Not long after his presidential announcement speech, a xenophobic ramble branding Mexican immigrants “rapists” and drug mules—in front of a throng of paid actors, no less—comedian Bill Maher warned America to take candidate Trump seriously.
“We never really got to the presidential campaign last week, and Donald Trump entered,” said Maher on his HBO show Real Time. “I hear all over the media ‘he’s just a joke,’ ‘it’s just a publicity stunt,’ ‘don’t worry about it, it’ll go away.’ It’s not going away.”
When a guest claimed that they certainly didn’t see the real-estate mogul staying at or near the top of the polls, Maher disagreed.
“I do,” he shot back. “He makes everybody else look like a midget—not in a good way. Here’s the thing about Donald Trump: he never apologizes, he’s never wrong, no matter what crazy thing he says. He’s the white Kanye.”
This exchange (and many others) were revisited on Friday night as part of Real Time with Bill Maher: Anniversary Special, an hour-long tribute to Maher’s 25-year career in political comedy, from Politically Incorrect to now.
And, like Michael Moore and Keith Ellison, one of the few outspoken liberals to take candidate Trump seriously in the early going was indeed Maher.
“A lot of people in the beginning either saw Trump as just funny, and didn’t see the danger, or journalists saw him as dangerous and didn’t see the funny. I think Bill was the first guy to see both,” offers Scott Carter, executive producer of Real Time, during the special.
In addition to glowing praise from Larry David, Barbra Streisand and many others, the special focused on Maher’s bizarre history with the current president of the United States—including the time Trump sued the comic for $5 million over a joke mocking the reality star’s racist birther crusade against then-President Obama.
“New Rule: Donald Trump must immediately submit to DNA tests to determine whether he is in fact the love child of a human woman and an orangutan from the Brooklyn zoo,” cracked Maher, adding, “But given your face, your physique, your intelligence level, and of course your hair, the American people deserve some real proof that your mother did not spend most nights in 1945 covering her body in banana oil, sneaking into the monkey cage, and compulsively humping an orange-haired ape.”
Trump, one of the more litigious human beings on the planet, announced in Feb. 2013 that he was suing Maher for $5 million on—you guessed it—Fox & Friends. And Maher ate it up, reading the silly letter from Trump’s lawyer on the air: “Attached hereto is a copy of Mr. Trump’s birth certificate, demonstrating that he is the son of Fred Trump, not an orangutan.” (Trump withdrew the lawsuit months later.)
One of the more chilling moments of the special took a look back at Nov. 4, 2016—the final Real Time episode before the presidential election—where Maher, drunk and defeated, hinted that Trump might very well be the next president of the United States.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve had a couple of drinks… I’m shitting in my pants,” said Maher. “Let me take you back a couple of years. First they said—everybody said—that Donald Trump, when he talks about running for president, ‘Oh, he’s just saying that’…. Then he announced he was going to run, they said, ‘Well, sure, he’s a reality-show star and people think that’s interesting, but he’s not going to get any votes,’ and then he got votes. Then they said, ‘He’s not going to win any primaries,’ and then he won primaries. Then they said, ‘He’s not going to win the nomination,’ then he won the nomination. And now these same people are saying he’s not going to win the election? Yeah, he could win the election.”
It’s one of the only times Maher wishes he was wrong.