Right? Left? Bill Maher bound to make someone mad

When people hate you as much as some people hate Bill Maher, but you still make enough money to give a political cause a million dollars, you know you’re doing something right.

At the Jubilee Auditorium on Friday night, Maher is an unapologetic agnostic. His latter-career political genesis started as a centrist libertarian on Politically Incorrect on ABC, and he’s shifted ever-so-slightly left on Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. He still roasts both ideological sides with the same kind of contemptuous glee as the late Bill Hicks, but he admits on his show he thinks the political right in the U.S. is suffering from a particularly acute form of belief-based delusion.

Maher was one of the first of the name comedians to jump on George W. Bush’s general inanity, a sort of anti-Miller. Where Maher was proven right over time, Dennis Miller jumped on George Bush’s early PR successes with patriotic zeal and promptly found himself with only Republicans as an audience.

A central theme to all of Maher’s shows is that any time you have two incredibly loud groups in a room, the loudest are often the dumbest and least willing to listen to the other side. He has often described America as the product of “the genius of our marketing combined with the stupidity of our people.” And let’s be honest: that anti-progressive blend of commercial individualism and community ignorance is often the norm in other Western nations, too. It’s called being more comfortable than is good for us.

From first glance, Maher’s shows contribute to that intellectual malaise by having on numerous celebrity spokespeople from either ideological bent; but unlike mainstream news channels, Maher usually also has the decency to invite on at least one guest per show who is pretty middle-of-the-road sane. And there are great moments; he pillories the ludicrous Republicans by the bucket load, as do his guests.

One memorable recent moment had former Canadian PM Kim Campbell incredulously explaining to a U.S. senator how the evolution of germs and viruses is, in fact, evidence that evolution exists. To counteract the financial clout that can amass behind such anti-social concentrations of ignorance, Maher recently gave $1 million to a Super PAC for Barack Obama. Of the right, he said, “The tea baggers? The one thing they hate is when you call them racist. The other thing they hate is black people. But they won’t say it.”

Even left-wing darlings like Rachel Maddow don’t escape the impact of a multi-plural Real Time panel, as audiences witnessed this last season when she flew into a huff at being called out for her utterly biased perspectives. Maddow, a generally affable and accurate MSNBC host who, from her grumpy reaction, thinks she’s objective (as do people on the right), is a fine example of how the “left and right” in American are in a perpetual state of trying to counteract each other’s bullshit.

Maher, whether the right likes it or not, manages to stay mostly the middle, and that’s rare. Jon Stewart, whom the right also thinks is ultra-liberal, but who also criticizes the left, would be another example.

You have to wonder about comedians who use their talent to mock the inflexible ideological nature of Western politics. And for some reason, the public likes them more than the actual politicians. Do we sense a theme?

It’ll be interesting to see whether Maher tailors Friday’s material to any local issues. He’s an avid opponent of climate change deniers – to the extent that some of his opinions are more faith of his own than a grounded position – and he’s coming to “Redmonton,” a town where socially a lot of people probably agree with him, but where the local economy still hums along in large part on the wages of crude and bitumen.

Maybe he’ll err on the side of the sane middle ground. Maybe he’ll rant about climate change killing us all. Either way, somebody’s gonna be pissed off at him for it. Good thing the guy is funny.