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Comedian, writer and politically incorrect HBO talk-show host Bill Maher takes time off from his regular hosting duties to perform a hilariously scathing stand-up set in this comedy special. Taped in Boston at the Berklee Performance Center, this special features Maher's acerbic takes on a wide range of social and political issues, including the follies and foibles perpetrated on America by President George W. Bush. Written by
Consistently funny and smart across a strong and effective structure
Over the last year I have gotten into Real Time thanks to HBO making it freely available as a podcast and it has introduced me to Bill Maher. In my limited experience he is flawed as a political commentator because he does tend to jump to extremes at times, losing his audience. Watching his show "Victory Begins at Home" recently he did have the same sort of problem plus he seemed to struggle with being outraged pushing his anger to the point of shouting rather than being smart about it. The Decider is a marked improvement on that show and plays very much on his strength as an intelligent and informed comedian and makes for an very funny and very smart hour.
It is a very minor niggle that some of this material he has already done in Real Time, so it is not all new but this is easily covered by the constant flow and really good structure it has. Maher covers a lot of ground but he never breaks his stride and never has a "anyway" style moment where he moves to another topic. In this way his delivery is good but the material itself is also very sharp and funny. He does take the easy targets of course (and there are plenty to be had in the current administration) but he also has lots of detail and illustrations to make his point, informing his audience and reminding us of the failings, not just taking pot shots.
He does still have his faults as a commentator though and personally I found his jokes about paedophilia in poor taste and poor judgement. Yes it is funny but, as with Real Time, there are not always double standards and his opinion is more informed by (a) the belief that boys cannot be sexual taken advantage of by a woman because all they want is sex and (b) a need to shock at some point. This is another minor quibble though because otherwise he is on point for the whole show. Of course those on the political right should just ignore it but I'm pretty sure that goes without saying. Surprisingly camp on stage as well but that is not a complaint, just something that surprised me about him.
The Decider will not play well to those that disagree with it but this is not a problem as it is very unlikely that generational Republican voters in Kentucky will be rushing home to catch a Bill Maher special on HBO. To the supporter though, this will be a great show. Maher pulls in his anger to something more like amazement at the world he lives in and produces smart insights and jokes consistently across a well structured show.
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