Here's what drives me crazy about Bill Maher and his Real Time show:
The guy couldn't do an interesting interview if his life depended on it.
And it regularly drags down what is otherwise a consistently interesting show.
Okay, I take that back: On his special edition last Friday, Maher had Bill Moyers as his guest for a half-hour. Seemingly transformed by having a great journalist on, Maher actually asked cogent questions. It was compelling, informative TV.
To get to the Moyers' interview, however, you had to sit through Maher's half-hour with Jay-Z -- a debacle in which Maher acted like a tongue-tied fanboy, quoting lines from Jay-Z raps to his hero, without actually asking questions. Or asking questions that were meant to be straight lines for Jay-Z quips -- which is Maher's usual M.O.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of Maher's. I admired (and laughed at) his audacious movie, Religulous. I think his stand-up is smart and perceptive. And I enjoy his contrarian spirit and highly attuned bullshit meter on Real Time and its predecessor, Politically Incorrect.
But if Maher's going to have high-powered guests on to discuss complicated issues, then he should have his producers write him some actual questions. Or get someone who knows how to ask questions for a living to write them. I'm available, if they're stumped.
Because when Maher has five minutes of airtime with a heavy-hitter like former FDA head David Kessler or TARP overseer Elizabeth Warren or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, why waste it with the kind of banal chitchat that Maher usually falls into? Maher's approach is either to be the fawning admirer or the in-the-know peer -- but, in either case, he rarely asks a question that actually evokes a thought-provoking answer -- or asks a question at all.
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