Bill Maher, Bring Your Show to Israel — You Have a Lot to Learn

The ‘Real Time’ host is still king when it comes to skewering Trump and his own beloved Democratic Party, but clearly needs some help when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict

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Screengrab from "Real Time with Bill Maher," March 15, 2019
Screengrab from "Real Time with Bill Maher," March 15, 2019Credit:
Adrian Hennigan
Adrian Hennigan

Along with Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher remains American television’s best line of comedy defense against President Donald Trump. Long before the White House became the House of Orange, the “Real Time” host was waging a one-man war against the businessman who once slapped a $5 million lawsuit on him for claiming his father was an orangutan.

Sure, Maher is flubbing more and more of his one-liners these days — I blame the pot for that. He was tripped up in his latest monologue, for example, by a line about the beauty vlogger daughter of Lori Loughlin: “I think I saw her by the overpass. She had a sign saying ‘Will offer lip gloss tips for food,’” he struggled to say.

But Trump, of course, is the comedy gift that keeps on giving, so even if you mess up a gag about him, there will be another golden opportunity in a minute. Maher’s most recent Trump skit, for instance, turned the president’s rambling two-hour CPAC speech into a fake ad for a commemorative DVD (“Buy now and Mexico will pay for it!” it proclaimed).

Then there’s that southern barrier, a gag that has been running so long it almost rivals the Great Wall of China for length. My favorite Maher take on it came in February 2018, during a “New Rules” segment called “They Call Me Mr. Fibbs.” In it, Maher outlined all of the lies the president had told about the wall, telling Republicans: “Just admit that you got conned when you actually thought that Blob the Builder was going to erect the Eighth Wonder of the World for free.”

He has also mercilessly skewered the Trump family, including Jared Kushner – or as Maher described him in November 2017, “The man Donald Trump trusts so much, he lets him take out his girlfriend” (cue picture of Ivanka Trump).

That all coalesced into comedy gold with a brilliant September 2017 segment in which Maher used the corkboard trope beloved by crime shows to tie together all of the Russian collusion strands involving the Trump family (including “Fat Donnie” Trump, “Donny Douchebag” Trump Jr., Eric “Short Bus” Trump and Jared “The Jew” Kushner, aka “Jared Fuckface”).

All of this is pretty low-hanging fruit, though, and Maher is at his best when he attacks his own side – the Democratic Party to which he himself donated $1 million last August ahead of the midterms.

Last week’s monologue focused on the Rep. Ilhan Omar affair, in which he castigated the party for arguing among themselves while Trump was running amok elsewhere. “Only Democrats could snatch the issue of anti-Semitism away from Republicans,” Maher joked. “In fact, Congressman Steve King — you know him, of Iowa? — said, ‘Wait, I thought we were the Jew-haters?’”

He topped that this week, slamming the party for refusing to let Fox News host a Democratic presidential debate next year.

“You don’t like the questions that Fox News might ask, so you’re deciding not to take any questions at all? How very Trump of you!” he said. “Look, we all know Fox News sucks. It’s ruined Facebook and Thanksgiving, and turned your grandpa into a dick! He’s crabby now and he only leaves the house once every four years — but unfortunately, it’s to vote. You have to get inside the bubble.

“You call yourself the resistance?” asked Maher. “Then fight behind enemy lines, that’s what a resistance does — that’s the difference between blowing up a tank and tweeting about it. Get out of your echo chamber and infiltrate theirs.

“Jesus, Democrats, they’re like Mormons if Mormons only proselytized in Utah! But Mormons for 100 years have gone all over the world with one goal: To spread their faith to people who don’t want it!

“So what if Fox News is fixed? Life is fixed,” he concluded. “You want a fair shake? Go get a massage with Robert Kraft!”

Attacking American politics remains meat and drink to Maher, 63, whose show is now in its 17th season on HBO. But I’m still perplexed over something he said on his March 8 edition.

During a roundtable discussion on the anti-Semitism scandal surrounding Rep. Omar, Maher said he would love it if she came on “Real Time” as a guest. “She and I would agree on very little on Israel and Palestine. We would agree that Palestinians are victims,” he said, before outlining where they would disagree: The Palestinians were not victims of Israel but of “other Palestinians, unfortunately,” he declared.

That comment, which sounded more like Maher channeling Donald Trump or Benjamin Netanyahu than a serious statement on the Mideast conflict, went unchallenged by his panel — but was challenged aplenty on Twitter.

Which brings me to my idea on how the “Real Time” host can stop making such blinkered, unnuanced statements about the situation here.

Last year, he hosted a live one-off special from Oklahoma. Well, Israel has got plenty of rednecks and cowboys, too — heck, we’re even electing ours into the Knesset. How about Maher recording a live special from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem? Or Ramallah? This one-hour special could focus solely on Israel and Palestine. After all, whenever he and his panel do discuss the topic, it’s often said with regret that while they could spend all evening discussing it, they must get on with the rest of the show — so here’s that chance.

To make it even easier, I’ve even drawn up a guest list of who Maher should bring with him. (I’m just going to assume that far-right Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin, with his pot-legalizing, crackpot Zehut party, is already a shoo-in for an invitation.)

Why not bring some progressive Democrats with you, Bill? I recommend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders — or as I prefer to call them, AOC and AOL (the former might be itching for a roots trip, anyway, and Bernie can revisit that mysterious kibbutz no one can quite work out where he once volunteered).

Obviously, given her pro-BDS stance, there is no way Ilhan Omar would make it past security at Tel Aviv airport, so you should probably interview her back in Los Angeles for a special segment on the show.

Oh, and bring your favorite conservative, Ann Coulter, over. Not necessarily to include her on the show, you understand — it’s just that, reading her tweets and growing disillusionment with Trump, I get the sense she might feel more at home with Bibi and friends here in Israel. In fact, tell her she can probably get a great deal at an Airbnb settlement in the West Bank.

Finally, if you bring Sen. Ted Cruz over, we can arrange a special tour of a Hamas tunnel in the Gaza area, like Sen. Lindsey Graham got last week. Just tell him that nothing plays better with the GOP base than light at the end of a foreign terror tunnel.

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