Bill Maher Explains Jokes to Idiots: The Oscars Edition

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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23 Responses

  1. CJColucci
    Ignored
    says:

    Pro tip, Bill. Jokes are supposed to be funny. When they stop getting laughs, hack comedians blame their audiences.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci
      Ignored
      says:

      When they stop getting laughs FROM THE RIGHT PEOPLE.Report

      • Greg In Ak in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        I get that is not how you mean it but comedy is always about making the right people laugh. That is the essence of entertainment. Making the people with a similar sensibility laugh or cry or whatever. The whining of older comics that people no longer find them funny or that sensibility has changed is ridiculous. That is the way of the world. Comedy has always aged quickly. The comedic drunk was a sure fire laugh getter up to the 70’s. ( foster brooks, dean martin)Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Greg In Ak
          Ignored
          says:

          Some comedy doesn’t translate particularly well to the current year.

          Dudley Moore? My goodness. What were they thinking?

          But, oh, let’s use Dave Chappelle as the example: He’s still pretty funny. I mean, he’s not as white-hot as he was in the Chappelle Show days but his stuff has matured and now his stuff hits slow-but-sure rather than spitfire.

          My issue with Chappelle’s critics isn’t “you need to get a sense of humor, you humorless scolds” but “So watch Hannah Gadsby instead”.Report

          • Greg In Ak in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Critics critic. I dont’ know why you care if they find someone else funny. Critics often point to people they find funny. Maher isn’t funny he should be funnier like Carlin, Hicks, Dangerfield is basic criticism.

            You’re not criticizing right seems like a slightly different flavor of you aren’t being funny right. And the ” try to be funny without crapping on people” has been a criticism for a long time.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Greg In Ak
              Ignored
              says:

              “I don’t know why you care if they find someone else funny.”

              I don’t? Like, I even have suggestions for other options for them to enjoy?

              You’re not criticizing right seems like a slightly different flavor of you aren’t being funny right.

              Let me copy and paste something I said just below:

              I don’t mind criticism that says “that’s not funny”.

              I mind criticism that says “you shouldn’t find that funny”.

              If someone says “I don’t think that Dave Chappelle is funny”, that’s great. I mean, I think that they’re *WRONG* but, hey. No accounting for taste, right? Maybe they are thinking about a very particular bit that he did and that bit was so offensive to them personally that they can’t enjoy his other stuff.

              Hey, I understand. I have trouble watching Stuart Smalley Daily Affirmation skits in the current year.

              But saying “you shouldn’t find that funny” goes to some weird places.

              Places I’ve even seen before. I didn’t like them last time. Not crazy about them this time.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        The RIGHT PEOPLE are the paying customers, the audience you used to appeal to, the people you want to keep getting laughs from — you know, the marketplace. Why are you against freedom?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci
          Ignored
          says:

          I don’t mind criticism that says “that’s not funny”.

          I mind criticism that says “you shouldn’t find that funny”.

          I admit “LET’S DISSECT THE JOKE!” bits need to be really, really good in order to cross over into funny, but Maher’s breakdown of Chris Rock’s bit into the backstage internal language of how comedians talk about their bits was interesting enough before he got into the preachy part of his schtick around four and a half minutes in.

          As for the paying customers… I don’t know who that would be when it comes to Chris Rock’s joke. Would that be me? Would it be the people in charge of banning Will Smith from the Oscars for a decade?

          If it’s the latter… maybe the “freedom” criticism needs to include “you have a right to find a joke unfunny too”.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            As for the paying customers… I don’t know who that would be when it comes to Chris Rock’s joke.

            “Paying customers” isn’t a hard concept. Rock has a lucrative career as a stand-up comic. That’s how he pays his rent. He gets paid to host major event shows precisely because he has a successful career as a stand-up comic. If people stop coming to Rock’s shows because the people who used to come cease to find him funny and he doesn’t pick up a new audience to compensate, and he, consequently, doesn’t get paying host gigs, Rock will either have to change his shitck or downsize his lifestyle. Or blame the audience, which is, admittedly, a lot easier.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to CJColucci
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      says:

      Which jokes are you talking about? As noted in the video, the G. I. Jane joke did get laughs, including from Will Smith.

