Gavin Newsom Talked All Things California on a New “Real Time”

Bill Maher's show kicked off its 22nd season on HBO

January 20, 2024 1:52 am
Bill Maher
Bill Maher kicked off a new season of "Real Time."

Things got very Californian as the 22nd season of Real Time With Bill Maher kicked off. Following the host’s opening monologue, California governor Gavin Newsom joined Maher for a candid chat. As their conversation began, Maher noted Real Time’s roots in California; Newsom, for his part, pointed to his own long history with the show, which began during his time as the state’s lieutenant governor. 

The two men had a conversation that covered a lot of ground while also sticking pretty closely to different issues facing California. The first line of discussion involved an issue close to home, and found Maher asked Newcom why hadn’t he looked to broker a deal in the strikes that halted most film and television productions for a good chunk of 2023. Newsom replied that he had — he just hadn’t been very public about it. “Sometimes you’re more public; sometimes it’s done behind the scenes,” he said. 

From there, the conversation turned to housing, with Maher criticizing the number of permits required to build something new in San Francisco despite the state being in the middle of a housing crisis. Newsom pointed to his creation of a housing accountability unit, and mentioned suing Huntington Beach to bring them into compliance. “These things happen too often,” he said.

But it wouldn’t be Real Time without a meta-level element of critique here. “There’s a propensity to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right,” Newsom said. Maher’s response?  “You need to get a better publicist.”

Not surprisingly, the state’s issues with drought conditions also came up. (“Good job this year, making it rain,” Maher quipped at one point.) Maher brought up the role of agriculture in water shortages. “I’m going to ask you about almonds,” he said – which have a reputation for using up a significant amount of water.

Newsome went on to bring up infrastructure, including efforts to improve the state’s water storage. He also brought up desalinization, stating that California had “20 projects” in the works. 

“You’re good at this,” Maher said And here’s the thing: he was. A lot of politicians have a tendency to return to the same talking points again and again, regardless of what they’re asked. In his appearance on Real Time, Newsom proved to be good at actually responding to questions rather than relying on canned phrases. He ended the segment with an impassioned defense of standing up for progressive beliefs. Maher had a rejoinder to that as well: “Can you teach that speech to Biden?”

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Other notable moments from the episode:

  • Maher’s opening monologue included a few quips about the Iowa caucuses and their aftermath, including a line about Vivek Ramaswamy dropping out of the race “and [admitting] he is Sacha Baron Cohen.”
  • On a more sobering note, Maher addressed Roger Stone’s comments about political assassinations: “I feel like we’re spinning out of control.” 
  • The conversation between panelists Ari Melber and Andrew Sullivan got somewhat heated at times, with Melber commenting that Sullivan was being “a little bit both-sides-y” at one point and Sullivan referring to MSNBC — where Melber hosts a show — as “propaganda all the time.”
  • This was before the subject of DEI initiatives came up, which also heightened tensions quite a bit. There came a point when Maher felt the need to step in, which he did with a sentence that has likely never been used before to quiet tempers: “Can I just say one more thing about Barbie?”
  • New Rules did feature the episode’s best joke: “True crime shows don’t need to tell us that their re-enactments are re-enactments. We get it! Nobody’s thinking, ‘Hey, how come the cameraman didn’t stop the killer?’”

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