Bill Maher may be a comedian and political commentator but he’s no Will Rogers.
I get that if you’re expressing opinions, you’re going to get backlash. And when you wed it with humor you’re bound to get people angry. But there is a difference between being funny and channeling a politically correct version of insult king Don Rickles.
Some say that Maher went too far with his “it’s time to bring back fat shaming” spiel during his Sept. 6 monologue with a dash or two of vulgarity and enough cheap shots to trigger cheap laughter and smirks from obvious non-fat people he was sharing the stage with during the episode of HBO’s “Real Time.”
Cut off the saturated fat in the form of the cheap shots and the easy sugary laugh high triggered by inhaling Maher’s demeaning references such as saying being fat leads to all sorts of maladies including not losing your virginity, and you will find the lean truth in the underlying point he was making. Our eating habits are a leading cause of healthcare being expensive in this country. That is also the case with excessive drinking, smoking, drug abuse, promiscuous sex, and driving two ton killing and maiming machines with complete disregard for the rules of the road and lives of others.
I normally wouldn’t give Maher’s commentary much thought if I hadn’t been guilty of something myself. Twice this past month in a very public setting someone stood up and essentially proclaimed they wouldn’t give fat women the time of day as potential dates without me saying a thing. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I also don’t think that every word that one may find a bit off mark deserves a confrontation. In this case the guy delivering the remarks wasn’t exactly within the recommended weight charts that Maher would likely insist become the Holy Grail of American life. The comment was also delivered in a somewhat flippant and disparaging manner.
Maher’s premise provides a lot of fat on the bone to chew.
And while he doesn’t have to be politically correct or even be understanding when he expresses his views for laughs — which is what he gets paid to do — he’d do everybody a favor if his zingers were a bit more zingy than cutting.
I don’t make it a secret I used to weigh 320 pounds nor the fact I lost 130 pounds in the nine months leading up to my 30th birthday nor the fact I’ve weighed between 165 and 170 pounds for going on 15 years. What I have kept a secret is what prompted me to eat to the point my weight in the 7th grade is what I weigh now. I thought — wrongly I might add — that eating like there is no tomorrow to be fat would be a way to get people to stop abusing you as a kid.
I only succeeded in triggering verbal abuse on top of the physical as people — mostly adults — went out of their way to call me fatso.
This is not a poor me or woe is me venting. It is far from it. Things are what they are as it is true in a way what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Nor is it to make excuses for anyone else who may be overweight, grossly or otherwise.
I just don’t see how anyone would promote shaming as a way to correct behavior of any type. Did shaming pregnant girls end teen pregnancy? If shaming is so great why doesn’t Maher for both a solution and laughs simply shame people who are addicted to opioids for putting the country through the current opioid crisis? One would hope Maher and others see opioid addiction as a result of human frailty instead of, as how Maher may paraphrase it for laughs and a bit of self-righteous point scoring, saying you don’t come out of the womb as a full-blown drug addict popping pills.
It’s always funny how the self-righteous — and aren’t we all to a degree — on the left, right and middle don’t see how our poking people with pitchforks and ridicule isn’t exactly a productive way to bring about change. Out-of-control shaming is not about bringing about change but a public affirmation that one somehow holds the superior high ground. Think of the “Scarlet Letter.” Then make the progression to the Salem Witch Hunts.
Those that slam Maher for not exactly being sensitive need to look beyond his callousness — perceived and otherwise — to his underlying point. Maher is what he is — a comedian making a living via political commentary. His bottom line is to make money which means being funny which today doesn’t require staying within the boundaries of what once was perceived as good taste. In that aspect he is Rickles’ kissing cousin even though he might view himself as somewhat of a saint trying to save the world.
Being a comedian is a dangerous occupation. The easiest laughs are always bought at the expense of offending someone even if that isn’t your intent. The true masters that can walk the tight line with ease such as Will Rogers are few and far between.
Heaven knows we all need to lighten up.
The problem is the days when you would see comedians on public forums — think TV and social media — with routines that weren’t laced in profanity and who worked hard to steer from disparaging jokes and then see much rougher versions of the same comedian at a casino or some other similar venues are long gone.
Rodney Dangerfield for years was my favorite comedian until I made the mistake of taking in one of his shows in Reno.
The reason comedians such as Maher offend is much of what they do that engages people can be seen without leaving the comfort of your living room. Of course you don’t have to watch it just like you don’t have to watch South Park that at times when it gets past potty humor can be a great satire on the human condition today.
Maher doesn’t need to apologize as a comedian. But his smugness as a political commentator who clearly overshot the runway turning what could have been the perfect landing of a succulent point on what ails America by driving his jumbo jet laden with dripping and pouring sarcasm over everyone who is overweight which doesn’t include him isn’t earning him brownie points, low fat or otherwise.
The line between humor and politics has always been blurred.
What is clear is that shaming or bullying people is not — and never will be — an effective way to address any issue.
America is in dire need of real conversations today more than ever just as we are in desperate need of the ability to laugh at ourselves.
Maher delivered a calculated monologue that was aimed at boosting his stock more than helping solve a problem.
Do not take issue with that. His is a paid comedian.
But for either him or others to hold himself up as a prophet who is gracing America with his wit and wisdom is about as funny as a heart attack.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.