What kind of sicko goes to a Bill Maher show?

(I apologize in advance. The previous post was all about cat vomit, and now this one is all about Bill Maher. It’s all getting worse and worse, isn’t it?)

Imagine you are a liberal, of the waffling center right type. You’ve got a good middle class job, maybe you’re in management or you own a tire store. You don’t like Trump at all, because he’s rocking the boat and you really, really want the boat to stay on its current course. You also really dislike AOC and those far left extremists for the same reason. You like to watch Bill Maher because he dresses like a well-off banker, looks like a Republican, talks like a Republican, but reassures you frequently that he’s really liberal, just like you. He invites guests on his show from a wide spectrum of political perspectives–well, the fun ones are always right-wing buffoons– which is how you think “balance” works. The status quo is in good hands with Maher. He also isn’t very bright, just like you, so you can trust him to normalize all your vague notions about how the world works.

You score tickets to his show. You know what’s expected of you — you’re going to whoop and holler at his jokes, which is easy to do: when he pauses and looks smugly at the audience, that’s when you laugh, even if what he just said isn’t particularly clever or insightful. You’re in luck tonight, because he delivers a monologue catering to your vague unease about sexuality. You get to watch the old fart mock the queers, in the name of his version of science.

He gets off with a great start, playing on the audience’s ignorance. There are more openly gay people now than there were in previous generations, an increasing number of Americans are willing to identify as LGBTQ now. Invoke the slippery slope fallacy: therefore, we’ll all be gay in 2053.

Long pause. Smile smarmily. Audience goes wild.

I’m just saying, when things change this much, this fast, people are allowed to ask what’s up with that?

Yeah, Bill, but we know you won’t ask the right questions. The way things used to be are assumed to be right and proper; don’t question the evidence of generations of oppression, just suggest that there’s something wrong with people nowadays being comfortable with who they are, and imply that the numbers suggest that there’s a mass conversion going on.

His next ‘joke’: the ACLU said that abortion bans disproportionately harm certain people. He then borrows the outrage of Fox News and Helen Lewis by claiming that the list left off women. It didn’t. Here’s the tweet:

Uh, Bill: every single one of those bullet points is about the effect on people. Women are people. So are trans men. The list is about groups of people who are most affected by the bans, and the point is that wealthy Republican white women aren’t going to feel the pain, but all these groups that are already marginalized by society will. The clue is that this is an “urgent matter of racial and economic justice.” Abortion rights are human rights, you know.

He’s reciting TERFy biases when he claims that the ACLU won’t use the word “woman”. They do. They also point out that the abortion bans have broad effects that will harm plenty of other people. Bill looks at that list and somehow, annoyingly uses it as an excuse to chide gay people and say, not everything is about you. Yeah, Bill, we can read, unlike you.

Can he get even more TERFy? Of course he can. “The children!” he cries. They’re experimenting on children! His source: Abigail Shrier, in Irreversible Damage. We all knew he was a quack from his bizarre opinions about vaccines, but I guess he’s even more deeply into quackery now.

Are we done yet? Nope. His next joke is to chastise the NYC pride march, because they’ve selected 4 trans people and a lesbian as their parade marshals; where are the gay men, he querulously asks. Has he considered the fact that you can be trans and gay at the same time? No, of course not. The NYC Pride March has explained their criteria:

“At a time when LGBTQIA+ people are under increased attack, the NYC Pride March is a beacon of hope and community,” Manek said in an emailed statement. “Our grand marshals for this year truly embody the spirit of the theme for NYC Pride 2022, ‘Unapologetically Us.’ They have embraced their identities and used their platforms to help members of our community truly love and live their truth without fear or shame.”

“Gets the approval of a TERF named Bill Maher” isn’t one of them.

Then he gets to echo Shrier and claim that we’re seeing more trans people because it’s trendy. They’re just doing it to shock and challenge their parents. They’re doing it for the “likes”. If we don’t admit that some places have more LGBT people because it’s trendy, then it’s not a serious science-based discussion — hearing Maher claim the mantle of being “science-based” is rather revolting.

The rest is all one-liners based on assumptions that no one takes gender reassignment surgery seriously, with accompanying guffaws from the idiots in the audience.

I do have to address one more point though. This one:

If this spike in trans children is all biological, why is it regional? Either Ohio is shaming them or California is creating them.

I see that “science-based” Bill Maher takes genetic determinism for granted. What do you mean, “all biological”? Culture also shapes biology (and vice versa). The reason it is regional is that there are cultural differences as well as biological biases. The most likely explanation is that the Midwest is more conservative and is shaming kids. Surprise, Bill: more open societies aren’t pressuring kids to become trans — I think you’d be hard pressed to find a single instance of parents forcing their kids to be gay or trans, but you’ll find plenty of conservatives threatening to disown or even kill children who don’t conform to their cis and heterosexual pattern. But Maher isn’t calling them out — that’s his audience of yahoos.

