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Posted on Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:44 a.m.

Bill Maher gets political (surprise!) with capacity crowd at the Michigan Theater

By Jenn McKee


Bill Maher publicity photo

One of the first things out of comedian Bill Maher’s mouth on Saturday night, when he appeared (introduced only by his television show’s theme music) in front of an enthusiastic, sold-out audience at the Michigan Theater, was, “I don’t want trouble. I don’t want to get political.”

The line got a big laugh, naturally, since the prospect of watching Maher - host of HBO’s leftist, current events talk/comedy show, “Real Time with Bill Maher" - get political live is precisely what motivated the eclectic crowd to purchase tickets in the first place.

Like all artists who use politics as fodder, Maher is often accused of preaching to the choir - by way of his snarky, blunt, and unapologetically liberal brand of comedy. But Maher proved Saturday just how affecting and polished a preacher he can be.

Of course, comparing Maher to a preacher is ironic, given his harsh critique of all religions (which played a secondary role to politics in Saturday evening’s 90 minute set). Indeed, late in the show, Maher pulled numerous quotes from “The Purpose Driven Life,” adding commentary along the way (“Is this really how God talks? Like a sarcastic office manager?”) and wondered how believers could speak with such certainty about the afterlife and eternity (“I saw ‘Inception,’ so I know what (eternity) feels like”).

But politics, and the various issues that occupy both parties (gun control, gay marriage, don’t ask don’t tell, foreign policy, etc.), generally dominated the show and provided the biggest laughs. For instance, early on, Maher - dressed casually in a dark blue t-shirt and black pants - referenced how Democrats lost power and Congressional seats to Republicans last fall, after getting only two years to fix problems inherited from Bush’s Republican administration. “It’s like somebody going, ‘I’m not really that happy with our babysitter. Tonight, let’s just leave the kids on the road.”

Not that Maher lacked cutting remarks about Democrats. Regarding John Edwards’ sex tape with his mistress, who was six months pregnant when the video was made, Maher said, "He's a master politician. He knows everyone wants to see a politician kiss a baby.” And Maher argued that Obama should stop trying to make everyone like him: “They’re already scared of you. Give them something to be scared about. Grow the hair out. … Do the State of the Union in a purple suit with 20 buttons down the front. … Take Matt Lauer on a tour of the Lincoln Bedroom and say, ‘That’s where I make my babies at!’”

Meanwhile, referencing the role that the government recently played in helping to revive the American auto industry, Maher questioned the wisdom of one car company’s merger with a certain Italian company, suggesting this slogan: “Chrysler-Fiat: It’s supposed to make that noise!”

And although Maher's set ended with more of a whimper than a bang - topics like marriage and Cialis inevitably feel more comedically generic - the show was clearly a big hit with the audience overall, bringing them to their feet at the close.

Here are a few quotes that earned the crowd's appreciation:

- “We don’t all love guns equally. When I hear the words ‘armed compound,’ I don’t think, ‘Yeah, probably bipartisan.’”

- Regarding the idea that we’d all be safer if everyone carried guns: “That’s what will protect our children: amateur crossfire.”

- On those who believe global warming is a hoax and say: “’Come on, folks, It snowed last winter.’ Seriously, this is their argument. This is like saying, ‘The sun isn’t real, because last night, it got dark.’”

- Maher noted that he’d stop referring to the Tea Party by its derogatory nickname “when they stop calling (the new health care legislation) Obamacare.”

- “In social mobility, we are 10th. Now, social mobility means the ability of one generation to do better than the one that spawned it, otherwise known as the American Dream. We are 10th in the American Dream. That’s like Mexico being 10th in the Mexican hat dance.”

- “You hear Tea (Partiers) like Rand Paul says things like, ‘I would’ve marched with Dr. King.’ Well first of all, you don’t get points for what you would’ve done in your imagination. I would’ve helped Jesus escape.”

- “If (Tea Partiers) were sincere about their big issue, I’d be with them, because we do have too much debt. I mean the deficit this year … is $1.6 trillion. You know how much money that is? Take the value of your home and add $1.6 trillion.”

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.



Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

It was a fantastic show. The only drawbacks were with people getting in and out of their seats for drinks. Distracting. And we had a woman somewhere behind us who kept throwing out her affirmations. "Yes, that's right." I paid to listen to Bill not her. Annoying.

Moscow On The Huron

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

I've seen this for at least 20 years now, going back to a show I attended at the Fox in Detroit. When alcohol is served during a live event, there is a constant, distracting stream of people up and down the aisles.

David Briegel

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

We had a fun evening watching Bill's timely and funny show. We had great seats and the crowd really got into the mood of the evening. He's not really just a leftist since many of his positions are Libertarian. I think I would just classify him as irreverent.

Jenn McKee

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

Maher certainly classifies himself as a Libertarian, and that certainly seems in line with his views; but he's also commonly lumped together with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as comedians who give voice to the feelings/values of left-leaning progressives, who seem to compose the core of Maher's fan base.