9/18 Update: After being roundly criticized, CelebStoners Bill Maher and Drew Barrymore and other TV talk show hosts have decided to hold off on returning to production during the Writers Guild strike. Maher says he changed his mind because "both sides have agreed to go back to the negotiating table."
"It is time to bring people back to work," he posted at X on September 13. "Real Time is coming back, unfortunately sans writers or writing."
Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing. It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work. The writers have important issues that I sympathize with, and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people…— Bill Maher (@billmaher) September 14, 2023
The Writers Guild of America strike, which has been going on since May, impacts late-night shows, scripted series and movies. Maher joined Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Hudson and a few other shows that have decided to return despite the strike.
The DGA responded:
“As a WGA member, @BillMaher is obligated to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services. It is difficult to imagine how @RealTimers can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place.”
Bill Maher’s decision to go back on the air while his Guild is on strike is disappointing. If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than “the spirit of the strike.” #WGAstrike 1/3— Writers Guild of America West (@WGAWest) September 14, 2023
So did others.
Scab— Joe Hill (@vintagejoehill) September 14, 2023
Bill loves unions, unless they clash with his ego and bank account.— Dumpster (@CuteLilDumpster) September 14, 2023
Way to take a stand. Showing that you can do a show without writers will really show those suits!— TITUS (@TitusNation) September 14, 2023
He stopped caring about liberal issues a long time ago. He got old and rich and flipped the script.— Matthew Desmond (@TrumpGotRaided) September 14, 2023
i’d still never watch your dogshit show but me and Zaddy and all the CEOs do so appreciate your scabbing on our behalf! see you courtside! pic.twitter.com/DrN61V6m2O— Carol Lombardini (@ItsMeCarolAMPTP) September 14, 2023
Without writers, the new weekly SCAB edition of "Real Time With @billmaher" will be 83 seconds long https://t.co/EkMqgeHGYL— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) September 14, 2023
As somebody who's known you since 1978: Fuck you, Bill, you selfish and unfunny scumbag
That last comment by Olbermann, who has his own podcast, is particularly damning. Maher had been known as a liberal late-night pundit until the Covid pandemic happened. He took the Libertarian side – "government, stay out of my life" – and decided Anthony Fauci, vaccinations, masks and being told to stay home were against his world view of personal freeedom coming first as opposed to what's best for the country. On top of that, Maher launched a crusade against "wokeness," which played right in conservatives' hands.
I've long thought Maher's opinions about cancel culture were shaped when his first TV show, Politically Incorrect, was canceled by ABC after he made an insenstive comment about the 9/11 attackers ("staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly").
HBO came to Maher's rescue in 2003, offering him another late-night platform. Up until April, there were 663 episodes of Real Time. Maher used to be at the vanguard of most liberal causes, but no more, except for marijuana legalization (his pet issue) and climate change. We've noted his shift to the center or right over the last few years.
In a 2022 interview on Joe Rogan's podcast, Maher explained:
"People say to me: 'Don't you think you've gotten more conservative?' No, I haven't. The left has gotten goofier. So, I seem more conservative maybe, but it's not me who changed. I feel like I'm the same guy, but five years ago we hadn't spent $6 trillion to stay home. I understand we had to do something with the pandemic. I'm not sure that was it. Centrism is such a wishy-washy word. But that's sort of what it is. Some people lean a little more to the left, a little more to the right, sometimes it's by issue to issue."
Maher seems to have outlived his welcome on HBO. He also has the male-dominated Club Random podcast, which features a rogues' gallery of right-leaning thought leaders like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Vivek Ramaswamy, Ice Cube, Russell Brand, Kid Rock and Andrew Sullivan. Just 16 of his 88 guests have been female.