Sunday, August 01, 2004

Bill Maher: Back for More (

Bill Maher: Back for More: "Obviously the main difference between HBO's 'Real Time With Bill Maher' and TV's other topical talk shows -- serious, funny or both -- is Bill Maher. Of all the comic commentators, Maher is the gutsiest, boldest and least inhibited. And yet he avoids the cheap exhibitionism of the professional provocateurs who run rampant and riot on cable networks and talk radio stations.

On Maher's show, the wit is wittier, the barbs are barbier and the devil take the hindmost. In fact the devil once did take Maher's hindmost, in a way. ABC fired him and canceled his show 'Politically Incorrect,' predecessor to 'Real Time,' after Maher made remarks about the 9/11 terrorists that some people considered offensive.

The remarks were unwise and are best forgotten. But the good thing is, the experience hasn't tamed or intimidated Maher. Some people will always consider something offensive. It's a mark of distinction that Maher and 'Real Time' probably irk and irritate as many viewers as any other show on television. But it's responsible irking. It's irritation that often contains illumination. And Maher can be proud of that.

On Friday's season premiere of "Real Time," not all the highlights were verbal. Late in the show, Maher joined guest Michael Moore ("Fahrenheit 9/11") on the studio floor so they could both beg Ralph Nader, on their knees, not to run again. Nader just grinned that evil grin of his. Okay, not evil -- but increasingly annoying.

"The first time, I never blamed Ralph for Bush winning, though I know a lot of people did," Maher says. "But this time, everybody I know who voted for Ralph last time is not going to vote for him this time. We all got a little reality slapped into us by George W. Bush. I regret that vote now. I see it as a bratty thing to have done."

By Tom Shales
Washington Post Staff Writer


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