This week's Real Time with Bill Maher featured the professional contrarian in full-blown cranky mode.
The Monologue: The Two Faces of Maher
Maher's split comedic personality -- the sophisticated satire of a Mort Sahl versus the simple-minded stereotypes of a Don Rickles -- was on full display. Maher deftly demolished Republicans who criticize Barack Obama for "politicizing" the killing of Osama bin Laden ("How dare he run for president using his accomplishments as president!"). But for the incredible story of the blind Chinese dissident now coming to America, Maher had nothing more to offer than the extraordinarily lame "We already have too many blind Chinese on the 405." Gee, Bill, how did you pass up a joke about fortune cookies?
The Interview: Arsenio Remembers The Riots
Twenty years after the Rodney King case led to an outbreak of racially charged violence in Los Angeles, Maher brought on talk show icon Arsenio Hall to talk about that moment in history. Hall recalled seeing smoke rising from the riots as he went to his studio, as well as his personal meetings with victims and heroes. The result was genuinely moving -- not a quality usually associated with Real Time.
The Panel: Keeping It Real
This week's mix of TV liberal Ed Schultz, GOP strategist Susan Del Percio, and professor Lawrence Wilkerson made for a tepid troika. Topics ranged from "Is Obama a radical leftist?" as Newt Gingrich suggested, to "Is Newt Gingrich a fat, cackling criminal?" as Bill Maher suggested. The panelists were upstaged by a parody political ad from "Real Republican Real Women of Real America" (including Kate Beckinsdale) extolling anti-abortion laws ("What about my right to choose to not have a choice?")
New Rules: Charity begins at Church?
Maher used his signature segment to criticize the soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee for his definition of charity. ("If Mitt Romney gave 10 percent of his income to the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, I would be the first to say 'Good robot.' But he gives it to the Mormon church, which spent millions here in California in a political battle to make sure the only gay at a wedding is the priest who performs the ceremony.") Religious leaders regularly question every religion except their own. Maher simply does the same thing with NO exceptions.
"I personally define a cult as any religion with fewer followers than Snooki has on Twitter."
-- Maher on Mormonism
"Anybody who has the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against him isn't long for the White House."
-- Michael Moore in a clip from 2003 (part of Real Time's observance of its 10th anniversary
"Even his Etch-A-Sketch went, 'Seriously?'"
-- Maher on Romney's shifting position on getting bin Laden
"The movie is about a guy who's got a brain tumor. It gets funnier."
-- Comedian/director Bob Goldthwait plugging his new film
"If [George Bush] had gotten bin Laden, he would have spent his whole second term in a Batman costume."
-- Maher on "dancing in the end zone"