On Saturday night, HBO aired Bill Maher: Live from Oklahoma, the political satirist’s 11th stand-up special for the cable network. Its original title was Triggered, though apparently Maher thought better of naming his comedy routine after an internet-troll word.
Throughout the hour-long special, filmed at the 2,800-capacity Brady Theater in Tulsa, the 62-year-old comic delivered—by his own admission—many of his “greatest hits,” going after “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” and Islam and fussing over Caitlyn Jenner’s genitals (she had gender-reassignment surgery last year, Bill, you don’t need to keep harping on it).
He assigned nicknames to top Trump administration officials, including former EPA chief Scott Pruitt (“three raccoons under a trench coat”), Attorney General Jeff Sessions (“a Confederate soldier”) and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (“mentally challenged”). Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, was “beyond Christian”—with Maher mimicking the politician in saying, “Life begins at erection”—though not as bad as Trump because he’s “not trying to become a dictator” and “is within the normal parameters of Republican awful.”
There was the usual airing of the grievances, including that time those PC college kids tried to disinvite him from speaking at Berkeley (it was years ago man, get over it already!); the Catholics’ efforts to take him off the air around the time of his hit documentary Religulous; and the regular charges of Islamophobia. The world, in Bill’s eyes, has become more sensitive to racism, and that sensitivity has led to an overcorrection, and that overcorrection, epitomized by protesting college kids, has given us President Donald Trump—an argument that conveniently overlooks how Trump ran an explicitly xenophobic, fearmongering campaign and is currently imprisoning brown children in modern-day concentration camps at the U.S.-Mexico border. Forget that college kids have been protesting since there were college kids (they’re young and idealistic!), the notion that campus protest in any way helped deliver President Donald Trump is patently absurd.
One of Maher’s sharpest bits concerned his favorite target over the age of 21: Donald Trump.
“This is what happens when you elect a malignant narcissist as president: he cannot imagine a reality that doesn’t match his perceptions,” Maher joked of the president’s tenuous grasp on reality, including his bogus inauguration-crowd-size claim. “That was the most people he ever saw in one place, so it must be the most people who ever gathered anywhere! That’s why he thinks he has a big dick. It’s the biggest one he has.”
Maher, of course, wasn’t done: “Although honestly, doesn’t everything about this man scream microdick? The bragging, and the buildings with my name on it! And the debates. He was talking about his dick at the debates! That guy is president. Remember that? There’s no problem, I guarantee there’s no problem. I think there’s a problem. I think there’s a very big problem. I think that’s the whole problem. I think this is a man who has never once brought a woman to orgasm—if he even believes such a thing exists. It’s rigged! It’s rigged! The vagina has been very unfair to me! Very unfair!”
For all the vitriol he spews at the president, there are quite a few similarities between a Bill Maher stand-up performance and a Donald Trump rally. There’s yelling. Wild gesticulation. Mocking nicknames. Chanting (“whiny little bitch!”). Punchlines. Obsessing over perceived slights. Culture-war griping. And, for those in the crowd, an unwavering allegiance to the man with the mic, even when he’s, say, lobbing cheap redneck-incest jokes—in Tulsa.
Of course, one of these performers is a stand-up comedian and the other is the president of the United States. And that is a scary thing indeed.