Fran Lebowitz Joins Bill Maher on This Week’s “Real Time”

The episode covered everything from climate change to ageism

Fran Lebowitz
Fran Lebowitz joined Bill Maher on "Real Time" this week.

Bill Maher’s opened this week’s episode of Real Time with a series of bits surveying national news, from Earth Day to the potential of DC statehood. Before long, though, he quickly moved to subjects closer to home — namely, all things Californian. Following his take on this year’s Oscar nominees from earlier in the month, Maher again riffed on the subject. (“You’ve heard of #MeToo? This is #MeNeither.”) He also took aim at the location of this year’s ceremony, Union Station. (“Nothing says glamour like coming to a train station to cheer on a movie about date rape.”)

The evening’s first guest? Writer and sartorial icon Fran Lebowitz. The bulk of their conversation focused on pandemic-related rules and regulations. “There seems to be a lack of understanding of what air is,” Lebowitz said about plastic dividers in restaurants — which prompted a long story of the time Maher took Lebowitz to a Mets game and Lebowitz trekked around Citi Field looking for a place to smoke. 

Maher referenced Lebowitz’s work on Pretend It’s a City, and hearkened back to a series of shows they’d done together a few years earlier. “You are the fastest gun in the west,” he said. “Whoever’s on stage with you is going to be the straight man — and I’m pretty f*cking funny.” And he went on to express gratitude that Lebowitz was getting wider acclaim this year.

CNN’s S.E. Cupp and April Ryan, author of At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White, comprised this episode’s panel. Maher’s first question addressed the guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial — specifically, whether it was a significant moment in and of itself or part of a series of legal cases since 2014 where police officers have been found guilty. 

“It’s too slow,” Ryan said. She dubbed the events Maher described as “a small movement towards what should be.” And she pressed Maher on a number of issues related to policing, race and social inequality — often with Cupp bolstering her arguments. 

When the subject shifted to climate change, so did the dynamic of the panel. Both Maher and Ryan were adamant about the issue and its importance, while Cupp described her own evolution on the issue as more gradual — sparked, to an extent, by her conversations with Maher. 

After a discussion of 4/20 and magic mushrooms, Maher addressed polarization in the United States. This involved all three participants in the debate addressing the legacy of Donald Trump’s time in office and the Capitol breach. “The executive branch of government waged war on the legislative branch of government,” said Ryan. 

“I have not met many who are embarrassed by it,” said Cupp — which was especially ominous. And Maher raised concerns over gerrymandering in the wake of the 2020 census. Maher and Ryan expressed horror at new laws allowing drivers to run over protestors, and Cupp raised an alarm over the growing number of laws being considered that would make it harder to protest.

“This is what it looks like when you’re out of ideas,” Cupp said. “This is what it looks like when you’d rather rape democracy than come up with ideas.” 

For this episode’s New Rules, Maher made a few forays into the surreal — including Jim Caviezel pushing a blood-harvesting conspiracy theory and the existence of mitten-shaped toilet paper. For the bulk of the segment, though, Maher got a little meta. “Three months into his presidency, it’s time to admit that Joe Biden has been a huge disappointment — to comedians,” Maher said, noting that Biden has been much more capable and less gaffe-prone than many expected. From there, he took aim at societal ageism.

“Everywhere else in the world, elders are sought for their guidance,” Maher said. “In America, elders are sought for TikTok pranks.” And while his argument got a bit straw man-esque at times, his thoughts on America’s views on age did cut deeper than his frequent barbs at Gen Z do. All told, it made for one of the show’s better episodes this year.

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