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Real Time with Bill Maher 

Comedian and political satirist Bill Maher discusses topical events with guests from various backgrounds.
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Friday, November 17
S15.E35 Episode #15.35
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[HBO] HD. Guests: Bill McKibben, Chelsea Handler, Carl Bernstein, Max Brooks, Rebecca Traister.


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Nominated for 20 Primetime Emmys. Another 2 wins & 38 nominations. See more awards »
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Comedian and political satirist Bill Maher discusses topical events with guests from various backgrounds.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He does ask. He does tell. (season 9) See more »

Genres:

Comedy | News | Talk-Show

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TV-MA
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Release Date:

21 February 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Real Time with Bill Maher: Electile Dysfunction '08  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

An episode scheduled for November 9, 2007 was canceled due to the 2007 Writers Strike. The scheduled guests were Ben Affleck, George Carlin, and Tom Brokaw. See more »

Quotes

Al Franken: I love this "culture of life" stuff that comes out of the Christian right. But do you hear anything about the genocide that's going on in Darfur?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Episode #21.216 (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Bill Maher is back and better than ever. Even fans of "PI" may find the off-the-leash Maher too strong, raw and abrasive.
15 October 2006 | by See all my reviews

Network: HBO; Genre: News Analysis, Comedy; Content Rating: TV-MA (profanity, sexual humor); Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);

Seasons Reviewed: Series

As a more conservative-minded person (70% of the IMDb readers just skipped to another review) I've always found Bill Maher to be a social guilty pleasure and an intellectual workout. The late-night roundtable series "Politically Incorrect" was network TV's first and last introduction to the silver-tongued comedian, not to mention a regular time-slot favorite of mine. Whether telling us that pregnancy isn't "sexy" or that all Christians are brainwashed bigots, Maher is a true original who challenges the audience and their safe notions that the First Amendment only protects speech that they like. I say this because HBO's "Real Time" is so free; your likeness of it will directly relate to how much you like Maher and, in a time when everybody wants to listen to ideological parrots, your likeness of him may relate to your own politics.

I defended Maher on his supposedly controversial post-9/11 comments on "PI", though in retrospect being kicked off ABC and onto HBO was the best thing that could have happened to Maher. "Real Time" allows Maher to be his clever, acerbic and deeply iconoclastic best. It is a fully open venue to speak his mind, shape it into riotous laughs and rip into the hot button issues of the week, his own annoyances and his own personal enemies without commercials to break the momentum and network TV channel changers flipping by and catching his comments out of context. Even fans of "PI" might find a now off-the-leash Maher too strong, raw or abrasive.

It all works like dynamite because the guy is funnier, smarter and a better interviewer than Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and David Letterman combined. He really asks the tough questions and pins down the guest to answer them. In the final New Rules segment Maher's rapid-fire wit is shown to be in top form. At any point, his off-the-cuff improvisations are laugh-out-loud funny. He's also more out in the open about his angry liberalism than Letterman (I'm afraid Letterman is really going to explode one day). From one angle you could say that its anger holds it back from really reaching the comic heavens. Maher hates President George W. Bush and the way he twists every joke back to the "Bush is an Idiot" punch-line becomes repetitive and tiresome. The show has a one-track mind. Bush and the Republicans only get a brief break when Maher goes after the ding-bat celebrity of the moment.

The really accented problem with "Real Time" is the audience. For one of TV's smartest infotainment shows it has TV's dumbest audience. Listen as they clap and cheer at the mention of faile US foreign policy or soldiers who come back from war missing limbs in a twisted backward celebration of something they think legitimizes their view. You have to admire anybody remotely conservative who braves this lion's den, gets the back of their ears flicked all night by Maher and the 2 other guests ganging up on them and still maintains their composure. Often the show gets me heated and occasionally Maher's jokes even go off the edge and into tacky, but that is the razor's edge of iconoclastic comedy. It doesn't work if someone isn't offended. A knee-jerk reaction would be to wish that Maher balance it out, but that would be disingenuous wouldn't it? That wouldn't be Bill Maher.

"Real Time" is a red-hot ideological spit wad show. Nobody is able to or given the time on TV to lay out a linear-logical liberal case the way that Maher can on this show. Conversley, the arguments many of the guests are making feel either insightful or clueless and circle, which is another reason the show is such an addicting watch. Conservatives should be listening to Maher the way liberals should be listening to Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. There is also something special about it, tucked away on HBO. "Real Time" is like looking through the keyhole and in on a private New York cocktail party where politicians, pundits, actors, salon.com writers, musicians and other pseudo-intellectuals get together, sit around, complain about middle America, pontificate about the world going to hell, pretend that Maureen Dowd is funny and generally pat themselves on the back making themselves feel like geniuses and think their rants are accomplishing something - except on "Real Time" there is probably more smiling and laughing.

Freedom, baby, freedom. To debate and freedom to be heard in your entirety. "Real Time" is the greatest testament to it on American television. A work that becomes great because HBO (a network that craps quality) simply lets the inmates run the asylum. This is an addictive hour of TV that I only wish it was on more regularly. It is great to have Bill Maher back and better than ever. Unequivically, this show is awesome.

* * * * / 4


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