by Oliver Bateman
Tuesday, 9
August 2022
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13:30

You can’t cancel Bill Maher

The presenter has withstood many attempts over the years
by Oliver Bateman
Bill Maher is like a deer tick lodged in the underbelly of the mainstream media

During the latest episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, American comedian Bill Maher discussed America’s obesity epidemic and critiqued the notion of “fat acceptance” as “fat celebration”. “Let me ask you this,” the HBO host said. “Have you ever seen a fat 90-year-old?”

Maher’s comments are the latest in a recent string of comments that have seen him questioning the rise of politically correct language like “birthing people,” apocalyptic concerns about reproductive justice being threatened by the overturning of Roe v. Wade precedent, and the use of puberty blockers as a form of gender-affirming care for self-identifying trans children

This would seem to place Maher in the company of a host of newly-emerging “anti-woke” cultural commentators such as Russell Brand and Glenn Greenwald, individuals who were once generally Left or liberal-leaning but have seen their own opinions evolve in light of concerns about the excesses or misguided stances of the Left.

Maher, however, has been a contrarian for a very long time. His first show, Politically Incorrect (1993-2002), featured some of the liveliest panel discussions of that era, eventually winding up cancelled after a rough stretch in which Maher praised the bravery of the 9/11 terrorists (“staying in the airplane when it hits the building” was less cowardly than “lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away”) and compared mentally disabled children to his dogs

That cancellation, like all subsequent attempts to silence Maher, proved ineffective, as he soon returned to television in 2003 with the launch of Real Time on HBO, which is now in its 20th season. Along the way, he ridiculed the inanities of evangelical religion in his 2008 documentary Religulous, warred with Donald Trump in 2013 over the former president’s quixotic quest to obtain Barack Obama’s birth certificate (Maher demanded a copy of Trump’s birth certificate to prove that Trump’s mother had not mated with an orangutan), interviewed alt-Right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos in a 2017 interview that Glenn Greenwald called “the most trans-hating discussion I’ve seen on television,” and even referred to himself as a “house n-word” on his own show in response to repeated calls for HBO to cancel him.

What has made Maher such an enduring figure is the variety of his views. Far from drifting towards generic Right-wing positions on all issues, as some commentators have, Maher’s thinking has remained heterodox: he is still a staunch opponent of unfettered access to firearms, an opponent of the BDS movement, and a firm believer in the harmful effects of global warming. He also tries to function as something of an objective analyst of the political scene, recently using the same monologue in which he skewered “fat acceptance” to praise President Joe Biden’s apparent successes on gas prices, jobs, and unemployment.

There is something quite admirable about this: while other cultural critics double down on certain viewpoints at the risk of becoming caricatures of themselves, as some have argued Jordan Peterson has done, Maher is still thoroughly himself, a sui generis deer tick lodged in the underbelly of the mainstream media. Having evaded cancellation for decades, he is carrying on in the same fashion, even if we in the audience may find ourselves disagreeing with him as often as we agree. So there he remains, speaking freely on a major platform where that activity has become much more fraught.

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Daniel Rutherford
Daniel Rutherford
1 month ago

There are so few commentators left who have both an independent mind and the guts to speak it. Aside from Maher and Greenwald, on the British side I’d add Peter Hitchens, Craig Murray and Simon Jenkins. Long may they continue, those glowing beacons of real thought amid the barren wastes of journalism.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago

Sometimes I like what Bill Maher says, sometimes I hate it. But even if I hated everything Maher said, I HAVE NO RIGHT TO CANCEL HIM!!!! Nor do I have a right to cancel anybody else. Why is this so hard for so many people to understand?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

As a U.K. viewer I’ve been watching him every week for years, generally finding agreement with him – except for his complete blind spot on Brexit and the EU, where he seems to be completely uninformed.

I watch John Oliver every week too, striving to keep an open mind, but usually deleting his shows half way through when his woke bigotry dominates his analysis.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago

Maher is going from strength to strength, truly on a roll, long may it last. I await the Republican centrist who is able to so winningly critique, and laugh about, their side.

