Social Media and Crypto Came Under Fire on “Real Time With Bill Maher”
Plus a candid conversation with Matthew Perry
Friday marked the last new episode of Real Time With Bill Maher in 2022, and Maher took to the stage in a good mood. As he pointed out, American democracy seemed more secure than it had a few weeks ago — the first on a list of grounds for optimism that he reviewed in his opening monologue. This included getting in a few digs at Donald Trump – specifically, his announcement that he’d be running for President in 2024.
“Very ‘low energy.’ Sad, I thought,” said Maher. “Did you see him? He looked like a gigolo on his tenth call of the day.”
Noting that he’d “never been a crypto fan,” Maher expressed his excitement over cryptocurrency values plummeting. He went on to address the recent chaos at Twitter, which he framed (in part) by taking a few swings at millennials.
Matthew Perry stopped by to discuss his new memoir — which, Maher pointed out, had “broken Amazon.” “You’re the Taylor Swift of writing,” Maher added. For his part, Perry seems to be keeping an eye on his sales figures. “I beat Bono in Ireland,” Perry said. “That’s weird.”
Their conversation went to some harrowing places, with Perry sharing details about his addiction and subsequent sobriety, including a particularly unsettling anecdote about stealing prescription medication. “It’s a horror story, and I’m telling it in kind of a funny way,” Perry said.
It’s worth mentioning here that Perry is a very engaging storyteller, even when he’s talking about some of the most unpleasant moments in his life. At one point, he recounted being hospitalized after his colon exploded. “I was told that opiates had done this to me, and I literally said, ‘I’d like some opiates to solve this problem, please,’” he said. As the interview drew to a close, Maher predicted that Perry had fantastic work as an actor ahead of him; the overall mood was one of empathy from both men.
Laura Coates and Jonathan Haidt joined Maher for the panel, which opened with Maher wishing Jay Leno a speedy recovery. The panel’s first topic of discussion was the appointment of Jack Smith as a special prosecutor — and whether it should have happened sooner.
Maher returned to the subject of crypto by bringing up Sam Bankman-Fried and making it very clear where he stood on the subject. “I think crypto is a Ponzi scheme, and I’m rooting for its failure,” Maher said. Bankman-Fried’s donations to Democratic candidates came into the spotlight here, as did the unregulated nature of crypto itself. Haidt made a particularly impassioned case for the importance of institutions.
Haidt also discussed the phenomenon of countries backsliding away from democracy, and cited a study that connected that tendency to increased polarization. Coates drew from her experience as a prosecutor in the discussion, and Maher offered his take on where things had gone wrong. “On the left, there is a rot, and it comes from academia,” he said.
Haidt spent a fair amount of time in the panel’s second half addressing the psychological effects of social media on Generation Z. He pointed out an increase in depression among the generation — especially girls — beginning in 2012, which coincided with front-facing cameras on iPhones, among other things. Coates shared her own experience of parenting, especially as it relates to her children’s access to social media.
The year’s final New Rules included speculation about the Adhesive Cinematic Universe and deep thoughts about ketchup bottle design. The bulk of the segment took a retrospective tone, with Maher celebrating the defeat of many of the election deniers who ran for office this year. “Sometimes, this country surprises you with its ability to revert back to ‘sane,’” Maher said.
The “return to normalcy” mode continued for the rest of the segment. “We all need to call out the people of bad faith on both sides,” Maher said.
Overtime found Perry joining the discussion, with Perry sharing an anecdote about Chris Farley on the set of the 1998 film Almost Heroes. (Which, apparently, Christopher Guest directed. I had no idea.) Coates discussed the human cost of this year’s World Cup, and Haidt mused on shared national experiences — and whether Twitter potentially collapsing might qualify as one.
The overall mood here was relatively loose, with the participants occasionally making jokes at one another’s expense. To call it wide-ranging would be an understatement; by the end of the segment, Maher was asking Perry his feelings about sperm. And that’s where they left things; the show will return to the air on January 20.
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