How pot helps Maher of ‘Real Time’ hit high notes
NEW YORK — While a lung-full of marijuana can reduce some potheads to a puddle of silliness and sloth — you know who you are — the fact remains: Pot can serve a host of creative uses.
Case in point: TV host Bill Maher.
Since premiering 13 years ago with “Real Time,” which HBO airs live on Fridays at 7 p.m., Maher has provided an essential forum for smart discussion about politics and culture, with his opening monologue often the sharpest, best-crafted topical humor on television.
Even better is his final segment, which ramps up from a litany of so-called “New Rules” to a jestful-yet-meaty meditation on such subjects as the election follies, political correctness, gun control and, yes, legalizing marijuana.
Maher’s vocal support for pot legalization exemplifies his largely libertarian stance. Meanwhile, there’s a practical consideration: Grass helps him get his writing right.
So what better occasion than now to salute Maher’s decades of comic insight while also giving credit to his cannabis muse! After all, Wednesday was April 20, better known among pot proselytizers as 4-20, which they observe as a special day to honor their favorite herb and to advocate for boosted legal access to it.
“I am hardly the only person in this world who finds pot to be a creative aid,” Maher notes during a recent phone conversation. “But if I’m staring at the blank computer screen sober, I’m thinking, ‘Uh, I don’t want to start this, it’s an ASSIGNMENT!’ Then, as soon as I’m high, which takes about three seconds, it’s, ‘Oh, this is fun! This isn’t an assignment. It’s a GAME.’ “
He hastens to add, “People think I probably smoke a lot more than I do.”
No wonder. It’s a part of his professional persona.
He has wisecracked that the conservative magazine The National Review coming out against Donald Trump “is like High Times coming out against me.”
This is a guy who jokes that he might face consequences from a lifetime of pot smoking, “but fortunately, I can treat them with medical marijuana.”
And a year ago Maher drolly paid homage to the 4-20 holiday by reciting an original nursery rhyme, ” ‘Twas the Night Before 4-20,” which included lines such as, “We lit up a joint and ate a pot brownie/ And soon were as high as a young Robert Downey.”
But despite his saucy endorsements, “I’ve always been a very moderate user. I’m a two or three times a week smoker, a lightweight. My priority is work — the writing process — and that’s what I save it for.”
At least, he did until one show last February. In his closing segment, he framed the evident trend toward legalizing pot as something its proponents shouldn’t take for granted.
“Progress doesn’t just automatically snowball,” he declared. “Think of other rights we never thought would be rolled back. Look what’s happened with abortion.”
Then soon Maher produced a joint and, firing it up, did something he had never done before: Got buzzed, live, on the air.