Bill Maher: The Art of Insult

Review: Bill Maher | AT&T Performing Arts Center | Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House


The Art of Insult

Bill Maher gathers another roaring crowd of Southern liberals for his show at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House.

published Monday, November 18, 2013

Photo: Alberto Tolot

Dallas — Even though the political opinions that divide us are deep and wide, we have to realize that those we oppose hold their views in deep sincerity and are truly doing what they feel is best for America. If we’d only communicate clearly and respectfully, and listen just as well, we’d come to a place of peace and understanding.

Oh screw that, let’s go watch Bill Maher.

The Southern Liberals Club convened at Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center on Sunday, packing the house to hear the host of Real Time with Bill Maher tell them what they wanted to hear. The resulting laughter from the heavily male crowd was an interesting mix of deep belly laughs interspersed with gasps of ow, ouch and oh! Yes, you just want to get along. But it’s nice for two hours to not have to.

“My mission in life is to go to places where liberal people are surrounded by rednecks,” said Maher to open his show. “It’s good to be in the liberal South.” The audience roared its approval. Cheers of anticipation erupted at the first mentions of Rick Perry and Ted Cruz; saliva practically dripped from the leather man next to me.

Maher aimed his eviscerator at Republicans, Tea Party, Fox News, Ted Nugent, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, spirituality, religion, gun nuts and hillbillies. And that was just the first 10 minutes.

Much of the show came from Crazy Stupid Politics, a Maher special that streamed on Yahoo! Screen last year. But as long as the 2012 presidential candidates continue to do stupid things, the material remains current. Sort of. Rick Santorum and Joe the Plumber jokes, really?

Maher dances well with the audience, knowing just how far to push the edge and when to rib. The delivery’s the same as on television, but nice to see him out from behind the desk and striding about in charcoal jeans and crisp blue shirt. He’d occasionally move to the stage front and do his trademark lean over and “Let’s get real” with the audience. When the energy would sag, Maher’d pump it up with a few jack-off jokes and pantomiming of sex acts and be running again.

A music stand held a ring binder of notes in low-glare light-blue plastic. Maher would almost imperceptively amble to the set list, glance for a micro-moment without losing audience contact, and then launch into the next section. It was masterful. But while extensive television has imparted monster teleprompter chops, Maher’s too accustomed to a boom following him around and his mic skills are slipping. Large stretches of the show’s last half were inaudible to those in the back.

Maher presented a dense and satisfying well-constructed show with little fluff or banter.  The flood of politics and policy material was punctuated by other topics. The marijuana section was particularly enjoyable (“It’s the longest relationship in my life. We even forget to finish each others sentences”) and wildly received by the audience.

For the religion rant, Maher cleverly tweaked the famous Abbot and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine to satirize the cognitive dissonance of conflicting religious beliefs. Then he took it a step further to expound on death and the “selling of the after party.” Even reincarnation took a blow, with images of raccoons spelling out “help me” in acorns.

As part of his pleasure at “rooting for death,” Maher, a PETA board member, shared his glee over incidents of animals exacting fatal revenge on humans. He wrapped up the night by making fun of movie sex scenes with their nonstop rocket-level passion, a bit of non-political silliness he clearly enjoyed. Sex and death. Maher’s a classic.

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