On Sunday, Oct 11, Bill Maher performed live at The Michigan Theatre. Before the show, the line stretched a block outside the iconic theatre. However, the wait wouldn’t prove long, as Maher quickly emerged from behind the stage.
The celeb-comic’s first joke was dedicated to the liberal spirit of the Ann Arbor community. However, he was performing to an audience whose average age was clearly above 40. The crowd chuckled at the following marijuana joke, but it did not hit home in the same fashion had it been a college aged audience.
Maher would touch upon a variety of topics throughout his performance. Besides marijuana, he ranted about race in America, the upcoming election, foreign policy, and, perhaps most humorously, liberal guilt. By liberal guilt he meant the constant — some would say self-righteous — awareness among liberals to never toe-the-line of the politically incorrect. Maher, who prides himself on his non-filtered approach to politics and comedy, quickly made a point of singling out any audience member who groaned at his blunt material. He mimed out a liberal inflicting self-punishment, for enjoying his politically incorrect humor. This gag proved to be a rather thoughtful take on the mindset of a liberal, and it was a fresh approach for a left-wing comedian to take digs at both his party and the GOP.
Maher’s most controversial bit was his take on Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Texas student who brought his homemade clock to his school and was consequently arrested. This event triggered a national schism over racism and Islamophobia. Maher refused to acknowledge Ahmed as an “inventor,” and the comedian has said that he views the arrest as justified, since he believed the homemade clock looked like a makeshift bomb. Once again, Maher’s different take upon a subject that has been thoroughly dissected by the American public led to a mixture of cackles and groans from the crowd.
Maher centered a solid portion of his routine on religion and race. Prior to providing his thoughts upon Islam specifically, he focused on religion generally. In his life, Maher never left religion; rather, he rejected it from the start. This proves useful in his next bit, which is clearly anti-Islam. Maher believes that certain Islamic practices encourage misogyny and violence. Due to his aforementioned beliefs, it is clear he is not simply against this one religion, but religion itself. However, he did quote a variety of statistics that he believes are key to showing why Islam inspires a culture of violence.
Furthermore, Maher had material on the upcoming presidential election. He guessed (correctly) that the majority of the audience members were Bernie supporters, and this was confirmed by a series of whoops and cheers emerging from the crowd. Maher proceeded to systematically break down why Hillary would be president and fervently defended her regarding the email controversy. He astutely pointed out that there was nothing specific that the Republican Party was looking for on her email. Rather, they were merely trying to catch her in the midst of a scandal. Maher seemed to thrive off of the crowd’s energy, as his argumentative personality flexed itself against the audience’s tempestuous atmosphere. When an audience member screamed out a profane heckle against Hillary Clinton, Maher swiftly and aggressively rushed to her defense, seemingly absorbing the anger of the audience member and transforming it into his own passion.
Maher’s comedic bits performed well throughout the night, as joke-after-joke left the audience in fits of laughter while leaving some annoyed. At times, his routine left the purely comedic and turned toward his personal beliefs on foreign policy. Maher made it quite clear that he dislikes America’s constant involvement in other countries’ affairs and believes that the Middle East would be in a far more stable place had the American government never been involved.
Throughout his routine, Maher expertly kept pace. The man has clearly mastered his stand-up and exudes such confidence one might laugh regardless of the content. Maher is a true talent and star — a cynical one to be sure — but indeed a star. His performance in Ann Arbor made it evident that his brand of comedy transcended generations, as he left 70-year-olds and college students both in tears.