Real Time with Bill Maher is the most excruciatingly awkward show on TV.
The typical setup is that Bill has a first important guest, then three panelists and finally a second important guest. So it kind of sucks to be a panelist. Just by being there you're signalling that you're not important enough to negotiate the first or last slot.
It's not great for anyone though. After the first interview slot Bill is going to jump up and walk over to his desk for the panel session. And you have a horrible choice. Either you follow the stage directions and sit still, somehow emasculated, while Bill leaves you behind. Or you stand up too, asserting yourself but looking somehow awkward and presumably you don't get invited back in a hurry.
Next the panel gets to argue for a while before the second important guest is wheeled in. At this point Bill interviews the newcomer for a long time leaving the panel hanging. Just sat there.
Right when you're wondering if the panel has left the building Bill brings them back into the conversation and at this point they are so desperate to get a few points home that the second important guest is often frozen out.
It doesn't last long though because Bill then cuts to New Rules and ignores the second important guest and the three panelists for a few over-written jokes followed by a variable five minute diatribe.
I cannot believe how many politicians, journalists, comedians, commentators and authors are desperate enough for HBO sized chunks of publicity that they'd put themselves through this social wringer.
I love it.
(Image credit: screenshot from Real Time with Bill Maher opening credits)
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