Update, with videos “It’s like a knife, man,” actor-musician Ice Cube told Bill Maher about the host’s use last week of the N-word. “When I hear my homies say it, it don’t feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it’s like a knife.”
“That’s our word now,” he continued, “and you can’t have it back.” (See video above).
The first episode of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher since Maher ignited a firestorm last Friday by jokingly referring to himself as a “house N-word,” Maher took the stage tonight to a standing ovation and shouts of “We love you Bill” from his loyal audience.
“Thank you for letting a sinner in your midst,” Maher said. “Michael Eric Dyson will be out here shortly to take me to the woodshed.”
And so he did, as Maher and the author of Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America launched into a discussion of race intended to clear the air after Maher crossed the line from politically incorrect to, as Dyson called it, the “unconscious reflex of white privilege.”
“I wanted you to come by here because I want you to school me,” Maher told Dyson. “I did a bad thing.”
“That’s a great place to begin, Bill,” Dyson said. “A very bad thing.”
Dyson told Maher that with today’s “resurgence” of racism — he referenced Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions — it’s even more important for Maher to fight the “unconscious reflex.”
“My Bible tells me that to whom much is given,” Dyson said, “much is expected.”
Maher acknowledged “it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t said in malice” since the word “brought pain to people.”
“I’m not here to do that. I reiterate tonight, and that’s sincere. I’m not that big of an asshole.”
Maher also mentioned Kathy Griffin, “who by the way owes me a fruit basket for getting her off the front page.” Maher said “as much as I hate Trump,” Griffin was wrong to be photographed holding a fake, bloody decapitated head of the president. Still, he added, she “should not go away.”
“He broke me?” Maher said, quoting Griffin about Trump. “No, he didn’t.”
Later in the show, a very serious Ice Cube told Maher, “I knew you was going to f*ck up sooner or later. Sometimes you sound like a redneck trucker.”
The former N.W.A rapper also criticized Real Time for blurring the line between political discourse and jokes. Maher responded the show was meant to be both.
Activist Symone Sanders, the former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders and frequent CNN contributor, told Maher that his joke about being a “house N-word” was particularly offensive to black women, and accused Maher of “white-washing” the word. “It was mostly black women who were in the house,” she said, where they were often beaten and raped.
Another guest, Republican (and former congressman) David Jolly, applauded Maher for apologizing. “Let’s start focusing,” he said, “on the people who refuse to apologize.”
Although Maher was contrite throughout the episode, he repeatedly insisted that he meant no harm last week. “I don’t want to pretend this is more of a race thing than a comedian thing,” he told Dyson. “Comedians are a special kind of monkey.”
“So to speak,” Dyson responded as the audience laughed nervously.
“Don’t,” Maher said. “Don’t f*ck with me. We are a trained thing that tries to get a laugh. That’s all we are always thinking.”
No mention was made tonight of Sen. Al Franken, who canceled his planned appearance earlier this week.