For those who see him as a bully – you’re totally misreading it. He’s an equal opportunity offender, skewering rank absurdity, with words and humour. Moreover, it’s clearly within a framework of deadly serious tough love, not cruelty or cheap laughs. Your politicians, doctors, teachers, journalists may lie and pander to your feelies, he won’t:

“If you want to help people, tell them the truth. If you want to help yourself, tell them what they want to hear.” (Thomas Sowell)

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 month ago

[Bill Maher] “referred to himself as a ‘house n-word‘”.
No he didn’t. He referred to himself as a “house ni55er”. Say so. Even the Guardian managed to repeat what he actually said, rather than relying on mealy-mouthed linguistic-segregation-enforcing circumlocution.

Raymond Inauen
Raymond Inauen
1 month ago

Watch the clip, it’s great!
https://youtu.be/yfiWjnStE3w
And this one got me really laughing!
USA Today
“Science hasn’t yet figured out how to solve obesity.””We don’t know how to blunt the rise in obesity because we don’t know precisely what the factors are that causing it.”
Ted Kyle, Founder, ConscienHealth
When Bill presents this near the end of his monolog, it was the icing on the cake.

Robin Blick
Robin Blick
1 month ago

Ideology and humour are incompatible.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

When I gave up alcohol 20 years ago, I went from 15st 4 to 10 st 12 in 4 months… why weight now remains at 11st 4 lbs. I cook, and I eat and love food… it is not that difficult.

Ess Arr
Ess Arr
1 month ago

The difference between all those others mentioned, eg Glenn Greenwald, is that Maher is funny, sometimes very funny.

Marek Nowicki
Marek Nowicki
1 month ago

…the word “opportunists” is more suitable IMHO

Jamie B
Jamie B
1 month ago
Reply to  Marek Nowicki

Who are these opportunists? Could you elaborate?

Bianca Anna
Bianca Anna
1 month ago

I used to like Maher, and in the past I didn’t like when he was ridiculing the religious, after if he can laugh at how some ppl cope.

Here again, with bullying the obese people, me being one, postmenopausal, eating right stuff and under 1200 calories. According to him I am pigging out, am lazy.
And that’s from a guy who smokes

None of that is true, plus the dude hasn’t basic idea about the science and how weight loss works. It is a mystery even to the ppl in the field if research.

I’ll no longer watch Maher as he disgusts me as much Trump does.

Bullying is never ok. If anyone of you are still supporting him, you need to ask you what kind of person you are.

Michael Tierra
Michael Tierra
1 month ago
Reply to  Bianca Anna

Bill Maher says what many people think but are to afraid to say or lack the art of being able to say. I consider his shows a i might not always see things exactly the way Bill Maher sometimes does but somehow I feel better when the dark corners of hypocasy are eposed. Comedy i not nearly so funny if we find ourselves feeling comfortable all the time. It’s a period thing. Ever notice how the older comedy is, the less it seems funny. It’s because it is too safe. How would comics like Abbott and Costello and Amos and Andy fare in our uptight wokish world? Consider how much darker the world would be if it weren’t for the role of the fool to jab and mock the conventions of our mediocracy? Bill Maher’s comic satire is in the great tradition of the greatest comics like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin who expose ripening boil under the skin of convention. Human values and concerns for our fellow people always runs the risk of descending into a too serious place of intolerance. if you ask me, we need more Bill Maher’s David Chapell’s in the world not less.

Grenville Smith
Grenville Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Bianca Anna

Weight loss works like this: Intake 1200 calories and expenditure 1100 calories = weight gain
Intake 1200 calories and expenditure 1300 = weight loss.
And it really is that simple.
Don’t kid yourself that it’s not.
And it’s only a mystery to those who want to sell you a diet or weight loss programme.
Wake up and smell the coffee – black, no sugar.

K V
K V
1 month ago
Reply to  Bianca Anna

You are a special kind of stupid

Google CICO – it’s a very simple equation, perhaps you can manage that