Stephen Rodrick‘s Esquire profile of Bill Maher (“Bill Maher Knows Exactly What He’s Doing“) does a fairly standard job of looking for chinks in the armor. Rodrick hung with the HBO talk-show host and comedian several weeks ago and discovered two things: (1) Once a nocturnal party animal who drank and toked with the best of them, Maher now lives a semi-solitary, somewhat lonely life (“only three chairs at his dining-room table”), in part because he has no apparent interest in getting married or even investing in a semi-serious partnership. And (2) Maher isn’t as knowledgable about certain political topics (like French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen) as he could be, or is at least less knowledgable than John Oliver.
Rodrick excerpt #1: “Maher spoke dreamily about hosting dinner parties, but I noticed that there were only three chairs at his dining-room table. He’s never been married, and his predilection for dating young women is well known. His last serious girlfriend was a Guyanese-Canadian musician a quarter century his junior. But while Maher readily admits that he’s spent much of his adult life making up for his crummy adolescence, he thinks he’s taken way too much shit for the age of his companions over the years. ‘You know the definition of sleazy, don’t you?,’ Maher says. ‘Anyone who’s having more sex than you are.'”
Rodrick excerpt #2: “It was at this point that I realized Maher’s Doubting Thomas ideology is, in its way, as rigid as any dogma, a reflexive contrarianism that works spectacularly well for him right up until it convinces him that it’s okay for a white person to call himself a ‘house nigger.’ He can be just as dependent on slogans and talking points as the politicians he skewers on his show. And here, perhaps, was another important difference between him and his peers. Unlike John Oliver, who did seventeen minutes on the French election, Maher clearly had not done his homework about the most important European election of this century so far.”
Ten years ago David Poland I were profiled by Stephen Rodrick in a Los Angeles magazine piece called “The Blog Whisperers” so don’t tell me. I know a thing or two about Rodrick’s approach. He’s a good writer who dispenses sharp observations, but one way or another he has to take you down a peg or two. He has to make you look a little more obsessive or asshole-ish or a tad less impressive than you might have seemed otherwise.