Bill Maher and Neil deGrasse Tyson Debate UFOs on a New “Real Time”

Along with discussions of the pandemic and politics

Bill Maher
Bill Maher talks politics on a new "Real Time."

How’s this as a set-up: Rob Reiner, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Rachel Bitecofer walk into a bar…only it’s not a bar, it’s a television studio. Sometimes the lineups of Real Time With Bill Maher can seem hyper-focused, as with last week’s triumvirate of politically-minded guests; sometimes, they can be as wide-ranging as one might imagine. The June 11 episode was firmly in the latter camp.

Maher’s opening monologue covered Joe Biden’s ongoing trip to Europe, and included a few (metaphorical) swings at Joe Manchin. “For a Democrat, he’s the most powerful Republican in the Senate,” Maher said. Maher moved on from Manchin to especially wealthy people not paying taxes, notably Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s move to space, Maher quipped, threatened to “put all the mom and pop astronauts out of business.”

Tyson, co-author of (most recently) the book Cosmic Queries: Startalk’s Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going, was up first. And the conversation quickly moved to the grandest of subjects: the Big Bang Theory, the nature of the universe and what it meant for something to be settled science. “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you,” Tyson said.

He also admitted that he couldn’t say for sure what existed before the Big Bang. “As a scientist, you learn to love the questions themselves,” he said. 

That question of, well, questions took on a greater scope when Maher brought up the subject of UFOs. Tyson took a somewhat skeptical position, asking why — if aliens do exist — their vehicles have only interacted with military planes in the skies. “I don’t know, and I’m happy saying that I don’t know,” Tyson said when Maher pressed him further on the subject. 

Filmmaker Rob Reiner and elections analyst Rachel Bitecofer made up this episode’s panel — which immediately turned contentious, with questions of voter suppression and Joe Manchin’s reluctance to vote for key Democratic legislation sparking heated cross-talk. Maher made his usual arguments against “wokeness,” while Bitecofer opted for a different strategy — that Democrats should emphasize the unpleasant end results of Republican politics.

The conversation shifted from there to the pandemic and its possible end, with the panelists covering everything from the partisan implications of certain regulations being reduced to the question of why there hadn’t been a pandemic baby boom. 

For New Rules, Maher took on an odd assortment of topics, such as the lethal potential of country roads and the way that watching humans have sex can confuse dogs. The bulk of this segment found Maher arguing that, yes, societal progress had taken place over the last few decades. It was another instance of him pushing back against the “far left,” though the sole person he quoted was comedian and actor Kevin Hart. Maher dubbed the phenomenon a “progressive allergy to acknowledging societal advances.” It’s certainly a running theme for Maher this year; we’ll see where next week’s episode takes it.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

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