In what was the final Real Time with Bill Maher episode before the 2020 election, the host welcomed Al Franken, former US Senator from Minnesota, and one of the original writers and sometimes player on Saturday Night Live. The meeting of joke-telling veterans wasn’t always comedy gold — far from it — but they engaged on a topic that Maher has been hammering at for more than half of Donald Trump’s administration.
The HBO late-night stalwart and the host of The Al Franken Podcast discussed Maher’s long-held fear that Trump won’t leave office if he loses, and Franken had an interesting spin on that. “My answer to that is, that’s great,” he said, generating a murmur from the socially distanced crowd. “Because if he won’t leave, that means he lost. And he will be escorted out, and I’ll pick him up and take him wherever he wants to go.”
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Maher wasn’t all that amused.
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“Excuse me if I’m not so sanguine as you are about this,” he said. “This is what happens in other countries. We’ve seen this is many other countries — now we are one of those countries. Maybe.”
He added: “[Trump’s] never gonna concede, so he’s gonna say all kinds of shit about, ‘Oh, I’m hearing about ballots.’ And he has a lot of enablers in courts, in legislatures. … You guys keep saying he’ll be escorted out by the government — he is the government. … What I’m talking about is, at the point where the Commander in Chief says, ‘This election has been rigged, it’s not fair, I’m still president until we figure it out” — the last three words emphasized by air quotes. “We don’t know what will happen.”
Franken said, paraphrasing the sentiments of other current and former Democratic pols who’ve been on Real Time in recent years, “Let’s agree to disagree on this one.”
Maher then noted that is Franken, a longtime USO supporter and performer, is “one of the few liberals who the military likes.” He asked the ex-Senator, “What’s your assessment on if they have to get involved?”
Franken was assertive in his reply. “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [Gen. Mark] Milley, will take him out.”
Case made, with an emphatic glare at the host.
After an awkward and drawn-out attempted joke by Franken and an overlong explanation of said lead balloon, their discussion turned to the future of the Senate.
“If [Joe] Biden wins and doesn’t have the Senate, [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell will stop everything … and believe me, he’s not as charming as he looks.”
Many — OK, most — of Franken’s gags fell flat during his opening-interview segment. But we’ll give him that one.
Maher righted the ship with a straightforward question about Trump losing the election. “If we have a new president, how do we get back to normal? How do we get back to where we were — which isn’t good, but better than horrible?”
Said Franken: “That’s such a great question. The answer is, we probably can’t, because there’s two universes of information.”
Later in the “New Rules” segment, Maher said: “No matter which side wins on Tuesday, let’s skip the civil war and go right to reconciliation. Thirty-four percent of the voters think there will be another civil war in the next five years, and I’d like to remind them of one thing: America is a family, and the definition of family is people who hate each other without resorting to violence. We have to see each other not as mortal enemies, but rather, merely as roommates from hell.”
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