The science-based position is that your sexual preferences and identity is the result of an interplay between genetics and environment. No one claims it is all biological, but that you can’t separate biology from culture and experience.

I’ve long accepted that Maher is a bigoted ignoramus, but what bothers me most is that laugh track of an audience howling at “jokes” that are nothing more than prejudice with a smirk, and those frequent cuts to his panel guests who are smiling and laughing at his horrid punch lines. That’s what I’d expect from an Adam Corolla, but jeezus, Donna Brazile, why did you accept the invitation to appear on this disgrace of a show?


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Imagine you are a liberal, of the waffling center right type.

    You could have just wrote “liberal.” Everything after the comma is just redundant.

  2. Susan Montgomery says

    And there are plenty of conservative parents who carried through on those threats.

  3. microraptor says

    I really just don’t understand why so many people think Maher is some sort of genius. He’s a shallow, vapid, intellectually lazy loudmouth.

  4. Aoife_b says

    Fucking hell I am tired. Tired of being a pawn for people with zero skin in the game like Maher

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 5

    A lot of people mistake sass for intelligence. Just because you can throw a witty-sounding retort at someone doesn’t make you smart.

    I mean, just look at me.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    … a TERF named Bill Maher …

    Let’s have some scientific precision around here!

    Only the first two letters of that acronym apply in this case; the others don’t fit at all.

  7. Nancy Mannikko says

    Donna Brazile is willing to sit next to Maher because doing so allows her to believe she’s still relevant.

    The number of people willing to appear on Real Time must be shrinking. The panel shrank from 3 to 2 bodies, and Maher no longer has a 4th special guest come in just before he does New Rules.

  8. rorschach says

    Bill Maher is a privileged asshole in some aspects, he gets Trans issues wrong, he’s actually conservative, I get it and agree with all of it. And yet I can still laugh about his jokes occasionally. Sam Harris is an insufferable tool but he wrote a book once that contained some truths. Dicky Dawk wrote a few books with useful info all things considered. It may be argued that Hitchens wrote and said the odd good thing occasionally.
    I’m just not a fan of this blanket condemnation of anything a person says or does, just because you disagree with a certain slice of it. It’s possible to laugh over a Maher joke, and rip him a new one over shit he says.

  9. PaulBC says

    Is “Ohio is shaming them” supposed to be some kind of paradox? It’s obviously true. California doesn’t have to be “creating them” just being more open to diversity than it was in the past.

  10. PaulBC says

    The only instance I can think of where I agreed with Maher and even had a little respect for him was when he correctly pointed out that “coward” was a stupid term to apply to the 9/11 terrorists. He may not have known how much grief he was going to get over it though. His entire schtick since “Politically Incorrect” first aired in 1993 has been predictable and sophomoric.

  11. woozy says

    If this spike in trans children is all biological…

    Wait, what? I’ve never heard anyone claim it (the spike) was all biological. I’ve never heard anyone claim it was even partially biological.

    Or is the conservative idea that there is dichotomy that only things that are biological are off limits to bigotry and it’s open season on everything else.

  12. consciousness razor says

    Either Ohio is shaming them or California is creating them.

    Therefore, the explanation is not that Ohio is shaming them.

    Bill Maher really should’ve become a logician instead of a comedian. No doubt he would’ve revolutionized the field.

  13. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 15

    Trust me, in the eyes of a lot of right-wing “comedians” they think they’re punching up when they piss on actual marginalized groups; the white, male, cis-het, Christian, conservative are the ones being really oppressed and they are talking back at the “leftist elites” is government, academia, the the news and entertainment media they think are attacking them and forcing their degenerate, false beliefs upon them.

  14. PaulBC says

    Akira MacKenzie@17 Yup, they are always the “real victims.” Maybe they ought to take some personal responsibility instead of blaming society for their problems.

  15. flange says

    You can always tell when Maher is making a “joke.” He starts laughing, to prime the audience, as he reaches the punch line. You can tell he’s a Republican; always opting for the easy, non-thinking answer for the quick laugh. His “humor” is getting more like Trump’s every day; sarcasm, insults, and punching down. Although Trump never smiles, he apparently has the personality to be a cult leader, which Maher, fortunately, does not.

  16. hemidactylus says

    I don’t know how much it was me changing over the decades or them, but I used to like Dennis Miller and Bill Maher in the 90s. Not so much anymore.

