This is what it takes to wake people up to the fact that Bill Maher is a jerk?

He finally crossed a line: Maher finally sneered at something white men like, and the outrage has started to bubble to the surface. How dare he criticize Stan Lee and comic books?

That he’s an anti-vaxxer, that his whole smug schtick is to salt his panels with a couple of assholes and fan the flames…nah, that doesn’t matter. He can keep on inviting Jack Kingston, Andrew Sullivan, Bari Weiss, and all the other people he loves because they’re famous, all fine. That he’s a not very funny talk show host who was never in the running for any of the big broadcast late night shows, even with their relatively low standards of humor, tells you he’s kind of a flop who ought, at best, to be running an unexceptional podcast with a declining audience, instead of getting his blah words highlighted on Raw Story as if they’re news every goddamn weekend.

I thought it was good that he fought back, briefly, against the bizarre popular notion that terrorists are cowards who hate freedom, but those glory days are done. Retire, Maher.


  1. lotharloo says

    Maher is an asshole but he probably has a point here. Comic books are silly, shallow and cliche. The mainstream culture celebrates silly predictable Hollywood movies, reality TV shows, repetitive brainless music, “based on true story” shit that has nothing to do with actual real events etc etc. It’s not the sole reason it got Trump elected but that type of shallowness goes well with disregard for facts and political debates that revolves around “bazingas”. Once every aspect of a culture has moved to the “fast food model” eventually it is going to influence politics too.

  2. imback says

    Bill Maher is a jerk. But I still record his show and sometimes watch it before it ages off. I fast forward over the best I can over the likes of Kingston, Sullivan, and Weiss, none of whom are interesting or funny but only malignant. Maybe they’re brought on to make Maher seem less of a jerk.

    So why do I watch sometimes? For the guilty pleasure of getting several involuntary guffaws along the way. I don’t know if it’s the punchlines or the timing or something wrong with me, but if I’m in the right mood, I can’t help laughing loudly at the show even without others around me laughing.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I feel stuck in the ad hominem fallacy. Bill Maher appears at both ends of it. Yes he is a jerk. One end of the fallacy rejects everything he says because he’s a jerk. the other end accepts everything he says because he’s funny. Cherry picking his relevant, insightful attacks on “45”, I struggle with because Maher’s a jerk and that is a fallacious reason to reject the statement he made.
    One aspect of the fallacy to consider is the accepting the statements from him, regardless that they are from a jerk, gives encouragement to the other end of the spectrum who accept everything he says regardless that he’s a jerk.
    Yes, I am stuck. I don’t like him personally, and still value to allowing him airtime as he does present both sides, despite how unwarranted one side may be. Unlike Fux News who asserts they are “fair and balanced” while not even trying to do so.
    See how stuck I am.
    thank you for letting me pointlessly share my indecision.

  4. Samuel Vimes says

    “Celebrity culture. Fuck it.

    These people do not have an emotional connection to Robin Williams Stan Lee, the man; it’s fine to like the actor/comedian writer and enjoy his work, but […] people are freaking out that someone pointed out that the obsession with celebrity is getting in the way of caring about things that matter.”

    (Edits mine.)

  5. consciousness razor says

    That he’s a not very funny talk show host who was never in the running for any of the big broadcast late night shows, even with their relatively low standards of humor, tells you he’s kind of a flop

    The fact that Maher isn’t one of a handful of comedians who host other TV shows doesn’t tell me much. I think more than a handful of people can and should be considered successful at the same time. He’s had his own show (Politically Incorrect, then Real Time) for the last 25 years, with other early work including appearances on Carson and Letterman (those “big” shows you care about) a decade before that. That does not look floppy to me, and it’s not so easy to think of comedians who’ve had active television careers since Reagan was president. If he’s not to be counted as a super-duper celebrity like a few others, then I’ll grant you that, although it doesn’t matter … but the guy does not seem to be struggling to keep his job.

  6. says

    I don’t care about the “big” shows — I said right up there that the standards for humor in late night TV seem awfully low. Part of the problem is that we think getting a late night slot is a big deal for comedy when it’s really politics all the way through.

  7. consciousness razor says

    I don’t care about the “big” shows — I said right up there that the standards for humor in late night TV seem awfully low.

