Bill Maher fans (nearly 30,000 and counting) have answered the talk-show host’s call to arms — or, more accurately, call to fingers — by typing their names on a White House petition asking asking President Barack Obama to appear as a guest on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher.
Maher announced the signature drive during his final segment on Friday’s Real Time. Winding down his usual “New Rules” bit, Maher launched into a rather lengthy plea (watch it, above) to both his audience and the President with a two-fold goal: To raise the 100,000 signatures necessary for an official White House response, and to convince Obama to end his longstanding refusal to appear on Real Time.
“Sean Penn can get an interview with El Chapo, but I can’t get the President who talks to the lady with green lips,” Maher said, the latter reference to Obama’s live-streamed chat with Youtube celebrity GloZell Green, known for her outrageous lipstick choices.
Maher directed his viewers to visit the White House website petition page — petitions.whitehouse.gov — to sign the statement, “Herewith, on the occasion of Bill Maher’s 60th birthday, we the people, especially viewers of Real Time with Bill Maher, respectfully request that President Obama appear on Real Time and thereby honor that particular audience (and their support for him), as he has so honored viewers of so many other TV shows and media outlets; or if not, to please, respectfully, tell us why.”
By 9:35 AM ET, the signature count was 28,053. The drive has until Valentine’s Day to hit the 100,000 mark to qualify for an official response from the White House.
Maher seemed both angry and dumbfounded that the President has not consented to prior invitations from the show. “I’ve been pretty supportive,” he noted before showing a round-up of Real Time clips in which he voiced support for the President (“the Jackie Robinson of American politics,” he says in one). Addressing the president directly, Maher said “You’ve done everything but Ultimate Fights and amateur porn” and “If you went any lower you’d be on Fox and Friends.”
Moreover, Maher pointed out, his show pulls good ratings. “Real Time gets over 4 million [viewers],” he said, “which is a lot these days.”
The host began the segment by reminding his audience that he rarely asks for their indulgence, whether it be in hawking his books or sharing his personal problems. He also noted, “My relationship with my audience is the relationship of my life. Kids? I don’t have time for kids, I’ve got to write this end piece.”
So now, he explained, he was calling in favors, asking his viewers to honor his upcoming 60th birthday by signing the petition. When a mariachi band came onstage to serenade with “Happy Birthday” at the show’s end, even conservative activist (and guest) Ralph Reed seemed caught up in the moment, shaking a tambourine as the band played on.