What Exactly is Going on With Bill Maher’s YouTube Show?
HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher may be temporarily shut down due to the writers’ strike, but you can still get your weekly dose of the late-night host/star of 1991’s Pizza Man via Maher’s podcast and YouTube show Club Random, which, judging from the artwork, is about a Jedi Force Ghost sipping a radioactive martini in a softcore porn film.
Created in late 2022, Club Random is clearly Maher’s sweatily awkward attempt to be seen, not as a suit-wearing corporate stooge, but rather as a pot-smoking, free-speech-loving libertarian cool guy. At first blush, it sure feels like Maher became jealous of Joe Rogan’s popularity and decided to launch his own chilled-out, “anti-woke” podcast, then commissioned his staff to build a mancave/studio resembling a midlife-crisis-themed escape room. And a deeper look does little to dissuade that feeling.
Gone are the fancy clothes and structured political discussions of Real Time; instead, a dressed-down Maher and his guests smoke weed, drink booze and “talk about anything and everything, except politics.” It’s kind of the cable TV equivalent of seeing your high school principal outside of school, wearing sweatpants, and getting hammered at a suburban Chili’s.
Of course, Maher’s assertion that this is his apolitical show is total bullshit, as Maher routinely makes an effort to cozy up to far-right media personalities, away from the scrutiny of his HBO audience, hosting guests such as Piers Morgan and Fox News’ late-night “comic” Greg Gutfeld.
This isn’t exactly new ground for Maher, who controversially interviewed Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon on Real Time, and also recently invited Elon Musk onto the show to warn America about the biological horrors of the “woke mind virus.”
But when political issues arise on Club Random, they are unequivocally framed as part of a laid-back chat between pals, which is when the cracks in the facade begin to appear. One example is Kid Rock’s anti-choice views receiving only the faintest push-back from the “pro-choice” Maher. The same goes for Rock’s raging transphobia and his story about grabbing a friendly lunch with far-right Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who recently railed against “race mixing” to defend his anti-immigration policies.
Whether or not Maher, who once casually dropped the N-word on Real Time, needed a show where he could express his thoughts with less of a filter is debatable. But even his interviews with comedians and actors are super-weird and almost unwatchably cringey. Case in point: an episode with Rob Schneider, in which the Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo star complained about how Los Angeles’ homeless crisis is personally annoying to him.
Then there was the “chaotic” Richard Dreyfuss episode that made headlines for its baffling content. Dreyfuss somehow wasn’t able to sit in his armchair without slinking to the floor like a sack of heavily-medicated potatoes, all while he randomly assured Maher and America, that he never once thought about his mother while jerking off. Good luck ever enjoying Mr. Holland’s Opus again with that anecdote firmly rooted in your brain.
Further implying that the set’s neon decor is powered by gross old man anxiety, there was the time Maher lectured ESPN’s resident hot-take factory Stephen A. Smith about how he doesn’t like women with “giant asses.”
Again, upon closer inspection, despite the promises of witnessing a new side of himself, many of the discussions on Club Random just reflect Maher’s same, frequently regurgitated talking points from Real Time, including the fat-shaming and transphobia. But when he’s dressed like he’s on his way to a 15-year-old’s house party and sitting in what looks like a depressed TGI Friday’s, Maher’s garbage arguments are even more nakedly hollow — the only added insight being that, frankly, Maher’s life outside of the suit and tie is just kind of sad.
New rule: Get some hobbies.
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