UPDATED with video: Bill Maher found his stride in his first episode since March to originate from the regular studio home of HBO’s Real Time, capping tonight’s show with a call-to-postal-action against — who else — President Donald Trump.
“If Trump’s going to try to scuttle the Post Office, we need to fight back,” the host said, delivering his “New Rules” show-ending monologue from his familiar set at LA’s CBS Television City. Starting in October, he added, “Don’t use the mail for anything but ballots until the election is over” on November 3.
Without an in-person audience due to COVID-19 restrictions, no one applauded Maher’s proposed hashtag for the postal effort: #FreeUpTheMail, but he charged forward anyway. The segment, along with conversations with guests Wynton Marsalis, Trey Gowdy, Rick Wilson and Nina Burleigh, saw Maher ditch the self-pitying mewling of some of his recent backyard efforts during the pandemic.
Trump and his supporters have attacked the legitimacy of mail-in voting, and as president he has taken action to put loyalists in charge and taken away funding and equipment. He is deliberately trying to tank the postal system in order to have a better chance to beat Joe Biden in November, Maher maintained. “He wants it to fail. It has to fail for his scheme to work. It’s like a postal version of The Producers,” he cracked.
In order to block that plan, he said, citizens should deliberately limit their use of mail and take full advantage of doing things online. “You know how we pull over for fire trucks? It’s time we do the equivalent for mail trucks,” Maher said. “This can be our October surprise for Trump.”
The sincere proposal gave way to comedy in the final half of the monologue, with Maher lampooning the deluge of credit-card offers, real estate post cards and miscellany that regularly clog the mail system. Sure, hand-written letters have charm, but “go back to charming after the election — it’s not essential,” Maher scolded. “The last person to send a letter that mattered was the Zodiac killer.”
He cataloged the things people need to avoid during the slowdown: unnecessary Amazon purchases, paying bills, sending post cards, etc. The real culprit, he charged, was junk mail. “All of the businesses that fill up our mail every day: Take a break,” he pleaded. “I don’t want to lose this election because of the mail. This is something we can do.”
At the top of the show, Maher’s opening monologue still had spliced-in footage and sounds of canned laughter, as it did when produced outdoors at his home. The rest of the show played without audience sweetening and guests appeared via video. The host didn’t comment extensively on the return, other than grumbling that “we can get on a plane” but not sit in a theater or studio together, according to California coronavirus rules.
“It’s great to be back, though,” he joked. “I was in my office today, and there was a family of raccoons at my desk.”