New Rules

For 20 years now I haven’t watched TV at all, except when inadvertently assaulted by sports channels in a bar with more TVs than Circuit City. Yet a friend of mine, who gets HBO, a few years back insisted I watch Real Time with Bill Maher (“you have to,” he said), and so I’ve spent several Friday nights where we’ll watch three programs in a row (“on demand”). Because of Maher’s extemporaneous talent, wit and irreverence, I’m a big fan. I’m especially in awe of how he gets pundits whose politics are rabidly right-wing (Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, et al) to actually appear on his show, for an entertaining “dust-up.” Maher invariably makes fools of them, to my sheer un-Buddhist-like delight. “New Rules,” at show’s end, is Bill’s “If I were King” pronouncements—eagerly anticipated by viewers—on things hypocritical, annoying or silly. Those observations, compiled in this book, are often laugh-out-loud funny when delivered on the show. But great comedy is best done live, and this book is to the show what a grainy photograph is to reality.