    Okay, but none of this tells me he’s kind of a flop. If that’s what a miserable failure of a career looked like for anybody in the performing arts, then we should all be extremely optimistic about the future. There must be at least a few people out there who aren’t total jackasses like Maher is, and I bet they’d be quite satisfied with flopping as badly as he has.

  8. hemidactylus says

    I don’t have HBO so don’t watch enough of Maher to base an opinion. I used to watch Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central and enjoyed that. Times were different. MST3K was big then too. I was different. I enjoyed the original Daily Show with Kilborn. Why? And I was not fond of Stewart at first. But Stewart went on to set the bar for witty and snarky political satire and IMO eclipsed what both Maher and Kilborn were doing.

    Maher gets new atheist props for Religulous yet some of his views are odd for a rational being.

  9. rcs619 says

    Bill Maher has always been an asshole. He’s smug, he’s smarmy, and he’s right up there with Sean Hannity for me in terms of being unbearable to watch. He isn’t actually a progressive, and he isn’t actually that funny. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert did the political comedy thing way better, and John Oliver is currently doing it better. They actually did real reporting, and informational segments. Maher just brings together a bunch of people to yell at each other while he smugs all over the place, and that stopped being funny or clever about ten years ago.

    Didn’t Maher once tell trans people that they should just keep it down until democrats get back into power, since actively campaigning for their rights hurts the party, or something? I really think he did but I can’t find it, since his episodes with Milo drown out all the google searches for Bill Maher and trans people.

  10. microraptor says

    rc619 @9:

    Didn’t Maher once tell trans people that they should just keep it down until democrats get back into power, since actively campaigning for their rights hurts the party, or something? I really think he did but I can’t find it, since his episodes with Milo drown out all the google searches for Bill Maher and trans people.

    I think he did. He also joked about letting a conservative female journalist be raped by the Taliban or IS (can’t remember which).

    I also saw Religulous and thought it was shallow and superficial with the few good points it made drowned out by Maher’s smug, self-satisfied behavior.

  11. rcs619 says

    microraptor @10:
    Yeah, I know islam is a pet-peeve of his. Uniquely worse than all other religions, etc, etc, and he regularly has guests on his show that agree with him on that (I know that’s kind of a new-atheist thing. They hate all religions, but islam is totally the worst, and there’s totally no racial element to that belief at all).

    Nevermind that the issue is fundamentalism itself, not any particular religion. Fundamentalist sects of all the religions are horrible, and they attract the shittiest people.

    Shallow and superficial is Maher’s comedy in general. I mean, he’s good for a chuckle here and there, but all he does is make easy, cheap digs at whatever he’s talking about. He’s smug and snarky. That’s his entire act.

  12. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Well, definitely sounds as if lotharloo hasn’t read any comics or graphic novels since their childhood. Or failed to see the messages that were there. Are they all perfect? No, no medium is. But there’s a heck of a lot of good stuff out there, not all of it for kids (and no that doesn’t just mean lots of sex and violence, though there’s some of that too)
    Dismissing an entire medium as ‘shallow’ without any evidence or analysis is rather shallow itself.

  13. logicalcat says

    Also I gotta say, Bill Mahers comments about Donald Trump in that tweet, is the real reason why we have Trump in the white house. A bunch of assholes who care more about being politically incorrect than they do about being correct or just.

  14. says

    If you think comics as a medium is shallow, and I am looking at Maher/Lotharoo,take the time needed to read Eisner’s Contract with God Trilogy and get back to me. Calling the medium shallow is like saying the novel is shallow because Twilight was really popular at one point.

    Comics, as a medium, are nothing but words being juxtaposed over drawn art to tell a story (or provide information) and while a lot of American comics are of the genre superhero that is not remotely exhaustive of medium. Dear god, 1993 was 25 years ago.

    I don’t see the point of trying to discuss Lee’s legacy if a person doesn’t acknowledge this basic point: comics =/= superhero stories.

    Also, I don’t care that Maher is picking on Lee just after his death. I care because what Maher said was stupid.

