The last five minutes of Bill Maher: #Adulting — when Bill Maher talks about being so high he can’t even function — is precisely the thing I wish was more present in his comedy acts: the relatability, the humanity, and for Christ’s sake, the absence of political diatribes.
Even when I was a die-hard Real Time with Bill Maher fan in high school, I knew he was essentially a liberal’s Bill O’Reilly. I didn’t much care. Unlike O’Reilly, he was more logical in his approach to political subjects, and often invited people on the show with whom he didn’t align politically. And then, like fellow late-night shows, Saturday Night Live, and cable news, once Donald Trump became president, Maher mostly became insufferable. Worse than that, his political beliefs, which at one point felt refreshingly libertarian, fell into a slightly rebranded version of the condescending liberal attitude. Instead of lecturing us on pronouns, however, Maher just became another finger-wagger for a culture on which he struggled to keep his finger on the pulse.
Bill Maher: #Adulting, Maher’s first special since Live from Oklahoma in 2018, comes across as a best of compilation of the character Brian Griffin from Family Guy, only played for a different breed of laughs. While not bereft of the occasional keen observation or humorous quip, Maher takes this as an opportunity to rant more than entertain his Florida audience. Long tirades about the #MeToo movement and the audacity that schools require parents to call and inform them when they’ll be taking their kid out of school for the day feel incredible out of touch. It’s not the tap-dancing on the line of political correctness — something Maher has always done, for the record — that undercuts the entire endeavor. It’s the lack of any takeaway accompanied with said dance.
Some of Maher’s strongest material is when he addresses the reason the Democrats are losing. Any regular viewer of Real Time won’t be treated to any sweeping new insights, per se, but at least he remains on-point when he says “America is not Twitter” and that the once-proud party of the working people can’t stop catering to an audience that will only look for the next thing about which to bitch and moan. And even in that regard, they do an exceptionally poor job. Damn minimum wage, healthcare, education, the environment, or things that would benefit everyone.
Maher also has a bit about bad dates and how this country needs to teach people, particularly men, “game.” “Dating is like the movie industry,” he explains. “I’ll believe it when it’s in the can.”
I’ve long wished that Maher would mostly skirt politics in his specials, in favor of some more generalized, agreeable comedy. His tone might play better with less partisan subjects as well. As it stands, his latest — with its needless and entirely irrelevant hashtag-title — is a 67-minute adaptation of the “old man yells at cloud” headline from The Simpsons.
NOTE: Bill Maher: #Adulting is now streaming on HBO Max.
Directed by: Ryan Polito.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!