By Guest Contributor Joseph, originally posted at VS. THE POMEGRANATE
I have a love/hate relationship with Bill Maher because I think he represents both the best and worst aspects of the newest generation of political comedians. During the bleakest hours of the Bush administration Maher was often a welcome voice crying in the wilderness about any number of conservative excesses. But just as often Maher goes for the easy joke at the expense of politics. His attitudes toward women are legendarily bad (although, to be fair he is generally more respectful of his female guests than, say, Charlie Rose, who never met a woman he didn’t interrupt mid-sentence). In general Maher is pretty shitty on Arabs and Muslims too, regularly parroting the same centuries-old Orientalist/Islamophobic scenarios as any Fox talking head. His anti-religion schtick in particular is (as with Hitchens and Dawkins) dependent on an almost pathological Islamophobia about which he refuses to be dissuaded. So, you know, I watch Real Time with the side-eye at the ready.
It is always interesting to see how Maher’s guests deal with Real Time’s trap-door dynamic: One second you may be making your way through a serious conversation about the economy and the next the floor gives way and you have landed on a pile of dick jokes designed to allow Maher to remind himself (and you) that he is really in charge here. It is, with very few exceptions, always especially painful for me to see actors try to keep up… it’s like watching a dog walk on two legs. A recent Real Time appearance by Kerry Washington, whose points about the Obama administration were almost entirely overshadowed by her crazy-eyes, is a sad example of this.