Acerbic firebrand talk show host Howard Stern rarely visits the West Coast, seldom stays up past 8 p.m., hardly ever agrees to do other talk shows, and barely contains his competitive nature, so it was startling on Friday night to hear Bill Maher (an equally acerbic firebrand talk show host) introducing “the King of All Media, Howard Stern” on Friday to the Los Angeles studio audience for HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
Maher himself wore an incredulous expression, no doubt because his rivalry with Stern was for years a sour one, as both of the broadcast veterans candidly acknowledged once the interview got underway. The feud apparently ended when Stern made amends after his years of therapy helped him get past the envy-driven animus he had toward rivals. In April, at Jerry Seinfeld’s birthday party, Stern even told a skeptical Maher he would visit his show as a guest. “You’re a man of your word,” Maher told Stern on Friday night.
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Stern and Maher are each New York natives and each was born during the Eisenhower years. Both had fathers who worked in radio, too. So the pair have a lot in common — but so do betta fish. The two professionally provocative conversationalists had some sandpaper opinions to share with each other — Stern hectored bachelor Maher about his disinterest in committed relationships, Maher needled patient Stern about his open-ended devotion to psychotherapy — but that was fairly genial ball-busting (and nothing like the shouting match the last time Maher hosted a hot-button pusher of major renown).
Instead of Molotov cocktails, Maher and Stern mostly lobbed compliments at one another. Stern declared it an absolute injustice that Maher has never won an Emmy for his own on-air work (he did win one as an Executive Producer of Vice) and reflected on Maher’s eloquence during his visit to Stern’s show. “I thought you were amazing,” Stern said, “you really were.” Maher asked Stern how he managed to be such a gifted interviewer and then praised Stern’s new book, Come Again. “It’s terrific,” Maher told his guest.
Apparently when two equal and opposite forces meet they simply pat each other on the back. “That’s why you and I are the last sane people,” Maher told Stern, “because we’re liberals but we don’t go for all the bullsh*t on the far-left.”
Maher devoted much of the rest of the show to President Donald J. Trump and the slow-motion train wreck that’s been playing out in Washington. Among the notable zingers:
“This is the great irony of the Trump presidency: Foreign criminals must be kept out of the country at all costs, unless they’re here to steal our elections.”
“Trump certainly represents many of the ills our country has been living with for a long time, but perhaps none more than that America is now Scam-erica. The money should say, ‘In Gouge We Trust’ on it.”
“Trump badmouthed Jay-Z during his rally. And Jay-Z said, ‘You know, I got 99 problems…and a whiny little bitch is one.'”