Normally, I’m a huge fan of comedian and political pundit Bill Maher. So much so, that I never miss one of his shows and I bought his book, “New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer,” for my family as gifts. His straight talk about the dangers of religious indoctrination, the awkward, disingenuous idiocy of most GOP politics and timid stagnation of the Democratic Party are usually spot-on. But on his HBO show, “Real Time” Friday night, I found myself, for the first time, staring at my screen in distaste.
He began his closing bit as razor-sharp as normal:
“How can you guys be so unhappy with Obama when I’m so unhappy with Obama?” said Maher in response to scripted GOP outrage over every move that the POTUS makes. “You think you got coal in your stocking? I wanted single-payer health care, a carbon emissions bill, gun control, and legalized pot. If you get to carry around all this outrage over me getting that shit, shouldn’t I have gotten it?”
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So far, so good – but then things took a turn for the worse.
In a macabre attempt at humor that was so off its mark and unnecessary that it was pathetic, Maher compared President Barack Obama’s non-threatening, conciliatory demeanor when caving to conservative demands — and ignoring liberals — to slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
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“If Obama is a socialist, he’s a lousy one, Maher quipped. “He could not be less threatening if he were walking home with iced tea and Skittles.”
And the crowd laughed. They laughed.
At first seeming a bit awkward after the words were out of his mouth, Maher decided to play off of the crowd’s groans and chuckles, and offered a wide smile of his own. But it was obvious that he knew it and they knew it — he messed up. It was such a transparent attempt at being witty and conscious, that for a split second I almost felt sorry for him.
Then I realized that it was literally three months to the day that George Zimmerman gunned down Trayvon. Literally three months since Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton had their baby’s life snatched away. Yet, there Maher and his audience sat in his snug, cozy HBO studio, sharing a few laughs at the expense of an innocent boy on the cusp of adulthood who was killed for no other reason than being Black.
Note to Bill:
Trayvon Martin is not a political punchline to be trotted out simply because you can compare the Black child to a Black president.
While I understand that at the root of the “joke” was that Obama is as innocent of wrong-doing as Trayvon was on the night he was murdered, it was a horribly misfired attempt at humor. Especially considering that Obama is arguably guilty of war crimes in at least two nations, while Trayvon was guilty of no crimes at all. I am very clear that Mr. Maher has “funny” in abundance; time will tell, however, if he has enough class to admit that, this time, the “joke” was ill-conceived and ill-timed.
I’m sure there are those who will disagree and accuse me of accusing him of racism. Please note that racism was not used once in this article, because I do not believe that Maher has a racist bone in his body. Bottom line: The laughter was beneath him and the comparison was unnecessary. If he had to make it, he should have had the dignity to treat it with the solemnity it deserves.
I may be a fan of Maher, but just as I criticize the president when he deserves it, I will criticize him as well. Just because I think the man is probably one of the most enlightened voices in a generation, does not mean that I won’t call a spade a spade — as I see it.
As he is so fond of telling the president — and it’s as true then as it is now: You made a mistake, Mr. Maher, don’t laugh it off.