Did Trump Crush Bill Maher’s Stand-Up Act?

'Real Time with Bill Maher' host might leave the road for good

Bill Maher recently teased he’ll hang up his stand-up mic by year’s end.

If this does mark the final bow for Maher’s stand-up career, it’s safe to say that few in the comedy world will be shedding any tears.

Let’s not beat around the bush; Maher’s stand-up has all the appeal of a prolonged visit to the DMV.


Take his latest special, “#Adulting,” for instance. It’s a scattershot mix of tired jokes and the kind of vitriolic diatribes you’d expect from that uncle who’s banned from family gatherings. Maher takes the stage less to entertain and more to embark on endless rants.

It’s cathartic for him, but torturous for the viewer.

In his long-winded monologues on hot-button issues like the #MeToo movement and gender debates in schools, there are kernels of truth. However, here’s the problem: they’re not funny.


Once a master of straddling the fine line of political correctness, Maher now delivers provocations that lack the finesse and sharpness they once had. Instead, they come off as hollow, leaving the audience desperate for genuine insight—or at the very least, a laugh.

Maher’s failure to deliver a strong message or a meaningful revelation in his stand-up sets is his ultimate undoing. His latest special, like many before it, is a dreary combination of preachiness and a dearth of humor.

Since Donald Trump’s ascendancy in 2016, Maher’s comedic evolution (or devolution) has been, to put it mildly, depressing. The once-refreshing libertarian voice morphed into a mouthpiece for smug liberalism.

Bill Maher makes grim prediction about Trump in 2024

Gone are the insightful reflections, replaced by Maher’s new persona: a sanctimonious scold trying—and failing—to keep up with the rapidly changing cultural climate. His 2016 special, “Whiny Little Bitch,” was a masterclass in flaccid comedy.

The irony? Maher spends the better part of an hour whining about Trump, displaying a lack of self-awareness that’s as glaring as it is irritating.

Audience reviews for Maher’s performances paint a consistent picture of disillusionment. One attendee in Boston described the show as more of a political lecture than a comedy act, with scant room for laughter or light-heartedness. The heavy-handed treatment of sensitive topics left many with a bitter taste, a sentiment echoed by numerous others who lament the loss of Maher’s once incisive humor.

Another reviewer noted the stark contrast between Maher’s former sharp wit and the current trajectory of his material.

Gone are the days of clever observations and biting satire, replaced with a torrent of partisan commentary that fails to resonate. These critiques underscore the comedian’s dwindling relevance in the dynamic world of stand-up comedy. He’s a landline in an age of smartphones.

Norm Macdonald, a stand-up legend, famously dubbed Maher “completely unfunny. Like, maybe the unfunniest person I’ve ever encountered that’s called a comedian.” While Maher might not be the least funny comedian alive, he’s certainly among the most condescending.

When it comes to religion, politics, or marriage, Maher mounts his high horse to deliver unsolicited sermons. As a proud atheist who finds children intolerable and marriage laughable, Maher relishes lecturing his audience from his weed-laced ivory tower.

The result? Not entertaining, not funny—just insufferably smug.

Maher seems to have forgotten what stand-up comedy is about. The first rule of comedy club: be funny. The second, equally vital rule: never condescend to your audience. Yet Maher, in his infinite wisdom, has turned patronizing into an art form.

Once celebrated for his sharp political commentary and biting humor, Maher now stumbles over the basic tenets of comedy. His recent stand-up ventures leave many puzzled, longing for the Maher of old—the one who actually made people laugh.

Instead, we’re left with a Maher more interested in pontificating from his soapbox than eliciting genuine laughter from his audience. His jokes fall flat, his observations feel stale and recycled, and his once-commanding stage presence is now overshadowed by a pervasive air of snobbery.

Yes, some will say, but his show on HBO is excellent. That’s true. It is. But, as is clear to see from his awful stand-up specials, Maher is blessed with a team of brilliant writers. Without them, his show would likely be every bit as bad as his live, one-man shows.

New Rule: A Woke Revolution | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)

It’s a real pity to witness a comedian of Maher’s caliber lose sight of his craft’s essence. Comedy is meant to be a shared experience, a moment of collective catharsis where laughter breaks down barriers and brings people together, regardless of their political affiliations. But Maher seems content to lecture rather than engage, to sermonize rather than entertain, to divide rather than unite.

So, if he does decide to step off the stand-up stage at the end of the year, don’t expect a standing ovation from the comedy faithful. Instead, anticipate a collective sigh of relief.

Maher’s exit from stand-up won’t be mourned; it’ll be met with the indifferent shrug of an audience that’s already moved on.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. Follow him on Twitter @ghlionn.


  1. I suspect he is angry with himself for finally seeing the light…that Leftism is not funny and now that he finds himself agreeing with many on the right, he’s conflicted. He should call Dennis Miller for some guidance.

  2. “Since Donald Trump’s ascendancy in 2016, Maher’s comedic evolution (or devolution) has been, to put it mildly, depressing. The once-refreshing libertarian voice morphed into a mouthpiece for smug liberalism.”
    I would argue his shift from “refreshing libertarian” to “smug liberalism” happened long before Trump hit the political stage. I used to love his old show Politically Incorrect. Maher was very much willing to go after Republicans and Democrats equally on that show. He ripped both sides equally depending on the topic at hand. But then came 9/11 and he made his comment about how he thought the terrorists that flew the planes into the WTC and the Pentagon had “balls” and weren’t cowardly because it took “balls” to fly a plane into a building knowing you were going to die.
    There was a HUGE public backlash over that comment, primarily from Republicans/conservatives. ABC then canceled Politically Incorrect and Maher was basically a very, very early victim of “cancel culture.” Whether one disagrees with his comment or not, I personally don’t think his show should’ve been canceled just because he made one offhand comment.
    So afterwards, Maher disappeared for a while but eventually popped back up hosting his HBO show. To me that’s when he changed. It’s like he blamed Republicans/conservatives solely for his old show (and by extension himself) being canceled and he now held a grudge against them. He was much, much more one-sided and pro Democrat than he’d ever been on his old show. He went from routinely skewering both sides of the political aisle to routinely giving Democrats a pass and trying to obliterating Republicans for every tiny little thing he disagreed with them about.
    Trump getting elected in 2016 might’ve made Maher even more pro-left at the time it happened, but he was pro-left and non-libertarian from the get-go on his HBO show. Only within the last few years has he seemed to somewhat come to his senses and realize the Democrats have turned into leftoid commie freaks and started to criticize them once again.

  3. Back on his Politically Incorrect show, he had Ted Nugent on and they were like 2 kids that grew up together but went opposite paths. It was hysterical and fun to watch. His stand up has always been stale. He wants so bad to be like George Carlin, but he doesn’t have the insight and raw talent to come close.

    1. You’re spot on there. He definitely does seem to want to be Carlin Jr. but he’s go nowhere near the talent and wit Carlin had. I still miss the master of The Master of the Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button