      I personally didn’t find it that funny while reading about it the next day, but that was with spoilers and without the benefit of Chris Rock’s delivery.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Brandon Berg
        Ignored
        says:

        The question is what comedian I’m talking about. Bill Maher hasn’t been funny for a long time. As for Rock, cruel and tasteless jokes still get laughs. Always have. Probably always will.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to CJColucci
          Ignored
          says:

          He was a lot funnier when he was only making Republicans mad, I guess.

          I thought the video was reasonably funny. It was a bit clapter-heavy for my tastes, but to some extent that’s inevitable when you’re doing commentary instead of pure comedy.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            He was a lot funnier when he was only making Republicans mad, I guess.

            My own theory is that he got lazy during the Trump years because it was too easy. Lazy comics soon stop being funny.Report

          • Aaron in reply to Brandon Berg
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            says:

            You think that there was a time when Maher only made Republicans mad? I guess you haven’t had much exposure to him, then, because his schtick from the early days of “politically correct” to his modern focus on “wokeness”, which he uses pretty much as a synonym for political correctness, has been focused on attacking the left. It is difficult to identify anything more consistent in his schtick than his constant refrain about how awful liberals are.

            For goodness sake, he holds up Kathy Griffin as an example of cancel culture run amok, even as the associated graphic reminds us that the attacks on her came from the right in response to a Trump joke?

            I wish Carlin were still around, so that he could go onto Maher’s show and school him about comedy — that it’s not your audience’s fault if they don’t find you to be funny. It’s your failure to know and connect with your audience. Carlin was on Maher’s show a number of times, and was funny — but he wasn’t simply repeating his humor from ten, twenty, thirty years before, let alone expecting that he could do so and get laughs (or blame his audience if his jokes fell flat).

            Beyond Griffin, there’s a fundamental laziness to Maher’s attacks on college students and the left, not just in that he cherry-picks events that are years apart in order to try to depict a pattern — something that of itself reflects a problem with his thesis — but that he is also selective (and some might say dishonest) in how he presents those events. It took me about ten seconds on Google to find that there’s a lot more to the Nimesh Patel incident than he suggested — and that it was from 2018. If his examples reflect the frequency of the horrors of left-wing intolerance of bad comedians, then the vast majority of comedians are faring much better on campus than Maher and Patel.

            To me, the idea of “cancel culture” needs to involve more than “somebody didn’t like my joke,” or, “I make a mistake and was criticized for a hot minute before my life went back to normal with my usual six- to seven- figure gigs.” If your big complaint is that college kids don’t find you to be funny any more, that’s not a “cancel culture” thing, it’s a reflection of your age and your inability to keep up with the tiimes.Report

  2. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Bill Maher relies on clapter far, far too much for my taste.

    But, dang, he also said some stuff that was not-funny-but-true that I would have clapped for if I were part of that live studio audience.Report

  3. Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    Chris Rock’s joke was funny, so was Maher’s clip. Frankly Chris Rock should have punched Will Smith back AND filed charges.Report

  4. Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    “I don’t mind criticism that says “that’s not funny”.

    I mind criticism that says “you shouldn’t find that funny”.”

    How about comedians who tell the audience, “You SHOULD find this funny”? I mean, isn’t that basically what Maher is doing here?

    I’m with you on there being a very important distinction between, “This isn’t for me,” and “This should’t be for you.” But, more broadly, the latter is saying, “You must comport your tastes to my taste.” And Maher’s doing exactly the same thing.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      Eh, I’ll repeat myself:

      I admit “LET’S DISSECT THE JOKE!” bits need to be really, really good in order to cross over into funny, but Maher’s breakdown of Chris Rock’s bit into the backstage internal language of how comedians talk about their bits was interesting enough before he got into the preachy part of his schtick around four and a half minutes in.

      His bit wasn’t “funny” but I liked learning that there is a technical term for making fun of someone in the front row.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        “Here’s the method behind the madness” is all well and good. I think it’s generally good for insiders to help outsiders understand the craft.

        It’s the presumption of “You’re dumb for not knowing this but once you do, you’ll 100% agree with me” that is annoying. And ultimately falls into the same “Let me tell you how to fee about this” trap.

        But “Maher” and “presumptuous” are basically synonyms.Report

  5. Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Maher’s describing an individual feeling personally insulted as “cancel culture” and calling Smith’s fake-looking, polite, “I’m going to be a good sport” laughter his “genuine” reaction.Report

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