I hoped for a heckler at Bill Maher’s stand-up routine Saturday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
I expected the talk-show host and comedian to share his political commentary; he would chide Republicans for most of the show before moving on to religion skewers. I assumed the crowd thought the same. I was already one of the converted; he’d be preaching to the choir. A heckler would be something new.
Maher threw barbs at Republican policies, agendas, hypocrisies and controversies (“I’m not saying that all Republicans are racist, but if you are a racist and you’re looking for a political party ...”). He made President Obama the butt of several lighthearted jokes (In reaction to the Tea Party belief that Obama would try to use his power to stay in power: “Once you go black ...”). It was just a matter of time before he started on his anti-religion rant (“Religion is the selling of an invisible product”).
He’s not known for holding back. He took full advantage of the venue location to throw in several football coach-as-pedophile jokes. He used a vocal supporter from the audience to make the point that we can’t just say something is stupid to influence change. And he scolded an audience member for opening his phone and not living in the moment.
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He gave a shout out to the small contingent of Republicans in the audience, who cheered themselves on. But the crowd, for the most part, occasionally erupted in applause and laughed heartily at this observations.
It dawned on me that perhaps he was using his comedy tour to cheerlead November’s midterm elections. “Only old, white people vote,” he said to the predominantly white, mature crowd. Maher’s moral of the story? Beliefs and elections have consequences. The evening’s program — like his HBO show “Real Time” and our love affair with tongue-in-cheek current-events commentary — was just a reminder of how extreme, conservative governance oftentimes lacks common sense and reason.
I didn’t learn anything new, and Maher likely didn’t entice anyone new to move to the left, but at least we all shared a laugh.