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Yes, it's impossible that it would be a joke, because Bill Maher is a member of that most taciturn brotherhood, the practitioners of actuarial science.
Oh wait, no, he's not an actuary at all... what is it that he does...
Oh that's right, he's a comedian.
So was Imus. Actually I can see the humor in Maher's kidding around there. It's a shame though that as a white male(not identified as a left wing extremist) with a good natured sense of humor, I can never tell similar jokes without being accused of insensitivity, bigotry or racism. My character will most definitely be judged negatively. Seriously, I love to joke and make people laugh. I'm pretty good at it. I don't see why I should be excluded from material others get to use. I don't know if it's discrimination or not but its something unfair to people like me..
Don't mind PR... on occasion I think he means to gently suggest that threads go the way he wants, but ends up sounding like an ineffectual stalag guard in "Hogan's Heroes."
As to whether I think the text transcript of this is funny, nah. For whether it was funny in context, I'd have to see it.
As to "can a comedian say anything?" Yeah, they can. If people think they're just loony tunes, as happened with that Kramer guy, it's bad for their careers. Every comedian I see, from Tosh.0 to comics from black, hispanic, asian, and arab backgrounds, are poking at racial stereotypes all the time.
There's a way some do it where you can tell you have a real racist on your hands. Usually that takes the form of "ha ha ha and those people (whichever we mean) actually say they need a handout! Ha ha ha their TV is big ha ha." Or for sexism "ha ha ha she wants access to birth control, so I have a right to watch her have sex ha ha ha." Or in Kramer's case, just going on an extended rant where your audience doesn't even think it's funny.
Knowing Maher's style, I could see this being in the act and being funny, and I can see it being in the act and going over like a lead balloon.
Why? Do you think there actually is a social problem of black people following you home and beating you up for voting for the other guy?
Or do you think the humor derives from the fact that it's an unfounded fear based on the stereotype?
Saw a great Key & Peale sketch the other night... it was your basic zombie movie set-up, and there were a couple of black guys running from the zombies, and one almost ran into one, and the zombie kind of took a shamble back... then they ran past a car full of zombies, and the zombies were trying to lock their car doors, in that fumbling zombie way. The joke was, they were p.o.d because they were racist zombies. It was hilarious... then some other black guy runs into them and says "Yeah isn't it great," basically, and they're having a barbeque with absolutely no fear, because the zombies are still locked into their racism.
That deals with race. There's blacks, there's whites, and oh noes, they are different because of the situation
but the situation is funny - even when they become undead, hardcore racists still act that way, like it's a brain-stem function.
Where an idiot would lose the thread is trying to insist that the sketch also somehow take into account for something to do with college admissions being affected in a way that's disadvantageous to them personally etc. etc. etc.
It's a shared realization that real racism is a real and crippling aspect of society. It's a conservative delusion that all actions to address racism are the real racism -- so the attempt to coopt the subject only play well in primarily white venues. Fortunately for apologists on the right, there are many such venues -- including this forum.