CHICAGO — Closing out the final night of the Just For Laughs festival in Chicago, Bill Maher delivered a characteristic round of hyper-liberal comedy and vivid pop culture warfare. Commenting on everything from assisted suicide to NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, from Mormons and masturbation to Popes, pot, and Peggy Noonan, Maher’s set contained little material that hadn’t already been delivered in stand-up specials and his HBO show (one joke I even recognized from a 1999 episode of Politically Incorrect.) The crowd loved it, though, getting a uncut partisan fix from his evangelistic hatred of the GOP: “I feel sorry for republicans,” he said early in the night, “they seem to have the same problem as The Beach Boys: Their fans are dying.”
Feeling that Obama has been unfairly tied to the scandals currently surrounding his administration, Maher devoted large sections of the first half-hour to unbridled praise of our commander in chief, the women sitting next to me nodding rhythmically and shouting “that’s right!” like we were in a Pentecostal church service. “Apparently that whole ‘once you go black you never go back’ thing is true!” Maher said, before putting on his go-to accent for ignorant rednecks with “‘what if the coloreds end up good at presidentin’?’ I think the coloreds is good at presidentin’ and I think I know why: when you grow up in white America, you have to be patient with stupid white people. Obama is the Jackie Robinson of American politics, he never loses his cool, it’s like watching a really good special ed teacher. . . . The Republicans were never afraid of Big Brother, until we elected a big brother.”
This last line was a huge hit with the crowd, leading to an extended applause that allowed many in the audience to slowly connect the dots and get the joke. I had laughed at this joke 48 hours earlier when I heard it on Real Time, so it really didn’t do much for me Sunday night. This is the problem with over-saturating yourself with pop culture and then attempting to enjoy the show like everyone else: suddenly nothing is new, and it’s no longer designed for you.
After trudging through a long commentary on the 2012 election (honestly, can it still be considered topical humor almost a year later?), we did manage to squeeze some new material out of Maher.
“Religions are ultimately selling the idea that ‘we have the best heaven.’ The Mormons believe that if you have a good marriage here on earth, after you die you and your wife get to rule over your own planet. I like The Muslims, they get right to the point with heaven: ‘You get pussy.’ 72 virgins! Though I suppose if I ruled over my own planet I could get all the pussy I wanted. Oh wait, the old battle-axe will be with me. . . . I think in 100 years America will be a majority-Mormon country. It’s a stupid religion, and a stupid country — they were made for each other. The rest of the country is going to love it: In Mormonism, Jesus is an American. This gets rid of the image that Jesus was some swarthy Jew from the Mid-East. This isn’t what Americans think of when they picture Jesus. You know what they picture when they think of Jesus? The Bee Gees.”