[1 May 2014]
Satirist Bill Maher spent 100 minutes lauding many of President Obama’s political achievements whilst mocking and mercilessly decrying the GOP, more precisely its Tea Party faction. And religion, of course, was the butt of several jokes. The lively, packed Midland audience gave Maher a standing ovation as soon as he hit the stage, and Maher politely reciprocated, as he proclaimed he especially loves to perform in Kansas City. Doubtless, Bill Maher’s stand-up concert was mordant, hard-hitting, and spectacular, and yes, subsequent to the dreadful—but comic gold—Bush years.
On religion, Maher said the Bible was merely a book of Jewish fairy tales, and that science and religion were not reconcilable because science requires evidence, logic, and verification. But Maher was particularly cogent when he argued that religion proffers “perks”: heaven, immortality. Maher acceded that he fears death, and he intimated that religion plays upon this basic human trait. Mormons, Maher alleged, get their own planet whereas Muslims get straight to the point with 72 virgins. As to Pope Francis, Maher surprisingly claimed that he likes him because Maher thinks he’s an atheist. Maher cited the Pope’s statements on atheism and homosexuality. Maher may be wrong insofar as he confused style and tone with actual principle and doctrine. The Pope has not amended one bit of official doctrine. He simply attempted to change the subject or focus. Maher ridiculed Eastern beliefs, too.
Maher nearly delivered a full-on apologia with respect to the Obama administration. He bragged about the neutralization of bin Laden and the success of the ACA, though Maher preferred the public option. He praised the public for Obama’s re-election, and opined that Obama was right for the job because a large part of government involves dealing with stupid white people. Furthermore, Maher dismissed two so-called scandals: Benghazi was a tragedy, not a conspiracy, and the IRS was justified in its actions. Notably, Maher was silent on the Edward Snowden affair, drone strikes, and official climate and environmental policy. Maher, for instance, ostensibly agrees with Obama’s covert actions: “Now, Obama may still order a wiretap, or a rendition, or an extrajudicial killing, but at least you know he feels bad about it” (Vanity Fair, Oct. 2013). However, the Obama administration promised to be transparent and friendly to whistleblowers, and Maher must be aware that there isn’t an official climate policy. Maher did rant about the concept of empire, and particularly, the number of U.S. troops abroad and the bloated defense budget.
In contrast, the Tea Party was fitting comedic fodder for Maher. He alleged that most Tea Party figures were bona fide racists and “drama queens”. Maher’s example: the irresponsible GOP reaction to Obama’s use of executive orders in which some GOP members said that Obama had declared himself king. Maher, too, cited plainly fatuous and ahistorical lines from prominent right-wing figures. For example, Michele Bachmann had professed that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery. The audience reacted with raucous laughter and applause. Also, Maher quipped that Sarah Palin, former VP candidate, didn’t even know when the American Revolution took place, adding that even school children know this year and there’s a musical named 1776. Maher excised a memorable reference to Palin that he made in Las Vegas during a brief 80-minute show late last year, namely “illiterate forest creature”. But Newt Gingrich, Ted Nugent, and Donald Trump received slightly more acerbic and caustic treatment. Maher assailed Gingrich for his astonishing lack of personal moral clarity and for unsubtly referring to President Obama as the “Food Stamp President”. As to Nugent, who previously claimed that if Obama were re-elected Nugent would be “dead or in jail”, Maher joked that this would be a win-win. An obvious missed opportunity, Maher failed to burlesque Nugent’s obtuse “subhuman mongrel” comment. And Maher lampooned Trump for his birther conspiracy theory-mongering by adopting a snotty Queens accent and asking for “college records”.
In Kansas City, Bill Maher’s brand of incisive, penetrating stand-up demonstrated that he is one of America’s finest comedians.