Appellate Judge Tom Becker can't decide on a good brand of toothpaste; this might be why HBO isn't offering him a special.
"He tried to appoint his cleaning lady to the Supreme Court. He tried to
sell the ports to an Arab country, because nothing gets in the way of crony
Capitalism. He'd sell the Red Cross to Dracula if he thought it would bring in
some campaign cash."
Bill Maher: The Decider is an hour of stand-up that was originally broadcast live on HBO in the summer of 2007. Anyone who is familiar with Maher's brand of political humor knows what to expect here: lots of ironic observations and shots at the right, organized religion, and the war, along with saying out loud the kinds of things people don't even like to think.
Most of Maher's jabs are reserved for George W. Bush, whom Maher pegs as the worst president of all time. While I personally agree, I also know that such distinctions are "of the moment;" I'm quite certain I recall Clinton, Reagan, and the original Bush being referred to as "the worst" during their respective presidencies. That the special was taped the same day that the President underwent a colonoscopy offers Maher a too-easy opener, but for the most part the jabs are funny, fresh, and insightful, even if they are likely destined to sound quaint in a few years.
While Maher is in his element riffing on the White House—and this is a good chunk of the show—some of his other bits are more memorable: his response to the "war" on immigration and the wall that's been proposed to be built along the US/Mexico border; the ridiculous excesses of lobbyists; and the hypocrisy of organized religion.
In one of his edgiest bits on this set, he talks about the scandals of teachers seducing students and how the "zero-tolerance-no-double-standards" theory just doesn't work here. He resurrects a story he'd told before, comparing the accusations made against Michael Jackson by young boys to an incident in his childhood when he was beaten up on a playground and declaring that, if he could go back in time, he would have much preferred to have been "gently masturbated by a pop star."
The audience is with Maher from the get-go; the occasional outbursts of dissension that occur on Real Time are absent here. When Maher suggests that Rudy Giuliani will be elected president in 2008, the audience moans and groans, but we can't help but feel that, in some way, Maher's prediction is made with just a hint of optimism: if there was someone in the White House the guy actually liked, what would have to talk about?
The image looks good for what it is, an HBO special, and stereo audio track sounds fine. As an extra, we get a nine-minute encore (the act was slated to run in a 60-minute slot, and Maher just makes it). The encore, "Bill Maher Finds a Purpose in Life," gives us Maher reading from "The Purpose-Driven Life," Rick Warren's faith-based self-help tome. Needless to say, the book is the equivalent of a kick-me sign for Maher's views of Christian-Right dogma.
This is a good performance, but not really one for the ages. Definitely worth a look if you're a fan, but if you're not already on Maher's page, this one's not going to change your mind.
Not guilty, at least for me.
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• "Bill Maher Finds a Purpose in Life" (9:00)
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