An Unlikely Guest and a Purple Suit Made for a Weird “Real Time”

Political debates turned heated this week

November 11, 2023 5:30 am
Bill Maher Nov. 10 episode
The latest "Real Time" went to some unexpected places.

When watching last week’s Real Time With Bill Maher, a question came to mind: to what extent do politicians who appear on the show view Maher’s viewing audience as a potential political bloc? Since the WGA strike ended and Real Time returned to HBO, Representative Dean Phillips and Governor Ron DeSantis have both appeared and made very flattering appeals to Maher and his viewers.

This week, another politician did the same — albeit in a slightly different context than an electoral one.  Senator Ted Cruz showed up to promote his new book, which is literally titled Unwoke. (Subtitle: “How to Defeat Cultural Marxism in America.”) Admittedly, this time out, Maher seemed surprised that Cruz was there, saying, “I didn’t think you’d really show up, but you did.”

That said, Cruz was in a conciliatory mood that night. “I really appreciate what you do,” he said. And he pointed out that he’d shared Maher’s monologues on social media multiple times, adding, “I’m not sure which one of us is more frightened at how often we’re agreeing.” And there were some areas where, over the course of their conversation, they did agree — notably in being critical of leftist politics on university campuses.

The relatively jovial tone took a turn when Maher brought up the fact that Cruz voted against certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Things grew more and more heated from there, with Cruz getting heavily into whataboutism and Maher making a more clear-headed argument for the peaceful transfer of political power. It culminated with Cruz taking a wild swing at the Biden administration and Maher segueing things along to the next segment — a panel discussion in which Jordan Peterson was one of the participants.

It was a weird night. And that was before Peterson declared, “The sexual revolution is devouring sex.”

Could Bill Maher’s Endorsement Win Someone an Election?
Dean Phillips’s appearance on “Real Time” continued an interesting trend

Some other notable moments from the episode:

  • Maher, on abortion as a winning issue for the Democrats: “People are saying, ‘Read my lips: no new babies!’”
  • That’s a reference to a comment made by George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Republican National Convention, by the way. Apparently retro references were a theme of the episode; other jokes contained references to the works of Mickey Spillane and Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”
  • Maher, on Covenant Eyes, the app used by Speaker of the House Mike Johnson: “It’s basically AA for masturbators.”
  • During the panel discussion, Peterson went on to argue against the notion of sex for pleasure. “I feel like you’re talking for one type of person, and we’re not all that way,” Maher replied.
  • Peterson has made some, shall we say, interesting sartorial choices in recent years, including a Twitter-themed suit and one that earned comparisons to the Batman villain Two-Face. This time out, he wore something that recalled Cesar Romero’s wardrobe as the Joker from the 1960s Batman series, with added remembrance poppy.
  • “You came on an odd night,” Maher said to the evening’s other panelist, New York Times columnist Pamela Paul. That may have been the understatement of the episode.
  • At times, though, the mood was less odd than mercurial. Maher got into heated exchanges with both Cruz and Peterson, and even Paul — who was fairly even-keeled for most of the episode grew much more impassioned when addressing a recent open letter she seemed frustrated with.
  • New Rules this episode focused on education, which led Maher to an unexpected conclusion: “What we need in this country is a chain of non-Catholic Catholic schools.”

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.