Is it a Good Friday without a new episode of Real Time with Bill Maher? What if HBO aired an hour of just Maher in its place? Would that be something you’d be interested in?
The Gist: This is Maher’s 12th stand-up special for HBO since 1989, and his weekly live panel show, Real Time, has aired for almost two decades. HBO made space for him 20 years ago after ABC cancelled his late-night talker for them for being a bit too Politically Incorrect.
Which means “cancel culture” can’t be real, can it?
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: If you watch Real Time, then this is like revisiting many of his monologues from recent years. If you don’t watch that, then just picture an old man yelling at a cloud.
Memorable Jokes: To show you where his head’s at, Maher specifically flew to Florida to film this hour in Miami, not because the audiences were smarter there, but because he wouldn’t have to put up with any pandemic protocols. “Still? That’s why I came to Florida. To get away from that shit.”
He’s fully in the camp of “can’t we just take our victory and go home?” and makes a series of jokes mocking anyone taking it too seriously, mostly with faulty premises.
He’s also fully a never-Trumper, with jokes about how President Biden at least doesn’t make him swear at his phone first thing every morning, and later, tearing into the woman who accused Biden of sexual misconduct during the 2020 campaign. On a related note to that, Maher also vigorously defends Aziz Ansari from his #MeToo moment of several years ago now? Speaking of not-topical material, Maher still finds his nourishment in the low-hanging fruit of Rudy Giuliani and Trump and their boorish behavior. There are plenty of clapter lines here, even some that surprise Maher.
Religion. Pot-smoking. He returns to those topics again, as he has throughout his career.
As for the title (#adulting), Maher makes fun of Gen Z for going public with how pleased they are at doing basic grown-up chores, but at 66 himself, he’s still getting too high sometimes to function, and yes, he’s going to recount that just as gleefully for his closer.
Our Take: Maher wants to put young people in their place by reminding them that some day, they’ll be considered closed-minded or wrong. “Every generation is the what were you thinking generation,” he says. “You’re not better. you just came later.”
So where is his mockery for his own generation, the Baby Boomers? Instead, he’s so concerned with progress going overboard in becoming “this bullshit about always revisiting the past,” that he picks unfunny over-exaggerations to make his points, and even false claims about the way things actually used to be. To be fair, Maher still slings a few zingers and solid points here and there, but everywhere in between is full of his own b.s. and selfish political philosophy. Because his centrism or libertarianism or whatever he’s claiming to be in 2022 is based on him being a wealthy white man, so unconcerned by getting by that he has the privilege of focusing all of his attention on frivolous headlines.
Which could be funny, if he made himself the butt of the joke. But that’s never been his game. Maher wants to feel like he’s the smartest person in the room, and he buys into that instead. Because if he believed his own argument, he’d know that the younger generations know better than him. If we’re the iPhone 11 (even that point of his is outdated), then he’s still a landline.
He almost gets there, saying: “Trust me folks, I haven’t changed. I really haven’t. I’m still the same pot-smoking, childless unmarried libertine I always was.” The audience applauds him for it. “I have many flaws, but you cannot accuse me of maturing.”
Our Call: SKIP IT. Unless you already enjoy and look forward to new episodes of Real Time, this hour won’t make you feel any better about how the Baby Boomers won’t give up their hold on power or shut up about how things have changed.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.