RachelWatch Special Edition: “Real Time with Bill Maher”


Rachel Maddow was a member of the guest panel on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night. She cleverly started us off by remaining backstage to whet everyone’s appetite, which I guess was also polite since it was someone else’s show.

Maher was sensitive to the needs of Rachel’s fans, though: Just in case you weren’t already permanently balled up into the fetal position by Dr. Maddow’s extended series on how the only hope for our delicate Gulf ecosystems is to encourage shrimp zombieism, Maher brought out Queen Noor to talk about unsecured nukes.

Once we were all properly jittery, Rachel came out, blue glasses blazing, to wild cheering from the crowd. Lest the other guests feel less loved, she demurely claimed that she had a very large family.

Rachel’s fellow guests were historian and Need To Know co-host Jon Meacham and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R – Tennessee). While I’m sure all three did advance preparation for the show, Rachel was the only one who brought out a pad and pen for preparing during the show. It’s a great move, but perhaps it tips her hand a little early – once a fellow guest sees the notepad, he knows Rachel will be bringing the nerdpain. For future shows, she should mess with them a little. Maybe make it a Hello Kitty notepad or something so they don’t know the death blow is coming.

How Crude

Maher started the group off with a question about the still uncontrolled Gulf oil spill. Frist dove in gamely with his concept of what “energy independence” means. Rachel started taking notes, which I’m guessing is when Frist first realized that that odd sensation he was feeling was his ass beginning to detach in preparation for scuttling over to the other side of the table so that Rachel could hand it to him.

Frist is of course into nuclear power, and while he did give a nod to alternative fuel sources, he also repeated the dodgy suggestion that drilling for oil in the United States contributes to our energy independence.

As regular viewers of The Rachel Maddow Show know, Chris “Lambchop” Hayes has more than once pointed out that oil drilled in the United States does not get popped on the back of a truck and sent down to Mom and Pop’s Moon Pie, Hand Crafts, and American Gas Store.

It gets sold on the international market just like oil from everywhere else. So while Frist ‘n’ Friends are drill-baby-drilling and drill-here-drill-nowing and doing synchronized dances to “Driller,” I wish they would also drill down far enough to find a better excuse.

Rachel, for the 837th time in a row, had a far more practical and less cranky point than mine, which is that it might be a good idea to get aggressive about renewable energy sources instead of talking a lot and then putting up three windmills.

She also noted that getting our shrimp and our oil from the same place is “awkward,” which is an excellent point. It’s almost ridiculous – as foolish as if were taking huge, potentially famine-causing risks with our grain and produce crops year after year.

Filibuster? I Hardly Know Her

Maher moved on to connect our little oil spill problem with our little filibuster problem, sending Frist into a frenzy of very fast talking and hand gestures. Goodness gracious, is Rachel’s Listening Carefully face terrifying. If I were making a point and saw her doing that, I think I’d just scream, point at something over her shoulder, and flee in the confusion.

Frist tried to posit that requiring 60 damned votes to get anything at all passed, including a resolution to declare National Turnip Tops Are Terrific Day, is the national order of things and getting things passed by a simple majority is a dirty trick that the Democrats try to slide by sometimes.

At which point Rachel dumped several tons of bricks and mortar, thirty desks, and a bell on the table and prepared to school him.

She started off by correcting Frist – the former Senate Majority Leader – on budget reconciliation, and Frist claimed that health care reform was not related to the national budget and then said, for real, “In the Senate, you can do anything, by the way. You can do anything that can be done.”

Frist, seeing Rachel and Meacham’s matching what-the-hell faces, began talking so quickly that he approached light speed and everyone else’s words and faces got all bendy.

Rachel tried to slam on the brakes by pointing out that filibustering everything is “a really stupid way to run a country,” and Frist muttered about “majoritarian rule” and retreated into the world of interpretive hand gesture dance, doing beautiful renditions of Building the Evil Tower, Capturing the Moon, and Sneak-Tickling the Dragon.

