Political comedy pioneer Bill Maher to perform at Saenger Theater
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The explosion of shows tailored exclusively to political comedy is a phenomenon of the new millennium. For decades, political comedy remained a minute feature of the nightly routines of Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson and David Letterman, for fear that its extensive use would alienate viewers. With the debut of “Politically Incorrect” on Comedy Central in the ’90s, however, political comedy burst into the mainstream, with Bill Maher in the driver’s seat.
The reliably liberal comedian is scheduled to take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday at the Saenger Theater for his first show in New Orleans since 2013. Things have changed a lot for Maher during this time. The 15th season of his popular talk show, “Real Time,” premiered in January with a brand-new studio and a wealth of new topics to discuss.
For many, Maher is considered a pioneer in creating the new generation of made-for-television political comedians that seek to inform, paving the way for the popularity of Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and John Oliver.
While Maher has been widely recognized as a force in the realm of political comedy for quite some time now, it is a rare feat for a comedian to peak in popularity at 60. For someone who has influenced countless others, Maher’s brand of comedy is distinct, and for that reason he has aged like a fine wine in an ever-more-unpredictable political climate.
Along with usual punchlines about prominent politicians and current events, Maher’s ability to speak candidly about current events is unparalleled when paired with one of the sharpest minds in comedy. In a time where everyone has something to say about the current political landscape, Maher has never had more material to work with in his career.
Maher’s success has not come without its fair share of criticism.
His controversial statements and jokes over his career have led to accusations of sexism, Islamophobia, sacrilegious and anti-Americanism.
The outspoken comedian often finds himself in odd positions politically due to his fervent defense of offensive jokes and speech. This contradiction has only expanded his popularity, as the country grapples with divided feelings on political correctness.
With this context in mind, Maher’s show in New Orleans is sure to be one of the city’s must-see events this weekend. In describing what made his greatest comedic influence in George Carlin so important, Maher said, “if you took the jokes out of his act, it would still be a very interesting speech; it made you think.”
This approach to comedy is certainly not lost on Maher, as he is still making viewers on both sides of the political spectrum think after 25 years.