  17. PaulBC says

    hemidactylus@20 I enjoyed Dennis Miller doing SNL Weekend Update (late 80s just into the 90s), and I don’t think it had anything to do with a change in his politics or a change in my politics. He always had a sarcastic edge and great deadpan timing. When politics began to drive his entire schtick, he just got really tiresome. Anyone who thinks “Neville Chamberlain” is an all-purpose punchline should be prohibited from doing comedy in public.

  18. says

    rorschach @ #10, how do you feel about this? “Bill Maher sounds off on COVID vaccines on Joe Rogan podcast”:

    Real Time host Bill Maher spoke out on the COVID-19 vaccine and big pharma during an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast this week.

    “I don’t trust them to tell me the truth about what they put in there,” Maher said (per the New York Post).

    “Most people are giving us too much credit for where we are medically,” he continued. “My point of view is we are still at the infancy of understanding how the human body works. So don’t tell me things like, ‘Just do what we say, don’t question it. When have we ever been wrong?’ A lot.”

    “All the time!” Rogan chimed.

    Maher also took a swipe at health-care experts saying, “‘We are perfectly certain that this vaccine is safe!’ You don’t f—ing know that!”

    Back in January, Maher said that the COVID-19 pandemic has “just gone on too long, no one cares anymore.”

    “If you are one of those people who didn’t get it at all, you must be very diligent, very careful, and you have no friends,” Maher quipped.

    “It’s ridiculous. I don’t want to live in your paranoid world anymore, your masked paranoid world. It’s silly now. You mask, you have to have a card, you have to have a booster, they scan your head. Like you’re a cashier and I’m a bunch of bananas. I’m not bananas — you are!”

    Maher, who is vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 last spring and admitted that getting the shot “probably” helped him not get sick.

    “Did it help? Probably? I don’t know. We don’t know. Yes, probably. I don’t know,” he said. “You know, most people who got the thing never got very sick. Less than 4% went to the hospital — I know media doesn’t like to talk about that.”

    In an interview with Deadline earlier this year, Maher was also critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been a strong proponent of masking and vaccinations.

    “They drilled mercury into my teeth when I was a child. Now, of course, we don’t do that anymore, but do you really think in 50 years people will look back and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we had it all figured out in 2022’? No, they will be appalled at things we’re doing right now.”….

  19. PaulBC says

    @22 Bill Maher

    “They drilled mercury into my teeth when I was a child. Now, of course, we don’t do that anymore, but do you really think in 50 years people will look back and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we had it all figured out in 2022’? No, they will be appalled at things we’re doing right now.”….

    I have amalgam fillings from childhood. The first time I saw a dentist after a long gap in my 40s, I was surprised that they took a look, said they’re stable and nothing to worry about (and also that they were happy to fill a small cavity in my wisdom teeth rather than yank them all). So two cheers for mercury. I’m not mad as a hatter. At least not so far.

    If the dentist hadn’t put mercury in my teeth back then (over 40 years ago), my teeth would be in much worse shape today than they are now*. Today we have non-amalgam fillings that work well, but I’m not “appalled” that my childhood dentist followed the best practices at the time.

    50 years from now (if people are still around) we’ll know a lot more about viral infections and the immune system. We’ll have a lot more perspective on mRNA vaccines, which may be the new standard, or may be supplanted by something else. Who knows? But nobody looking back would be “appalled” at anyone following the best medical advice of their time. What’s appalling is media figures like Bill Maher spreading disinformation and doubt when people actually need advice from experts. They don’t have to trust it uncritically but dismissing it out of paranoia is much worse.

    *I digress, but my front teeth have been mottled since the second set came in, possibly because I was given tetracycline as an infant. Doctors are more careful with tetracycline today, but less than 30 years before then (in the 60s) I might have died. I’ll take the cosmetic damage to my teeth, thanks. They did their best and probably saved my life. I know from family accounts that I was very ill (from the croup I thought, but now I see that’s usually viral, so maybe this was a different illness).

  20. jenorafeuer says

    I mean, new amalgam fillings are still being done. I had one not too long ago, mostly because the previous two non-amalgam fillings in the same location both cracked and fell back out. Amalgam is more flexible and less brittle than the newer replacements, so in situations where the rest of the tooth is likely to compress around the filling under stress, amalgam is still the best approach.

  21. Dago Red says

    Ive always felt that being both leftist and atheist, there have never been many in society or media with whom I might find common cause. I only see mere dregs to pick from — like Maher and Dawkins. Invariably these dregs wish to be richer, or more famous, or both, and thus their flirtations with the left and/or atheism typically ends mid career. Selling-out is a time honored tradition, and BIll Maher is a prime example of how one might just do that.

  22. PaulBC says

    Dago Red@26 Maher is if anything libertarian, not really leftist in any meaningful sense. This has been true for his entire career.