Bill Maher and Jillian Michaels Talked Weed and Ozempic on “Real Time”

Their conversation went to a surprisingly candid place

April 20, 2024 12:04 pm
Bill Maher and Jillian Michaels
Bill Maher and Jillian Michaels on this week's "Real Time With Bill Maher."

Something you might have noticed, if you watch Bill Maher enough: the man enjoys talking about marijuana. (And, presumably, indulging in it.) Late in this week’s episode, he referred to himself as a “professional marijuana smoker,” in fact. This has prompted some controversy in recent weeks, mostly surrounding Steve-O’s recent contention that Maher didn’t respect his sobriety when discussing an interview.

All of which is prelude to saying that the first guest on Real Time With Bill Maher this week was fitness expert Jillian Michaels, who was on to discuss Ozempic and similar drugs. And Michaels is, shall we say, not a fan. “These drugs, they do work, but it’s a devil’s bargain at an extraordinary price,” she told Maher. And she repeatedly argued that the alternative was better: as she put it, “Eating a little bit less and moving a little bit more.”

While Ozempic was the nominal subject of their conversation, weed ended up being where some of the more interesting points were made. This was a slightly different interview than Real Time usually showcases, with Maher taking a somewhat skeptical perspective but largely getting Michaels to clarify her points.

So, when asked what she meant by the phrase “devil’s bargain,” Michaels pointed to the side effects listed on Ozempic’s box, from nausea to pancreatitis. She also cited reports of suicidal ideation, which Maher also requested more details about. Michaels’s contention was that Ozempic (and comparable drugs) have an effect on the body’s serotonin and dopamine. There’s been some debate about the issue in the last year, with one study suggesting that semaglutide has a lower risk of said thoughts than of its counterparts.

While Maher has been critical of the pharmaceutical industry, Michaels opted to criticize what she termed “Big Food.” She pointed out that one reason that people gain weight is because some foods don’t register with our body’s internal mechanisms. That echoes the studies that have found a similarity between eating certain types of fiber and the effects of drugs like Ozempic.

In their discussion, Maher did point out that plenty of people have experienced no side effects. And he wondered if, for some people, Ozempic et al. represented “the least bad option.” Michaels returned to the themes of eating better and addressing mental health issues that might prompt someone to overeat seeking emotional sustenance.

It was around this point that Maher brought up his own marijuana use. He admitted that “I’m probably hurting myself to some degree” with weed. (Apparently Michaels has criticized him for this when she appeared on his podcast earlier this year.) And he also addressed that, yes, he did sometimes get food cravings as a result of his cannabis use. His answer to this? “I don’t keep shit in the house.” In other words, he might eat when he’s high, but at least what he’s eating is reasonably healthy.

Some other notable moments from this week’s episode: 

  • Maher on 4/20: “I’ve got to start my baking! Just kidding; I started earlier.”
  • Maher on Robert F. Kennedy, Jr’s third party bid: “RFK is now polling at 11.7%. Not nationally, just with his family.” Maher also announced that Kennedy would be on Real Time next week, so that should be interesting.
  • Maher on Rep: Marjorie Taylor Greene: “I think it’s good that she can laugh at herself, because I am exhausted.”
  • Maher, after introducing guests Jon Meacham and Jane Ferguson: “Everybody has a book! And now I have a book!” We’ll be hearing a lot about Maher’s upcoming book in the lead-up to its release, I suspect.
  • Meacham offered a good comparison between two big ideas: “Patriotism is an allegiance to an idea. It’s not just an allegiance to your own kind. That’s nationalism.”
  • In the midst of a larger discussion on protests, Ferguson addressed Columbia University’s response to recent protests on its campus: “We have to have a conversation about free speech being a bipartisan issue.”
  • Meacham on the current state of the nation’s politics: “When politics becomes entirely about entertainment, we’re in a particularly perilous place — and that’s pretty much where we are.”
  • During New Rules, Maher inveighed against “getting high sequences in TV and movies written by someone who has obviously never smoked pot.”

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