TV | August 6, 2022 6:00 am

David Duchovny Talked Writing and Weed With Bill Maher

Along with Lis Smith and Matt Taibbi discussing current politics

Bill Maher
Bill Maher on the August 5, 2022 episode of "Real Time With Bill Maher."
HBO

Bill Maher begins an episode of Real Time With Bill Maher with a monologue running down the week’s events. This week, even more so than most, he had a lot to discuss. Some bits abounded with paradoxes — such as “Biden got COVID again — and had the best week of his presidency.” Some learned towards the satirically absurd:  “It’s good to see the Democrats can be bipartisan with themselves.” And sometimes, it was more sobering, as when he pointed out that “a lot of election deniers” won in Tuesday’s primaries.

Overall, it was a brisk rundown of the last seven days. And that made sense; this was an episode with the potential to cover a lot of ground. While the evening’s panel featured two people with plenty of knowledge of the state of American politics, Maher’s first guest had a very different background. That would be David Duchovny, whose new novella The Reservoir came out earlier this summer.

Maher pointed out that the protagonist of Duchovny’s book shared some qualities with the author. “It’s f*cking awesome to novelizize your life, because you can edit out the shit you don’t like and create the shit you do like,” Maher said. Duchovny cited Neil Simon when it came to the book’s more overtly autobiographical elements. “It is and it isn’t me,” he said.

Duchovny also shared that he doesn’t write while high, but he does like to edit while high. “I love a gummy,” he said. “They’re nostalgic! They remind you of being a six-year-old.”

The two also shared memories of the process of publishing. Maher expressed his frustration that there isn’t a huge audience for books; Duchovny agreed, but spoke about that as “liberating.” That, in turn, led to Maher bringing up Eyes Wide Shut and the novella that inspired it. (Full disclosure: as the author of a short novel myself, I thought it was pretty great that a not insubstantial amount of the interview focused on the inherent appeal of novellas. Here’s hoping this becomes a regular occurrence.)

The interview closed with Maher asking Duchovny about The X-Files and whether it might return. Duchovny offered his own view of UFOs, proposing that they might be the result of some alien civilization sending its unwanted beings into the cosmos. The segment closed with Maher explaining his theory of why UFOs reveal themselves only to military pilots, which brought to a close one of the more entertainingly absurd interviews the show has had in a while.

From there, it was on to the night’s panel. Matt Taibbi (author of Hate, Inc.) and Lis Smith (author of Any Given Sunday) had plenty to discuss, beginning with the Dobbs decision’s effect on the coming midterm elections. The discussion began with conversation about the Republican and Democratic Parties’ respective relationships to the concept of freedom, and how it’s changed in recent years.

Conversation shifted from there to a recent New York Times article about how COVID and related mandates had caused some people to center their voting around that as an issue. (Maher included himself as one of their number.) Smith and Maher briefly clashed over the ongoing debate about trans women and sports. And Maher got in a few digs at various Republican presidential hopefuls, including bringing up Josh Hawley’s sprinting on January 6.

Maher also mentioned that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem had been slated to appear on the show next week, but backed out. “They’re so tough, they can’t even face me,” he quipped. Discussion turned to Pete Buttigieg — for whose 2020 campaign Smith was an advisor — and what his political future might be. Taibbi brought up the issue of class, with Smith questioning some of the specifics of the anecdote he had cited.

Smith and Maher clashed again over Dave Chappelle, and the segment closed with Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan, and the political controversy it stirred up. Duchovny joined the panel for Overtime, and proved to be a voice of restraint there, arguing for taking a broader look at statistics when it comes to, say, the economy. Duchovny and Maher also spoke about the role of loneliness in depression — which found Maher taking a more nuanced position regarding depression than he did in the segment that closed out the episode.

That also prompted Maher to discuss some of his frustrations with COVID discourse — while, in turn, led to Duchovny wryly making an ivermectin joke at Maher’s expense. “I assume you’re being snarky liberal about that,” Maher said. Duchovny shrugged. “Just snarky,” he replied.

New Rules began with jokes about unlikely combinations — a dog bed for humans and lipstick that tastes like wing sauce among them — and segued into a bit about couples massages that included a very awkward Deshaun Watson joke. The bulk of the segment, though, found Maher criticizing the country’s eating habits and arguing against the notion of body positivity.

At issue here is Maher making the argument that people need to eat better and exercise more, and citing moments of a healthier-looking nation to make his argument. Maher argued that the issue is relatively simple, but — as with many a New Rules — it felt like a potentially interesting subject for a panel to discuss rather than just as a monologue. The best political debates find the nuances of certain issues; this one went for a much more binary approach.