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August 22, 2017

Bill Maher at Borgata: Sharpshooting and ‘preaching to the choir’

Trump the primary, but hardly only, target of ‘equal-opportunity verbal sniper'

Truth to tell, I had planned to spend Saturday night with South Philly-born celebri-chef Steve Martorano celebrating the third anniversary of his killer Italian room, Martorano's, at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City. But the events of the previous seven days put the kibosh (as the Crazy Joe Davola character on “Seinfeld” would put it) on those plans.

Given the insanity that transpired in Charlottesville, Spain and the White House, I felt it would have been a dereliction of duty to not take in Bill Maher's set at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa. Because his "Real Time with Bill Mather" program runs on HBO, the North Jersey native is not tethered to any notions of censorship or sponsor-coddling that constrain, to varying degrees, folks like Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee. So, his version of the unvarnished truth seemed particularly appropriate, not to mention incredibly timely.

Maher fans won’t be surprised to learn he didn’t disappoint as he launched one-liners with unerring aim at a variety of widely loathed targets.

It probably doesn’t need to be said that the main target of Mahler’s oral firebombing was Donald Trump. A large plurality, if not a majority, of the 80-or-so-minute set—which hopscotched between being a political/cultural jeremiad and more typical standup set--was devoted to POTUS 45.

Among the big applause lines were those that zeroed in on Trump’s fitness to serve (“Nuclear codes? I don’t trust him with zip codes”); his penchant for ignoring facts (“He lies in the middle of other lies. Fact checkers are brought out on stretchers”); his relationship to Russia (noting he could only get business loans from Russian lenders, Maher insisted Trump, “instead of paying them back…gave them America”) and the president’s seemingly erratic behavior (“If your grandfather talked like this, it would be family meeting time”).

Also in Maher’s crosshairs were such subjects as Donald Trump Jr.’s inability to identify who attended that now-infamous meeting at Trump Tower (“He's Mr Magoo: He just sees blurs of shapes and colors”); Vice President Mike Pence (who “looks like the guy hired by airlines to play the pilot in the pre-flight video”); GOP hypocrisy (“92 percent of Republican congressmen identify as Christian--mostly on Grinder”) and even First Lady Melania Trump whom, Maher reasoned, is a “good immigrant, the kind that does the jobs that Americans don't want to do, like [performing oral sex on] Donald Trump.”

As a bonus for the Jersey-centric crowd, he suggested Gov. Chris Christie saw the movie “Dunkirk” and “loved the way they cleared the beach.”

All of this was catnip for the clearly partisan audience that filled the Event Center. But while the set was a living, breathing illustration of the phrase, “preaching to the choir,” Maher’s was hardly a single-note song. He proved to be an equal-opportunity verbal sniper, especially when it came to a particularly sore subject for him: Those on the left who embody political-correctness-run-amok.

He unflinchingly described them as “obnoxious losers” and “insufferable, phony, self-righteous posers,” and humorously delineated the difference between true liberals and what he calls “kale eaters” by noting, “Liberals worry there are too many black people in prisons. Kale eaters worry there are too few black people at the Oscars.”

Maher’s set occasionally strayed onto more generic standup turf with riffs on such topics as masturbation, erectile dysfunction meds and marriage. These were generally successful, but mere sidelights to the anti-Trump/GOP red meat the crowd was clearly there to devour.

Chuck Darrow is a veteran entertainment columnist and critic. Listen to “That’s Show Biz with Chuck Darrow” 3 p.m. Tuesdays on WWDB-AM (860),, iTunes, IHeartRadio, and TuneInRadio.

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