It was a crisp night in Chicago as I ventured down to the Chicago Theater
, the Grand Dame of State Street, to catch the final performance of the Bill Maher - Ann Coulter
Debate. The ninety year-old movie house dates to a time when they were rightfully called "palaces" because it's like watching a show inside a giant Faberge Egg. This was the third debate of the series, the other two were held in New York and Boston.
The debate was sold out and people were still trying to buy extra tickets outside the theater. Also out in force were the 9/11: Inside Job
protesters, the bane of Bill Maher. I snickered to myself. You would think most people there to be either a Maher or Coulter fan; I forget there are those who can't stand both of them.
The crowd was fairly excited as they filed into the theater under the chasing lights and I swear I could smell the NPR on people. By my estimation the audience was for Maher by a ten to one advantage. It was also aged roughly 35 to 55, and almost entirely Caucasian. Before they introduced the speakers, they did a quick bias check. By applause volume it seemed four to one. When Rush Limbaugh's name was mentioned half the audience began to boo so I knew I was in for an interesting evening. I also noticed that those for Coulter were all in the cheap seats (so much for the myth that the GOP is the party of the rich.)
Ann started off by speaking for fifteen minutes. In reality, she performed a stand up routine. She did an excellent job for someone more accustomed to promoting a book, speaking on the lecture circuit, and delivering closing arguments -- especially considering how hostile the crowd was. I've done shows where the audience is apathetic, but working a house that loathes you is a different animal entirely. Even the most seasoned comedy veteran would have a difficult time performing to such a hostile crowd.
Ann nailed some Obama lines that made me realize how deep the political satire void is today. I heard more Obama jokes in fifteen minutes than I have all year:
Obama wants a Portuguese Water dog, so he can take it for walks...on water. Democrats like Jesus now... apparently they like carpenters, they just hate plumbers. The only time Obama didn't vote present was in Jeremiah Wright's church. Who isn't in favor of hope, change and progress, I mean besides Ralph Nader? Big deal, Obama beat McCain by seven whole points. That's like George Foreman beating Helen Thomas... a fight I'd pay money to see!
After Ann wrapped she handed the stage to Bill Maher. The audience erupted into applause at the very sight of him as though cheering a relief pitcher as he strode to the mound. Maher was car dealer smooth, exactly what you'd expect from a guy with over three decades of stand-up under his belt. He started by saying that Ann is quite brave, that she isn't afraid to be booed -- and that she gets booed a lot.
He listed his 12 things he hates about Republicans, number one was greed. "We all know there is one party greedier than the other." At this point, Maher himself was booed. He politely said, "Look, in a show like this, everybody wants to boo something. If we let everybody do that, all we're going to have is booing all night, and is that really worth the money you paid?" That turned out to be the only heckle of the evening. His deft competence made the other contenders go yellow.
He then lit into some, "Republicans are racist" jokes, which is strange considering some of the jokes he told: Republicans passed a bailout, that package was big even for a black man. Listening to Senator Roland Burris is like watching "Sanford and Son." Republicans bought guns after the election because they were afraid of Barack and his Negro Army: Shaft, Dolomite, Foxy Brown, Cleopatra Jones, and Blackula."
Why is it liberals think they can get away with remarks like this, remarks that would cause most Republicans to lose their jobs? I mean besides the fact that they actually get away with them?
Big applause lines for jokes like:
Obama could fill stadiums, McCain could only fill the ballroom at the Olive Garden and half the people there just for the free prostate exam. The only stadium Republicans ever filled was the Superdome after Katrina.
I liked the McCain banner: "Country First" -- of course, then he nominated Sarah Palin (big applause).
Obama never put on a duck suit like John Kerry... Oh yeah, but he did bowl one time... he bowled a 37... Is that black enough for you?
Joe the Plumber claiming liberals were wrecking the American Dream ... while he's snaking out a septic tank-- Pinch me!
Bush thought Voltaire was a character in a Harry Potter book.
How could you hate Hillary, a blander candidate we've never had, unless of course, you were once molested by a Real Estate Lady
Incidentally, fear of real estate ladies, is a plot line from a Lemony Snicket
After Bill wrapped up, they sat down to take questions from Mark Halperin
who started by asking about a news item that broke after the show had started, Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson had split. Ann said that she didn't like to delve into personal family business, and the audience laughed at her. Bill said the break up would be the most obvious headline since the 1976 classic: "Ghetto Residents Apathetic about Bicentennial." He blamed Sarah Palin for being a bad mother and claimed that Sasha and Malia would never come home pregnant because if they did, Michelle will tell them, "I will knock the black off your ass." At this point, I noticed the people behind me, one of the few black couples present, had stopped laughing about three or four jokes back.
Ann responded that an unexpected pregnancy wouldn't ever be a campaign issue for a Democrat: "I believe Democrats would just use an alternative that is not available to Christian Conservatives, and we will never know about it if it happens."
In an argument over whether Reagan won the cold war, Ann claimed that Carter was losing the war so badly, that, "like 37 countries fell to Communism while he was in office." Bill responded, "Oh, another one of your rectum derived statistics?"
Ann flipped out. "What is this a Roman Colosseum? I'm so sick of you pulling that Whoopi Goldberg crap. All you're proving is that you have a stupid audience that agrees with you." She was right. Anytime she brought up any statistic that supported her arguments (Like: crime declines after concealed carry passed), the people in the audience would shake their heads in disbelief while Bill mugged it up. It made me realize how much of liberalism has become conventional wisdom.
One of the more interesting moments was when Bill tried to get Ann to debate religion. Apparently after making his documentary he thinks he's built an airtight argument. It reminded me more, of the sophomoric discussions we'd have back in smoke filled dorm rooms: Maher asked, "Did God create evil? There is no scientific evidence that proves God exists, it's all based on a 2000 year game of telephone."
Ann rebutted with very good points, "Religion isn't a scientific debate, it's a theological or philosophical debate ... And without evil, there would be no free will, we would all be like God's farm animals."
On a question about what Obama did right, Ann listed: Continuing the Bush policy in Iraq and admitting the detainees at Guantanamo are dangerous. She was relieved he's not playing to the MoveOn-Code Pink-crazy base or backing down in the name of political correctness. "He's not closing Guantanamo; he's just going to rename it Obamaville."
"She wins," Bill finally said, exhausted. "I can't compete. What are we going to do, cover every topic in US history?"
While Maher dominated the stand up portion of the show, he seemed to have a difficult time with actual debate. I'll admit bias, but still I would have to give it to Ann. She won simply by insisting that Bill actually debate. When he was forced into it, he couldn't.
After a couple quick one word joke questions, the two said goodnight. Bill Maher did compliment Ann once again on her bravery in the face of hostility. It would be interesting to see the same debate held elsewhere with the percentages reversed to see if Maher could maintain his composure.
On a Military base perhaps?
I'm quite certain he'd go white.