With his reputation — and potentially his job — in the balance, tonight Bill Maher initially ducked around the expected apology for using a racial slur on last week’s episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
Barely addressing the controversy in his traditional opening monologue, Maher faced the studio audience and HBO viewers by saying, “Thank you for letting a sinner in your midst” before turning the conversation to “someone worse than me — Donald Trump.”
The comedian then proceeded to go hard on Trump in the aftermath of Thursday’s Comey hearings in his opening remarks. “Is he too stupid to be President?” Maher asked his audience.
However, this was followed by a sit-down interview with author Michael Eric Dyson, in which Maher immediately made this request: “I want you to school me — I did a bad thing.”
The academic then proceeded to speak honestly to Maher about the current state of racial politics, though he was quite sympathetic to Maher as a person. “People don’t think Bill Maher is a racist — what they thought was if even Bill Maher can capitulate to a level of unconscious white privilege, then the rest of us are in a serious spot,” Dyson said.
“Comedians are a special kind of monkey,” was Maher’s follow-up. “We’re a trained thing that tries to get a laugh. That’s what we do, that’s what we’re always thinking.”
“The reason I’m here is… because I think the Bill Maher I know has been on the front line protecting, arguing, standing up for people. You made a mistake, you’ve acknowledged that mistake,” Dyson added.
“We need you, as an ally,” Dyson said at the end of the interview.
Friday night’s episode guest list also included former Congressman David Jolly, CNN analyst David Gregory and activist Symone Sanders. Meanwhile, the mid-episode guest was Ice Cube, who was ready to address his perspective on the controversy during the show’s usual one-on-one discussion.
“What made you think it was cool to say that?” Cube asked Maher. “I accept your apology, but I still think we need to get to the root of the psyche, because I think there are a lot of guys out there who cross the line who are a little too familiar, or think they’re a little too familiar… It’s a word that has been used against us — it’s like a knife. It can be used as a weapon, or it can be used as a tool. And it’s been used as a weapon against us by white people and we’re not going to let that happen again by nobody because it’s not cool… That’s our word now, and you can’t have it back.”
“Some things just ain’t funny,” Cube added. “I like your show but I think this is a teachable moment, not just for you but for everyone watching.”
This episode comes in the immediate wake of the announcement earlier Friday afternoon that former CNN host Reza Aslan was fired from the network after comments he made on Twitter about President Trump.
Maher’s current deal with HBO runs through 2018. Check out the clips below from the episode.