses to address.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:28 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was going to play some Funky Cold Medina until I realized that this wasn't a Tone Loc argument.
posted by dr_dank at 6:29 AM on June 24, 2015 [22 favorites]


I tried to watch Politically Incorrect over the weekend and had to leave the room because it was like a bastardized, dumbed-down and overly smug version of The Daily Show. Plus it had a right-wing talking head on who was all "Charleston was an attack on religion" and Maher was all "yeah, well, maybe, man."
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:00 AM on June 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even on the stuff where I broadly agree with his insights, he invariably turns out to be less informed and less thoughtful than most of the people listed above.

This is the reason I quit watching his show. It is infuriating to have someone argue for your side poorly, especially when it's a 'balanced' panel of relatively good pundits. He's not very good at winning debates, and that's all his show is.
posted by graventy at 7:06 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


My partner and I dropped $160 on his live show last fall. He had no fresh material and no interest in the crowd, except to shut down a few people who were crying out for a sound level we could all hear. He is a comic of middling skills who succeeds because people like to hear opinions they agree with. A pretty low bar.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 7:29 AM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maher just comes off as so smugly self-satisfied. Even though I often largely agree with his points you just want to punch him sometimes.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:32 AM on June 24, 2015


I disagree with the general direction of most of the comments above; As a matter of facts I was thinking of putting together a Bill Maher post, but knowing that he is disliked here, I waited with the idea. So seeing this interview, which I watched last week, reviewed here, relieves me from the need to post. So thanks, hippybear.

Yeah, Maher has this very annoying habit of laughing at his on jokes, but in my mind, nearly every week without fail, the finales of his "New Rules" are masterful, deep, well-crafted, emotional, penetrating and stinging. I think that The political ideas and solutions that he bring up In those last segments are nearly-always fantastic: These are the only media bits that I am looking forward to watch every week. I even like to roam YouTube and re-watch old New Rules for fun late at night; Heck, I just did it last night...
posted by growabrain at 7:41 AM on June 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


One thing Bill Maher has going for him: he looks weirdly like the golden idol Indy is stealing at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 7:42 AM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've said this before, but Maher has this amazing ability to talk about a topic that I broadly agree with him on and make me disagree by the end of his bit.
posted by maryr at 8:08 AM on June 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think Bill Maher has aged past his peak sharpness & wittiness, unfortunately.
posted by jjwiseman at 8:14 AM on June 24, 2015


I like Maher, in part because my eye-rolling muscles get some exercise. I think in general he tries to put on a good show, often resulting on him being the weakest link. Like I've said of Stewart yesterday, when he's serious about something, you can really tell. Unfortunately, that seems to be reserved for the last few minutes of the show, in the final New Rules bit growabrain mentioned. The rest of the show are more or less lame/bad jokes followed by Maher looking down and left and shaking his head for a second looking smug.

And speaking of Stewart, I don't get the criticism of having conservatives on Real Time, like Coulter last week. He has 4 or 5 people sitting on a desk for, dunno 40 minutes? If he's getting only people that would agree with him, it would end up like The Nightly Show.
But worse than that, is seeing Stewart palling around with, for instance, Huckabee or Paul , and tossing a few ceremonial softballs when both have a lot to answer for. That's the reason I've mostly stopped watching his political guests. He does a good interview maybe once every three months, but in general terms he's a lion doing the skits yet putting on kitten mittons when he has a big conservative guest on the show. I'd rather have Maher failing to defend his causes effectively than seeing Stewart simply giving up and loaning his platform for whitewashing for 12 minutes.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:17 AM on June 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


And speaking of Stewart, I don't get the criticism of having conservatives on Real Time, like Coulter last week.

My issue isn't with having conservatives on, it's about having the likes of Coulter on when she's gone far, far past the pale of basic credibility and respectability. This is someone who was literally booted from the editorial page of the National Review because she went past conservatism and into something like straight-up fascism. Coulter isn't particularly representative of mainstream conservative politics anymore because *she's too far to the right.* She's a contributor to VDARE, for chrissakes, which is a flat-out hate site that promotes shit like "human biodiversity," or as the rest of us know it, scientific racism.
posted by kewb at 8:24 AM on June 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Fair enough, kewb.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:26 AM on June 24, 2015


I usually turn off Maher, because I find him too mean-spirited to be funny, even when I agree with what he's saying. Also, the last time someone showed me a clip, he spent most of his time mocking pre-teen girls, which pissed me off.

