Bill Maher, the acerbic comic whose “Politically Incorrect” television show launched a thousand controversies, played the Chicago Theater for one night only on Friday, July 25th and delighted a sold-out crowd.
Where to begin with an analysis of Maher’s ability to offend with his cynicism? He aimed many barbs at politicians, of course…even Illinois’ own Barack Obama, although, this night, he did end his stand-up routine with the comment, “Thanks for the candidate.”
Poor John McCain received the butt of the ribbing, with age-related comments that I won’t repeat, as they were pretty much what was to be expected. What was not expected was Maher’s criticism of some of Obama’s votes, and his follow-up comment, “I don’t make this stuff up, Folks. I just report it.”
In the middle of the show, Archer Midland-Daniels was mentioned, and a loud shout of support rose from a crowd member, whom Maher then crucified, expressing a great deal of dislike for the giant corporation. He also came down hard on corn. Yes, corn. He doesn’t like corn, apparently, whether it is as an alternative fuel or a foodstuff. He just does not like corn. What can I say? Take it up with Maher.
About the time that he was ragging on corn and farmers (whom he criticized as the biggest welfare queens) and all corn-related topics, someone heckled him from the midwestern crowd filling all the seats this night. Maher looked calmly into the crowd, found the heckler and said, “Now, that really didn’t add anything to the show, did it?” very calmly, as though this happens to him all the time. Cool.
I used to go to a chat room online called “Hollywood Café” and some of Maher’s writers were not glowing in their praise of him. However, his riff on religion and marriage, both topics he has addressed on his show (to say he is “a confirmed bachelor” is putting it mildly) were familiar and funny.
We were 3 rows from the top of this many-tiered palace of entertainment. I had just made a trip to the restrooms located in the bowels of the theater, which were another 3 to 5 flights of stairs. By the time I had climbed from the basement to 3 rows from the top, I needed oxygen. I don’t think I was alone. I could almost touch the Indian mural on the ceiling and the chandelier near it. Maher looked like a speck onstage, wearing what appeared to be a tan tee shirt with some sort of logo that I would have needed binoculars to make out.
His voice, however, rang out loud and clear, as did his lampooning of everything from gas prices to the demise of George W. Bush (let’s understate his comments and say that he is not a big Bush supporter), to why his married friends’ wives don’t like him hanging around, reminding their husbands of what they are missing.
It was vintage Maher on his one stop in the Windy City, and, Democrat or Republican, Christian, Jew or Muslim, there was enough material in his act to offend everyone at least once, and all of it was funny.