posted by Chad on 6/29/02
“We have had the bitter and the sweet, I have taken the good with the bad, I’ve had death threats and marriage proposals, and I’ve even had guests that swore there was a difference. And in the end I have just one question. How come I’m cancelled and bin Laden is still on Al Jazeera?”
- Bill Maher, the last lines of his final opening monologue.
Bill Maher’s final episode of Politically Incorrect has now been aired on ABC, the end of a nine-year two-network run which never held a punch. And when a show discussing and debating the issues is needed most, he has become yet another victim of September 11th.
Comedy is all about timing. On September 17th, the first episode of Politically Incorrect to air after the day all of our lives changed (at least temporarily), a conservative guest on the show called the terrorists who destroyed the twin towers “cowards.” Maher rolled his eyes and retorted in his own classic style, not mincing words when it comes debunking stupid comments, confronting the issue instead of playing public opinion. “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly.'' Patriotism was at levels not thought possible in what had become an age of apathy, and while the viewers stayed despite the comment (after all, a comment like that was something regular viewers tuned in to hear), corporate sponsors bailed like Stone Cold’s wife the second he left the WWF… er, WWE. While the show’s longevity of nine years made it old enough to be hit on by a priest, it hadn’t quite reached the age where R. Kelly could piss on it.
If you watched Politically Incorrect’s last episode Friday, you would have known that I stole that line from Maher. Unlike the mainstay of late television, Politically Incorrect wasn’t a contrived “interview” where A-List celebrities shill their latest cinematic trash. There were no ego inflated stars telling stories of something really funny that happened to them and their inflated boobs while vacationing in Hawaii… or wait, was it Florida? No no no, England! It’s so hard to keep it straight cuz all those places look SOO alike!! And thankfully, Politically Incorrect offered an alternative to the daytime garbage television that is repeated at midnight, because God forbid we miss the Jerry Springer story of the 500 pound twin sisters that also happen to be lesbian lovers. Or Ricki Lake’s “DING-DONG OH MY GOD WHO COULD THAT BE” guests and the mom-makeovers OMG WAHT X-SITEEMINT!!1~ Tarantino said that nobody has more respect in the black community than Ricki Lake and himself, and ain’t that the truth you “ungrateful, peanut-head niggers?”
I remember the first time I saw Politically Incorrect. I was doing that whole “the world just doesn’t understand me” typical teenage bullshit, and finally, there was a televised program hosted by a guy that just seemed to get it, Bill Maher. Possessing a great amount of common sense and even greater wit, his show centered on the clashing opinions of four guests and was brought along with Maher’s sharp-tongue. Discussions ventured into topics and viewpoints that are generally ignored or completely slanted in much of the mainstream media – I originally thought Politically Incorrect was a special, not a regular program. “The original idea of this show was me sitting around with my friends,” says Maher. “That’s why I got the idea for the show, because that’s what I did at home. So I thought, why don’t we do that on television, just sitting around with interesting people talking about whatever was going on, without the bong.”
He can start hitting that bowl a little more frequently now. In his final episode, he made three separate tributes: one to the guests, one to the show’s staff, and one to the audience. While it was great to hear him reflect on the years and thank everybody for their contributions, it’s a shame that we couldn’t hear him tear into some of the recent news topics one last time. During the last week of air, I already began to miss his thoughts and musings, hoping to hear him ranting on Pledge of Allegiance being ruled an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, or listening to the crowd fall silent as he would ridicule the debate of woman tennis players making slightly less than men, or have him inject some humor into the latest big business scandal and collapse, WorldCom. Television is already feeling the void his show left, with nobody left to joke about the female employees of WorldCom rejoicing as they now have a chance to be in Playboy. It didn’t matter if you agreed or disagreed with Maher’s opinions, as he articulated himself with such wit and wisdom that you could always respect what he had to say. That left-right combination of not only what he said, but how he said it made Politically Incorrect the choice of 2.5 million viewers nightly.
The show’s cancellation will be the best thing that happened to Maher since first bringing Politically Incorrect on-air. He’s accepting First Amendment/Free Speech awards every other week, and he’s clever enough to know that there are bags of money awaiting him if he delivers a book and/or comedy tour. His status as a cult icon is being cemented, as he stayed true to himself throughout the show’s existence, living and dying by the sword of political incorrectness. While his future financial success is all but guaranteed, it’s sad to know that a “reputation built on brutal honesty” can no longer be found five minutes after midnight.
Whether you loved him or hated him, you had to respect the man for being completely honest with everything he encountered. Not caring whose feelings he hurt or what people thought, Maher always spoke his mind and never backed down from a hot topic. In a day and age where our cultural artists are comprised of shallow sellouts panhandling to public opinion polls, Maher accomplished something noble: when you turned his show on, you didn’t turn your brain off.
Does Anybody Have a Problem With That? The Best of Politically Incorrect
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