However, I am currently working my way through every episode of “Murder She Wrote,” and you can imagine my surprise when a very young Maher showed up as a guest star in an episode. He was the crass young publishing agent who set up a fake “burned as a witch, now a ghost” series of fake hauntings to help promote a book about witch burnings.

The mean big-city writer of the witch book was very cruel and dismissive to Jessica Fletcher until someone told him she was a bestselling author, at which point he apologized for ignoring her, because “he hadn’t realized she was somebody.” Jessica was like “WELL IN CABOT COVE WE THINK IT IS OKAY TO BE NICE TO NOBODIES” or something.

None of this has much to do with his stand-up, but it was the first time I enjoyed something featuring Maher in years.

Also he had a mullet.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:02 AM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also he had a mullet.

I think it needs to be pictured.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:09 AM on June 24, 2015


Maher just comes off as so smugly self-satisfied. Even though I often largely agree with his points you just want to punch him sometimes.

Agreed, except for me it's all times, and I'm ashamed to admit that I'm pretty sure it's the expression on his face before he even opens his smartass mouth.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:28 AM on June 24, 2015


Does anyone here have any reaction to the video linked above? The poster acknowledged that you may not like him normally, but the linked video was worth watching anyways.

Any comments on the video?
posted by el io at 9:29 AM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Within the first five minutes, he pulls out the "I make fun of everyone, so no one should be offended" argument, then says that the main reason he gets lots of criticism is because of the "anonymity of Twitter." he goes on to claim that when he started Politically Incorrect, there was no political satire on television and no host ever shared his or her political opinions. (This was his response to a question about a newspaper critic who said that his humor was "mockery masquerading as intellectualism.") At one point, when he argues against mass incarceration and the drug war, he starts clapping after his own point in order to prompt the audience to clap.

He makes the old "Islam's problem is that it's a young religion and has never had a Reformation" argument. He touts Hilary Clinton's credentials and defines gerrymandering for the audience, points to demographic shifts in voting as a solid reason to predict Democratic presidents for the foreseeable future, defines Citizens United for the audience, and makes the argument that the Overton Window in the U.S. has shifted far to the right by both Republicans and centrists like the Clintons. his argument is that "America has no Left party."

From there, he argues that the U.S. should have a Parliamentary system, royalty is obsolete, and explains that British conservatives are "not fucking nuts" like U.S. conservatives but generally punts on the grounds that he's put of his depth with non-U.S. politics. He points out that every modern economy is quasi-socialist. That's about where I had to stop to do other stuff.

The parts I have seen don't seem too different from anything he says on his show, honestly.
posted by kewb at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


At one point...he starts clapping after his own point in order to prompt the audience to clap.

Oh, I'm totally going to do this some time, obviously its obnoxious as hell, but I have to do this.
posted by el io at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2015


Favoriting your own comments can often help get the ball rolling on more too.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


Holy crap, it works!
posted by kewb at 1:03 PM on June 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Maher had a guest on a while ago, I forget who, but they're a relatively famous journalist. They were discussing terrorism and Maher went on his typical spiel about how Muslims need to unite against terrorists, their religion makes them violent, etc. The journalist combatted him in every charge, saying that Muslims have stood up against terrorists, that they're the biggest victims of terrorism, and that calling 1 billion people terrorists because of their faith is wrong. Maher basically said "well whatever", moved into his last segment and immediately brought the issue back up where that guest couldn't fight him on it. He basically shooed the guy away and then got the last word in because it's his show.

After that I was done with him.

Edit: it was Fareed Zakaria.
posted by gucci mane at 2:17 PM on June 24, 2015


Here is a clip illustrating my point from above that the finale of New Rules is usually a well-crafted, penetrating little essay: After some "jokes" about sex dolls, and pizza, and cowboy boot sandals, B-M goes on a rant about the new anti-food labeling legislation proposed in the house this week. Please tell me that it is not a perefct tragi-comic number - ?
posted by growabrain at 8:22 AM on June 27, 2015


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