TV | November 20, 2021 2:55 pm

A Future Mayor and a Former Governor Talked Politics With Bill Maher

It’s the last new “Real Time” of 2021

Bill Maher
Bill Maher on the November 19 episode of "Real Time With Bill Maher."
HBO

“I will miss seeing half your faces every week and the roar of muffled laughter,” Maher said. “When I get back, the only masked people better be at an Eyes Wide Shut party.” Maher has numerous quips about Thanksgiving and the travel associated with it, and noted that Real Time will return on January 21. When the audience applauded, Maher had a quip at the ready there as well. “Are you applauding that we’ll be off?” he said.

Several of the jokes in the monologue felt a little flat — including a bit on Taylor Swift’s re-recorded version of Red, a reference to the verdict in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial and an allusion to Squid Game that seemed a few weeks past its time — all alongside several “hey, Joe Biden’s pretty old!” gags that likewise felt far from incisive. 

Maher’s first guest? Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World author Fareed Zakaria — whose entry prompted Maher to muse on shaking hands, something he said he’d never been a fan of. “Now that we’ve missed it for a year, I kind of like it again,” he said. Zakaria’s forthcoming special focuses on China, and he addressed the rivalry between China and the United States — and how it was, in his opinion, more serious than the U.S.’s previous rivalry with the Soviet Union. Why? In part due to China having a better grasp of technology.

Zakaria described feeling optimistic about how that rivalry would work out for the United States, while Maher was more pessimistic. But Maher also pondered whether no longer being the biggest superpower in the world would be a bad thing. “Why can’t we be like Great Britain?” he asked.

The two went on to discuss — briefly, in the case of the former — “wokeness” on American campuses and the pandemic. The latter found Maher opening up about his own experience of having a breakthrough infection earlier this year, which he described as being unable to smell for two days. “One night [when] I was in bed, I farted, and I said, ‘Okay, I’m back!’” Maher said.

For the panel, Maher was joined by former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — who has a new book out — and New York City mayor-elect Eric Adams. Given Maher’s own roots in New Jersey, it was a very Tri-State Area panel. Maher led off by alluding to the Rittenhouse trial verdict, and by citing the two panelists’ statements on it — with Christie saying that “justice was done” and Adams expressing horror at the verdict.

Adams led off by expressing his frustration with gun laws — and with the fact that said laws make it legal for someone to cross state lines with an illegally purchased gun. Christie, meanwhile, cited his history as a prosecutor as a means of explaining his statement. Maher seemed unconvinced, and asked about “the message that this sends” and the possibility of more vigilantism. 

Both men spoke about the need to reform policing, with Christie citing the changes to the Camden police department that took place during his time in office and Adams speaking about changing the culture around public safety. From there, the subject shifted to Joe Biden’s presidency to date, with Christie criticizing him — not surprising, given the rumors of Christie pondering a 2024 run for high office — and Adams touting the work the Biden administration has done helping the country recover from the pandemic.

The second half of the panel found Maher criticizing Christie for being critical of Donald Trump and yet saying that he might support him in 2024. “Let’s talk New Jersey to New Jersey,” Maher said — and argued that Trump was unlikely to change substantially in the coming years. This element of the debate continued for the remainder of the segment, with Christie expressing the opinion that the Republican Party would move past Trump and Maher offering a skeptical take.

For New Rules, Maher pondered Thanksgiving football games, denim vests on the floor of the Senate and coloring books featuring cat butts. The bulk of the segment focused on the Democratic Party’s messaging going forward — which largely found Maher pushing back against the left and the evolution of the term “woke” in recent years. Though he added that, while he was critical of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the segment, he’d love to have her as a guest on the show — and argued that more Democrats should appear on programs where they might not be guaranteed an enthusiastic reception. Will she take him up on the offer? It’s something to keep an eye out for next season.