Now available: Bill Maher ... But I'm Not Wrong
Synopsis: The irascible Maher's recent standup performance in Raleigh, N.C., clocks in at well over an hour -- and ends up as one of his strongest HBO specials to date. ---
Rating: 4.5 / 5
How to navigate: Select > On Demand | Premium Channels | HBO On Demand | HBO Specials | Comedy Specials | Bill Maher ... Wrong
Remarks: I like Bill Maher. When he's on, he's really on -- and that's much of the time. Once in a while, however, he does miss the mark. Maybe the reason I take Maher's occasional fumbles so personally is because I know he can do so much better.
For instance, I was pretty irritated with the way Maher seemed to patronize John Waters during the Sept. 25, 2009 ep of Real Time, as if whatever Michael Moore, Eliot Spitzer and Paul Krugman were gossiping about was the real dish, while Waters was expected to simply sit back and tell vaguely dirty jokes.
Granted, among his many talents, Waters is really good at the dirty-joke thing. Still, producers who underestimate the auteur as another lightweight TV queen -- a late-night analog of Richard Simmons -- do so at their peril. Waters is well-read in his bailiwick and he made some astute observations on the Big Issues before Maher somewhat clumsily forced him back into his role as comic leavening agent.
So, OK, that's a grudge I've been holding, and I'm glad to finally get it off my chest. I'm leaving all my bad feelings behind anyway: As far as I'm concerned, Maher's latest HBO special But I'm Not Wrong is a full redemption.
During his nearly 80 minutes onstage, Maher applies that rare intellect to his usual favorite targets: the right wing, hypocrisy, religion, the fucked-up economy. Familiar stuff -- but in a way that is so tightly keyed to the present, he pretty much sums up the state of the nation as it is right now, in February 2010.
And, yeah, the state of the nation is bleak. But somehow Maher leaves us with an odd sense of comfort, confidence and perhaps even tentative optimism. In contrast with the way things were a couple years ago, the possibility of facing our myriad challenges is at least plausible under the Obama administration -- and, despite all the press those doom-and-gloom teabaggers have been getting, don't forget it was they who got us into this mess in the first place.