  15. unclefrogy says

    Nevermind that the issue is fundamentalism itself, not any particular religion. Fundamentalist sects of all the religions are horrible, and they attract the shittiest people.

    fundamentalism is not confined or restricted to religious god belief either that same attitude is found in political and economic beliefs as well and is just as wrong. It has that over all attitude of egocentric thought “I am right and everyone else who thinks differently is wrong” about it.
    That is what I hear in all of Maher’s “act”.
    What ever you think about comics and the superhero genre you have to admit that they have become a significant cultural artifact in 20th and the early 21st century America and western civilization. Much of the details of that at least are traced directly to Stan Lee.

    uncle frogy

  16. Hoosier X says

    That is so stupid.

    Does Maher think that comic books are a new thing that only popped up since the second time Obama won the White House and somehow made everyone stupid, arrogant and racist in a mere four years?

    Oh, how I wish I could go on his show and tear him a new on how fricking stupid this is. And then, we’d tackle his childish Islamophobia.

  17. Hoosier X says

    I had breakfast and couldn’t stop thinking about how DUMB this is.

    And also kind of EVIL!

    It’s a deflection of the type that tries to minimize slavery and racism in the South by saying the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about state’s rights.

    Or saying the wildfires were caused by Californians not raking their leaves.

    Or screaming voter fraud so that nobody notices the rampant voter suppression and the fact that GOP is getting more and more unpopular.

    It’s a horrible and terrible thing to say that Trump supporters are racist just because they whole-heartedly support racist candidates and racist policies.

    But it’s OK to blame comic books!

    I’m going to ban myself from commenting on this thread for 24 hours. But the next time somebody tries to defend Bill Maher, this will be my go-to example of what a third-rate thinker he is.

  18. lotharloo says

    I have read few comic books but none has aged well.

    I have no doubt some comic books can be great works of art and as you say there is nothing that forces “text on graphic content” to be shallow and bad. But unfortunately, in the real world, they are, because they are manufactured for a particular type of audience, specially if you go for mainstream ones.

    The “contract with God” thing looks very interesting and I probably would like it. Unfortunately, the wikipedia says that it basically sold nothing and it was a business disaster, a very very predictable outcome.

    I am sympathetic to the idea that comics could be great and they could not be shallow. The same way that I would defend the notion that “Videos games can be works of art”. But unfortunately, there is not a single video game made by a mainstream company that can be considered that way. I like video games and I wanted to play interesting ones, those with good stories and I scoured the internet searching for great video games and I found a few that could pass and kind of scratch the itch but at the end of the day, they were still just video games.

    And similar to comic books, there is nothing forcing “interactive graphical content” from being intellectually challenging, interesting, deep and engaging but unfortunately, video games are also manufactured for a particular type of audience so they are always shallow and predictable.

    Unless of course, you go for indie games. Then you can find a lot of interesting games that don’t really sell that much and have niche audience. Your example of comic book is the equivalent of an indie game. They can be good but they are not the kind of thing that one thinks of when you mention “comic books”.

    Regardless, the creations of Stan Lee are mainstream. They are the “fast food” of literature, silly badass men with nonsensical origin stories, women in swim suits, blah blah so I sympathize with what Maher is saying in this case.

  19. logicalcat says

    Lotharloo…the mainstream of EVERYTHING is bullshit and shallow. Books, movies, music, comics, tv shows, video games, whatever. And you know what? That includes talk shows like Bill Maher, which is a show that is shallow and bad. Why are comics being singled out?

  20. lotharloo says

    I’m using a very broad definition of mainstream: anything produced by a big company. Under this definition, there are plenty of mainstream music albums, TV series, books, movies, or TV shows that are not trash.

    People have been praising John Oliver in this very same thread. John Oliver is mainstream, he is also great and fantastic. Mainstream does not mean trash. Unless you go to “video games” category or as I suspect “comic books” category.

  21. microraptor says

    @lotharloo: the definition of mainstream you seem to be using is “everything I don’t like.”

  22. rcs619 says

    @16: Unclefrogy
    Oh absolutely. I don’t know if it’s technically fundamentalism if it isn’t tied to a specific religion/belief structure, but similar attitudes can certainly be just as toxic in other contexts.

