Bill Maher brimmed with satisfaction Friday having swapped his backyard for a studio, an audience and live guests for the first time in months in an inching-back-to-normal Real Time with Bill Maher.
“There’s real people. Thank you Jesus. Thank you. People!” he exclaimed, throwing up his arms wide to welcome a miracle. The show is filmed at CBS Television City’s Studio 33.
The HBO show is the first big talk show to bring back a crowd, just 25 people for now but almost loud enough. “This is interesting, you can hear people laugh individually. Oh, I see that lady like that joke, that guy didn’t,” the host said.
These pandemic weeks have seen Maher bounce from enraged to peevish at his shelter-at-home backdrop of grass and trees, at telling jokes in a vacuum about his dog and at trying to coax compelling interviews off a video screen.
His round-table discussion was back at a real and round table, wisecracking face-to-face with Peter Hamby, host of Snapchat’s political show Good Luck America, and former CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellen. With the presidential election looming, Maher fretted about the electoral college, a frequent target of his, but both guests reassured him Joe Biden’s lead looks strong and steady. “It’s the whole ‘What about 2016?’ thing.’ It’s not 2016. We’ve had four years of Donald Trump,” Hamby said.
Another Jessica — Jessica Krug — came up. She’s been in the news as a white professor who pretended for years to be black. Asked the ever provocative Maher: “If it’s okay to say you’re a different gender, why not say you’re a different race?”
Social distancing left lots of room around the table between Maher and his guests.
Maher had a pair of virtual interviews, with Ewan McGregor about his upcoming Apple TV+ motorcycle docu-series Long Way Up and Peter Strzok former FBI agent and author of Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump.
McGregor, a fan of adventure and motorbikes, rides with longtime mate Charlie from the tip of Latin American to Los Angeles in the series premiering this month.
And guess what? There is news elsewhere in the world and unrelated to President Trump. The actor and Maher talked up a storm about — Scottish independence. McGregor said he never wanted it but has changed his mind since Brexit.
“We were shooting [T2] Trainspotting the night of the Brexit vote. The map was split in half. Scotland was yellow, to stay, and England was blue, except a little around London. I I think we’re going in different directions. I think probably its time,” he said.
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