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... See full summary »
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The difference between Maher and Carlin: Carlin got even better with time.
I used to like Maher's stand-up, but this show is clear proof that he lost his edge. It's difficult to diagnose exactly what has changed --- on the face of it, it's still pretty much the same basic kind of material, poking much-deserved fun at the bigotry and absurdity of American public life.
The wife says that he has gotten lazy, and there seems to be evidence of that: his jokes frequently lack punch and timing, and the flow of his monologue often seems contrived and unrehearsed.
It is not only that, however. For me, the most tedious bits were those that clearly formed part of a dialog between Maher and whoever he perceives as addressing him --- the political right, a hostile part of his audience, Palin, the tea-baggers. Maher clearly sees himself as being engaged in a debate, he is involved in a discourse, he feels that he needs to make a point on behalf of whatever cause he has adopted as his own, and he visibly wants to convince his audience, instead of entertaining them. For a comedian to get away with that, he would need to be better informed, wiser, more detached, and a better orator than Maher is. Jon Stewart can pull it off on his better days, and of course Carlin could.
Yet Maher is no Carlin. While that acerbic curmudgeon got better and tougher with age, Maher gets more preachy and involved. Perhaps he is a victim of is own success --- the publicity he achieved with the rants he published in various ways (stand-up, TV show, book, movie) caused him to take himself and his rants too seriously, and to see himself as a bona fide party in a debate when he should really be the clown that points out and accentuates the funny and crazy bits from the sideline. To be funny, he needs to rise above the fray, instead of involving himself in it. He is a pretty decent comedian (as evidenced in the better segments of this show), but he is a failure when it comes to lecturing on serious matters.
As it turns out, the title of the show is an omen to what is fundamentally the problem with it: it is about Maher being right (or at least "not wrong") about whatever it is he cares to be right about, rather than simply being funny, which obviously is no longer enough for Maher. Watch "I'm Swiss" instead.
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