    Something else worth mentioning. While many people who read more comics than I do have been listing off great stories (and there have been some really great comics), it’s also important to remember that it’s fine to like dumb things too. Liking dumb things doesn’t mean you’re dumb, and it doesn’t make you dumb. I know people with masters degrees and Ph.D’s who like cheesy action movies, or nostalgic cartoons from when they were kids. Hell, I was talking to a chemist at the lab the other day about freakin’ Dragon Ball Z. Being an adult doesn’t mean you can’t still nurture your inner child every so often.

    How the hell is the freaking comedian the one throwing a fit about people enjoying dumb/silly things? It’s not like his humor was ever particularly high-brow itself. Maher has made his share of dick and poop jokes over the years.

  23. says

    Maybe if you think comics are shallow, and you hate the liberal diversity of Noelle Stevenson’s work, you should just go read Dave Sim. It’s probably more your speed.

  24. Alan says

    @11”Fundamentalist sects of all the religions are horrible, and they attract the shittiest people.”
    That may be true but they also attract some very good people. I happen to know about some people who volunteer for, who go to Haiti once or twice a year, at their own expense, among them ,engineers, physicians, entrepreneurs , who have immensely improved living conditions in a remote town by digging wells for clean water, improving medical conditions, running a school, growing food, growing coffee to sell in the US. I know a couple of these people well. They are very fine people. Please spare me the references to trumps Charlottesville remarks.

  25. says


    Every single medium you care to name has works which are crass manufactured products that targeted a specific audience. I don’t know why you think comics are special or worse in this regard. Marvel’s comics and the MCU absolutely are a brand, for good and ill, of mere entertainment but they are not exhaustive even of superhero comics. It is asinine to reduce comics to superhero books in order to blame Stan Lee for Trump. Further if you actually engage with a lot of Lee’s work, notably the X-Men, this is even more true. There are multiple times when Lee was editor and chief of marvel where they at least tried to make serious stuff. There is a famous Spider-Man issue that grapples with drug addiction. X-Men, in general, started off as a thinly disguised parable of the civil rights era (Xavier as King, Magneto as Malcom X). I love Daredevil and I haven’t voted for Trump.

    Second, Eisner’s Contract with God trilogy initially didn’t sell very well (especially the first book). Part of this was the time period, part of this is because it was so strikingly different from anything else in print at the time. Since the 80’s however it has grown in sales and you can still find it bookstores/comics shops with ease. Regardless, Will Eisner is a legendary artist because of his work on the Spirit. So much so that comic book form of the Oscars/Hugo awards are named after him. The Spirit is probably his best known work but if you have any awareness of comics outside of the MCU at all you should have heard of the Contract with God. It absolutely is a mainstream work.

    Third if you don’t like that example there is, of course, Maus. It won the Pulitzer Prize, abet a special award, in 1992 (or 93, this what I alluded to beforehand). And there is a whole cottage industry studying Maus from a variety of perspectives I first encountered it because my 9th grade history class used it while learning about WWII and roughly half the time in my experience it has come up people have mentioned it in an educational context. Nothing screams mainstream more than a work being a reading assignment in high school.

    If you want a superhero example we could discuss Moore’s Watchmen which is basically a superhero story for people who don’t like superhero stories. (Much like how Fosse’s Cabaret is a musical for people who hate musicals). It is not hard to find comic/graphic novels which are of better quality than the MCU/Superhero stuff, sometimes published by the same companies as superhero stuff, sometimes made by the same people.

    I could have given super niche examples of better comics, I am extremely fond of American Splendor for example. I didn’t feel the need to.

    Regardless it is asinine to blame Lee for Trump even if his comics, on the whole, are terrible; Trump didn’t win because Americans are shallow idiots who just like MCU movies. He won because ~100,000 Clinton votes were allocated to the wrong states and the idiocy of the electoral college. He won because a shocking number of Americans are bigoted or are ok with bigotry. He won because Clinton was the second least like candidate in history. He won because the Clinton camp dropped the ball on the blue wall states. There are thousands of other factors that come before we start talking about Lee and comics.

  26. rcs619 says

    Those sound like great people, and if more christians (and muslims, for that matter, since charity is one of their pillars) focused on those aspects of their religion the world would be a better place. I know a church food pantry helped my mother and I through a stretch of hard times when I was little. Those were really good people and they were always kind to us.

