Sunday, May 03, 2015

An Open Letter to Bill Maher

Dear Bill:

I've been a loyal viewer of Real Time since it began. I seldom miss an episode, I look forward to Fridays when new ones come out, and I feel a bit lost when you're on hiatus. I frequently recommend your show to people (both acquaintances and strangers), and I think many of your "New Rules" rants are classics of political humor. We very much need your voice in the national conversation!

All that said, I have a complaint, and it concerns your interviews with the "pre-panel" guests you feature at the beginning of each show.

In a word, I wish you would just get out of the way and let them say what they have to say.

In many cases, these are important and highly accomplished people who don't get enough public exposure. Good on you for giving that to them. But I can't count the number of times I've been frustrated when you chose to interrupt them with some trivial diversion, just when they were about to make a critical point.

You don't seem to realize that these people, distinguished as they are in their fields, are often not experienced media figures who know how to "give good TV interview." They're sincere, earnest, and they have a lot to say. You need to just give them the time and space to say it.

This was brought to a head for me by your session with Nobel prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz. I remember at one point you asked him to talk about the opportunity costs of the Iraq war. I would have loved to hear that! But just as he was gearing up, you switched subjects. Stiglitz gamely tried to play along, but the net result was an awkward train wreck that wasted his time and that of your viewers and missed a golden opportunity for some real and substantive communication. I've seen similar misfires time and again.

Could I ask you, with respect, to try to put your ego aside, avoid going for the cheap joke and the irrelevant digression, and just let us hear what these amazing and important people have to say?


--Rob Lewis

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