The Lied Center had a unique performance on Sunday, one that upset some, and entertained others. Bill Maher, an outspoken comedian known for his personality and lack of filter, took the stage Sunday night in front of a crowd that loves his critical commentary on politics and often vulgar descriptions of politicians. He joked right away that “my California friends asked me why I was going to Lincoln, Nebraska.” They weren’t exactly wrong, either; Nebraska is a predominately conservative state. “I told them there are [still] smart people here.”
Maher, who is known for his HBO show Real Time and films like Religulous, identifies himself as a strong liberal, but didn’t hesitate to criticize both Democrats and Republicans (although much more of the latter) on a wide range of topics on stage. One by one, Maher picked apart much of the leadership of the Republican Party and Tea Party, including Michelle Bachmann, John Boehner, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie and more. Maher’s analogies steered the 90-minute show along, and were received with equal shock and laughter from the near-capacity audience in the Lied. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Presidential Candidate for President, was described as an “ideal 1950s American that, when he spoke, sounded as if he was trying to explain why there was rat cum found in the baby food.”
Maher didn’t hesitate to call out the audience, either. He criticized the predominantly progressive-leaning audience of pretending that they don’t acknowledge race, and admitted that he won’t hesitate to call out liberals as well. Criticisms of the elected officials in Nebraska were met with loud cheers, and descriptions of the ‘overall wearing, gun hoarding’ Americans that ‘might have to take over the government’ were well received.
Towards the end of his act, Maher struggled to get everyone on board with his candid descriptions of religions and their followers. Maher, who was born into a Catholic family but no longer associates with any religion, pointed out studies that found many millennials were seriously questioning or didn’t believe in religion, and compared it to how the Republican Party can’t connect with younger people by sticking to old ideals and beliefs. He was also vocal about why the struggle between science and religion was dangerous, citing research that determined many adults thought the end of the world would come in their lifetime, and that climate change was a hoax. While the younger members of the audience enjoyed Maher’s ranting, many of the older audience members hesitated to vocally agree with the critical message on religion. Maher acknowledged the hesitation, saying that “people often come up to me after the show and say they’re praying for me. Don’t bother.”
While Maher’s less-than-friendly banter had a generally good reception, his content struggled with relevancy and timeliness. Naturally, a 90-minute show can’t rely on new content every night, but topics such as the Keystone XL pipeline were notably missing from Maher’s environmental points. In addition, the Seinfeld-esque criticisms of Republicans one at a time occasionally got stale and didn’t seem as relevant as Real Time is.
Despite some of his content, Bill Maher put on a great show at the Lied. Maher is known for his vulgar honesty, and he lived up to the hype on stage. While traditionally successful behind a desk and a camera, Maher showed that he can deliver however and wherever he’s at, and truly tell it how it is.
New episodes of “Real Time with Bill Maher” can be seen at 9:00 p.m. every Friday on HBO. Religulous is available now on DVD.