TV | November 12, 2022 6:00 am

On a New “Real Time,” Bill Maher Sets His Sights on 2024

There was plenty of election talk this week

Bill Maher
Bill Maher on the November 11 edition of "Real Time With Bill Maher."
HBO

Last week’s episode of Real Time With Bill Maher found the show’s host looking at the midterm elections with a bleak eye. This week, his mood had improved. “I haven’t had a text from Joe Biden in three days,” Maher said. “I think he’s ghosted me.” Maher pointed out that he was happy to have been proven wrong with his pessimism, and went on to speculate that voters look at democracy “like the catalytic converter — they’re not quite sure what it is, but they know that it would be bad if it was stolen.” 

Maher went on to address Ron DeSantis’s successful re-election bid in Florida and the Republican establishment embracing him. Donald Trump, Maher said, “finally knows what it feels like to be traded in for a younger model.”

Not surprisingly, the lineup of guests for Friday’s episode included people with firsthand perspectives on the midterms. That includes Maher’s first guest, Colorado governor Jared Polis. Maher pointed out that Polis and DeSantis had won their respective races by larger margins than any other governors — and Maher’s questions to Polis zeroed in on why this was the case.

Polis brought up a focus on cost-of-living issues, at which point Maher turned the subject to Polis’s pandemic response. That led to the two men discussing libertarianism and its overlap — or lack thereof — with the Democratic Party. “I would say we’re the more pro-freedom and pro-liberty of the two parties,” Polis said. Polis and Maher also discussed the electorate’s evolution on LGBTQ+ issues; Polis was the first openly gay American elected to gubernatorial office, with both Maura Healey and Tina Kotek winning their respective races in Massachusetts and Oregon this year.

Near the end of the conversation, Polis and Maher discussed the diversity of Democratic candidates, with Maher speculating that an atheist couldn’t successfully run for office. Polis pushed back on this, citing the example of California Rep. Jared Huffman. “Well, there’s one,” Maher said.

Another Representative from California — Ro Khanna — and political journalist Robert Costa joined Maher for the panel. Here, too, talk focused on what Maher dubbed “the most inspiring election I can remember since Obama.” Khanna spoke of democracy itself as the electoral winner, while Costa pointed out that he had spoken to numerous voters for whom democracy and abortion rights were more important than inflation.

What effect might the midterms have on the 2024 election — and of Trump’s political fortunes? “People got tired of The Apprentice, too,” Khanna said. And when Maher brought up the fact that candidate who upheld election results rather than denying them, Costa had a memorable summary: “Turns out integrity works.”

The panel discussion closed with speculation about the 2024 election — about whether it would involve a Biden/Trump rematch, about whether Biden would face a primary challenge — and, if so, about who might ready a primary challenge. Costa argued that a new generation of Democratic candidates was coming into their own — and Khanna spoke about Democratic candidates taking a revitalized approach to patriotism.

New Rules began with Maher taking aim at rings that allow you to smoke while using your phone and the phenomenon of dolls photographed in the wreckage following a natural disaster. The bulk of the segment, though, focused on the abundance of books released on the Trump administration — and the dearth of details in them about Trump’s sex life. “We know everything else about the guy, down to the most minute details,” Maher said. “Because everyone around him has the loyalty of a pet scorpion.”

(Adding to the surrealism of this segment was the fact that the co-author of one of the books Maher mentioned was sitting right there for all of this.)

“It’s a scandal that we don’t know what the scandal is,” Maher said. And, later, he made his point even more bluntly: “Cult leaders get laid!” It was a lengthy bit of trolling, to be sure — but it also didn’t find Maher taking digs at “wokeness” or millennials, which was a welcome decision.

And for Overtime, Polis joined the panel for a discussion of climate change and the policies to mitigate its effects. This led to a fascinating discussion of the economics of nuclear power, which Khanna and Polis both had strong feelings about. Khanna also weighed in with his feelings on Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, which focused on disbelief that Musk would want to be so focused to the granular level that he has. 

That prompted a more contentious discussion over social media and Maher’s critique of “woke Twitter.” Costa raised the question of whether social media should be treated like a utility — and whether Democrats might raise that point in future elections. The segment came to an end with Maher waxing existential about the Dakotas — and noting that next week will bring the current season to an end.