    My issue with fundamentalism is that, once you decide that something is the literal, unerring word of god, there isn’t a lot of room for compromise. You can’t really adapt to the times, because adaptation means the word of god was in some sort of error, and it’s very easy to take any criticism as a personal attack on the bedrock of your faith. Fundamentalist sects (I’m looking at you, wahhabism and certain evangelical christian groups) also have a bad habit of attracting some of the worst people. Shitty people tend to have shitty beliefs, and when they think that the word of god directly justifies those beliefs, they’re often emboldened to do even shittier things.

    There are absolutely great, and compassionate people who consider themselves fundamentalists though. My initial comment was definitely too harsh there. I admit to a bit of bias on the subject, since I live in the deep south, and around here fundamentalist christianity mixes in with politics in ways that tend to be frustrating to me.

  27. hemidactylus says

    As for comics I was never really into them (same for video games) so the judgments are beyond me but I did try to cheat on the Walking Dead show by reading the comics and the divergence is enough to really make me appreciate both. The comics offered more detail on the backstories of characters such as Negan and Governor so you can see better where they came from and why they warped out.

    But the shows diverged and also gave more raw connection and emotion as when allegedly nice Carol broke bad on the Wolves when they invaded Alexandria. I already know where the talking walkers storyline may go along with the tragically redemptive Negan arc because the comics. I am burnt out on the series but Rick’s absence can only be a good thing.Carl and Rick aren’t absent from the Whisperer’s arc in comics. Richonne wasn’t a thing either as the Governor didn’t facilitate the death of Andrea.

    My general avoidance of video games could spur another gamergate reactance. Not really interested in gaming. So a woman criticizing tropes doesn’t provoke some protective hive mentality in me. I actually wonder why dudebros perceived a threat.

  28. says

    Maher? Meh, that guy, he sometimes, sometimes manages to get something right (or even make a funny), but for the most part, he’s a walking example of Sturgeon’s Law. 90% of everything is crap.

  29. methuseus says

    The only thing I think Maher is right about is that the cult of personality in this country is a bad thing. It’s why Trump was voted into the presidency. Maher himself has a cult of personality surrounding himself, so if we could get rid of that it would be great.

  30. Dunc says

    The DC reboot of Snagglepuss (“Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles”, in which SP is a celebrated but secretly-gay playwright targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee at the height of the Red Scare) is one of the best things I’ve read in ages, and DC / Hanna Barbera is pretty damn mainstream – mainstream enough that I walked into a regular bookshop and picked up a copy off the shelf in their small “graphic novel” section.

  31. richardemmanuel says

    Is he still an anti-vaxxer? That’s quite religulous. Surely understanding is not required, and one can just notice what happens without them?

  32. lemurcatta says

    I like Maher. I don’t always agree with him, but I am glad he is a voice out there in the collective conversation we are having on the left about how to handle the Trump era. I have also noticed that a lot of my own friends who say he is a jerk often latch on to a few things they know about Maher and don’t really listen to the rest.

  33. Hoosier X says

    You know what I think might have had a bigger impact than comic books on the current national environment and the encouragement of Trump World?

    Normalizing Islamophobia.

    Yeah. I admit that it’s going too far to blame Bill Maher for President Trump. But at least there’s a core of an idea there that you could actually argue. Unlike trying to make some case that somehow magically COMIC BOOKS DID IT!

  34. Curt Sampson says

    @Dunc: I’m not much into comics or graphic novels or what have you, but the first few pages of Snagglepuss just grabbed me and dragged me in. So, one more copy sold! And thanks.

    I suppose what one should ask Maher is, when you made your judgement about comics, did you take Sturgeon’s law into account?

  35. logicalcat says


    There are plenty of comics and video games that are not trash that are mainstream and not trash. If you don’t like it, fine, but I’m with microraptor in thinking that your definition of shallow is “anything I don’t like”. Using that same definition and logic, I think your comments are shallow.

  36. Hoosier X says

    Maher’s point was not that a lot of or most comics are shallow. Maher’s point was that comic books specifically created a shallow national environment where the selection of Trump as president was something to be expected.

    It’s idiotic on the face of it.

    And this from a prominent Islamophobe.

    It’s like the premise of a particularly bad episode of South Park.