(I am giving Frist a world of guff here, but I will say that he stayed very good humored through the whole show. He tried to get away with a lot of bullpuckey, but he was honor-bound – or whatever the opposite of honor-bound is – to do so, and he was in a tough room. I must give him props for continuing to smile through it all.)

Death and Rich-Guy Taxes

Maher moved on to the estate tax, at which point I realized that he runs a tighter ship than David Gregory does over at Meet the Press, since Rachel has usually been interrupted about fifteen times by this point on any given Sunday morning.

Frist took a good swing at suggesting that imposing a “death tax” on only our very richest multimillionaires is an awful thing to do to hard-workin’ beer-drinkin’ boot-strappin’ Americans, but everyone started laughing so hard that it threatened the stability of the San Andreas fault and even Warren Buffett called up to tell Frist to cut it out.

Were You Aware that People Who Have Ovaries Can Run for Office?

Maher moved on to the stupid “Year of the Woman” story, because sexism is totally and completely over but it’s still worth endlessly talking about it when women win elections.

Maher brought up the talking point that Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are both planning to run California like Stern Businesswomen and Rachel pointed out that Fiorina’s big business ideas involved sending thousands of American jobs overseas.

Which should make trips to the DMV slightly more complicated, but probably no less time-consuming.

Frist tried to jump in and say that what business people are good at is creating jobs, or really more like whatbusinesspeoplearegoodatiscreatingjobs, because wow, does that man ever talk fast when he’s trying to sneak something by, and Rachel pointed out again that many times they do the opposite of that. And then she sat very politely while Frist scrambled around trying not to sound like either a complete goober or Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life in his response.

I hope she learned her lesson about playing so politely and fairly, because shortly after that the table devolved into Maddow InterruptionFest and I was forced to penalize Maher ten Gregory Points.


Maher brought out director Oliver Stone, who has a new documentary coming out called South of the Border. It was interesting to watch the faces of the rest of the panel as he spoke – they all seemed to be aware that Stone would have the most information about South American history and politics right at his fingertips since he’d so recently been immersed in it, but I think I caught one or two of them remembering that some of the conspiracy theorizing in JFK was maybe just a tiny bit batpuckey.

Me, I was busy trying to figure out when Stone had decided to change his look and why he picked Salesman Character from an Early ‘80s Burt Reynolds Movie.

Stone is also working on a documentary called The Secret History of the United States (uh oh…) and when he started talking about military policy you could hear Rachel’s brain fire up like one of the proton packs in Ghostbusters.

She noted that the U.S. military is the largest organization of any kind in the world (Did you just forget the Illuminati and the Lizard Men, Rachel?!) and that we’re only allowed to talk about making it even bigger. The bone-chilling shriek you heard right after that was the sound Liz Cheney rising bolt upright from her granite slab and preparing to make another video.

Don’t Rush Into a Bad Decision

Maher asked Rachel directly what she thought about Elton John singing at noted homophobe Rush Limbaugh’s wedding, I guess because Rachel has The Gay and straight people don’t have opinions about that sort of thing. Rachel, not a huge fan of weddings in general, was not terribly het up about the issue. She noted that Elton would put Limbaugh’s money into his foundation or some other cause that Rush hates, and invited John to call TRMS up and explain. Yes, please!

And, by that logic, it’s hard not to support the idea of performing for Limbaugh if your goal is to take as much of his money as possible and funnel it into free health care for undocumented gay manatees or whatever you think will piss him off the most. Just try to slip some subversive messages into the lyrics, OK?

Comedy Bits!

Hey, talk show hosts — Rachel Maddow is a good and generous laugher. You should take a cue from Maher and have her on during the hijinks.


And then it was time for Overtime, the portion of the show that runs on the Interwebs. Hey, do you know how to make a mixed group of people feel awkward? Talk about the Middle East! Also, try to have one of them be Queen Noor!

The best moment of the night by far was when Frist tried to do some fake hand-wringing over Republicans being “shut out” of health care reform and Polite Rachel stepped aside and let Had-Enough-of-this-Dumbassery Rachel out to play.

It’s invigorating. Enjoy.


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