Funny, But Full of It

Bill Maher is not for everyone. I tried to explain this to my girlfriend’s parents, who are both conservative politically and spiritually. One identifying with the Mormon faith, and the other identifying with the Republican party.

“You either find him hilarious or repulsive,” I said to them from the back of the car as we drove to the Robinson Center Music Hall, in Little Rock, Ark., where Maher was performing for the night.

I didn’t know the guy did stand-up comedy. I thought he was just a professional smart-ass and political pundit with a TV show. I was curious to see what his stand-up routine would be like. I was also a little nervous to see what everyone’s reaction would be like once he started ripping into republicans and religion. Out of everyone in that car, I had the least to lose going to a Bill Maher show. I’m a twenties-something white male from a blue state.

Fortunately, it was too funny for me to even care. As the parents sat tensely in their seat, listening to Maher tear into Mormonism and Mitt Romney, I was barking out laughter. I am truly sorry that I did that, but I couldn’t contain myself. Me and my girlfriend had been visiting her parents for more than a week and Maher’s reckless and rude commentary was just what I needed to relax a little.

However…

Maher is a comedian. Don’t mistake the gray hair and smooth voice for someone truthful. Much of his material is based on misinterpretations of the truth. He frequently distorts, exaggerates and misleads to get his laughs. Maher is damn funny, but much of his humor comes from a liberal elite angle, whereas, if you don’t get his jokes you’re an idiot – or worse, a redneck. This pushes people into accepting his stories and commentary as truth.

For instance, he remarked that happily married Mormon couples get to rule over their own planet in the afterlife. This might be true to a degree, but lacks its context and is incredibly vague.

He also made several remarks about the Republican party “saying” or “doing” some profoundly stupid shit. We get it, Bill. Republicans are stupid. But the party can’t be defined by the words or actions of a few unlikable characters. But anytime a Republican opens their mouth, Maher has something to counter. In the end, it’s the whole party that’s wrong.

I will give him Kudos for dishing out some insults to the Democrats as well, specifically with the president. But it wasn’t enough. There is an obvious sympathy with Democratic Party. Just the way he changes the tone of his voice when talking about President Obama is enough to tell his audience who the good guys are.

I made these mental notes on my way back from the show. I wasn’t so critical while I was there. Ninety-nine percent of the audience really seemed to love his show. I, for one, would pay to see him again. The audience was a good mix of people too. No one seemed under or overrepresented in the theatre. Every mention of marijuana legalization, marriage equality, pro-choice, etc. got big cheers from the crowd. Clearly, a progressive crowd. In the Arkansas Times, Maher had this to say about his audience in red states:

“…there is an extra bit of enthusiasm in these states you’ve mentioned, what they call the red states, because I think it’s more unique for someone like me to be in a state like that and the progressive people who live in those states, I think they find it more of a special event that someone who thinks like them who they don’t usually see comes to their state.”

(Full story here.)

So maybe they were a bit overzealous. But it was also Maher’s first time in Little Rock.

Showing your support for a political idea is fine, even if the facts are a bit distorted. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert aren’t much better. I’d really like to see a comedian who can use accurate political commentary to get laughs. Or maybe that’s what we call good journalism.

 

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