After a week of questions about whether Milo Yiannopoulos should be allowed on”Real Time with Bill Maher,” viewers probably expected fireworks — if not fire and brimstone. But the Breitbart editor and professional troll fizzled.
Yiannopoulos kept trying to work in his “ain’t I a stinker” Bugs Bunny routine while Maher kept trying to talk about ideas and shared ground, until even Maher seemed bored.
Yiannopoulos failed to either incite the audience or provide any of his staged “look at how liberals can’t handle me!” moments. In the end, it felt less like a debate or even a conversation, and more like an indulgent parent had impatiently tried find common ground with a teenager shouting the f-word in church.
Maher at times bent over backwards to find commonalities with Yiannopoulos, mainly around issues like free speech, and of course political incorrectness. He even tried to bond over having thick skin on twitter. Even so, Yiannopoulos, wearing a blazer, black shirt, jeans and ostentatious pearl necklace — seemed not to understand that the show’s opening segment is an interview, not a speech.
Yiannopoulos delivered his usual schtick. He insisted he’s all about free speech. He referred to himself as a “virtuous troll.” He repeatedly denied he’s particularly conservative (despite, well, his entire career). He made disparaging remarks about gay people as a group, acting as if he could credibly generalize because he himself is gay.
And of course, he attempted more than once to lay hard into several female comics who remain popular right-wing targets.
Lena Dunham? Oh she’s “awful,” and, according to Yiannopoulos, someone whose presence in popular culture shrinks the ranks of the Democratic Party. Maher told him not to “pick on” a fellow HBO star.
Leslie Jones, against whom Yiannopoulos led a harassment campaign that got him permanently banned from Twitter last summer? “I said that she looked a dude, which she does.” He also called her illiterate. Maher’s response was, essentially, visibly annoyed side-eye.
Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman? They used to be funny, Yiannopoulos said, “before they contracted feminism.” To that, Maher said, in defense of Silverman in particular, “another someone I’m a fan of. Let’s get off this.”
The announcement of Yiannopoulos’ appearance led journalist Jeremy Scahill to cancel his scheduled appearance on the HBO show. Maher became visibly delighted when discussing the anger he’d ginned up when Yiannopoulos was announced as a guest. But moments like that were few and far between.
Generally, Maher attempted to engage Yiannopoulos as a fellow killer of sacred cows. Maher hardly challenged Yiannopoulos with particular fervor; liberal critics will be frustrated by Maher’s attempts to bro-out with him.
But by the end of the interview it sounded like Maher had grown a little tired of the whole thing. Normally the opening interview ends with Maher glad-handing the top-of-the-show guest while gushing about them. This time, while he thanked Yiannopoulos for appearing, he almost immediately turned his back on him to join the episode’s main panelists while mumbling a brief “we’ll do it again.” Friendly, but hardly a glowing endorsement.
Yiannopoulos returned for the post-show segment “Overtime,” where guest Larry Willmore tore into him after he belittled transgender people, telling Yiannopoulos to “go f— yourself.”