Halfway through my forty-year radio career, when I was thinking about segueing from host of a morning radio ensemble to doing talk radio solo, I asked a major consultant in the industry to give me one key to success in that format. He told me, “Express your opinion about every topic strongly and repeatedly to make the phones ring, and don’t ever let anyone change your mind.”
I followed the first half of that advice, but not the second, because there were plenty of times listeners brought up points I hadn’t considered and I had no problem admitting I was wrong in light of new evidence. I was also never afraid of saying “I don’t know” in spots where other hosts would make up bullshit answers rather than allow the audience to perceive even a minor gap in their knowledge base.
I thought of that yesterday when I heard Bill Maher’s lame excuse for why — after announcing he would re-start production of his HBO show, “Real Time,” despite both the writers’ and actors’ unions (of which he is a member) being on strike — he has reversed himself:
My decision to return to work was made when it seemed nothing was happening and there was no end in sight to this strike. Now that both sides have agreed to go back to the negotiating table I’m going to delay the return of Real Time, for now, and hope they can finally get this done.
Because stubbornness is part of Maher’s brand, he can never admit he was wrong — unlike Drew Barrymore, who offered a mea culpa yesterday after belatedly changing her mind again about having her daytime talk show return as long as the strikes continue. And when he uses the modifier “for now,” it means he’ll have a new excuse to double back to his original position, probably in just a few days.
Maher’s original plan was to bring back “Real Time” without a monologue or desk pieces or “New Rules,” which pretty much leaves him sitting at a round table discussing his hot takes on topical stories with a couple of celebs/authors/politicians. Just for the record, since Maher is listed in the credits as one of the writers of the show, any notes he made and used on the air for the table talk would still qualify as writing.
Call me cynical, but I wonder how much of a factor it was that it might be difficult to book guests who are willing to cross a picket line just to sit opposite Maher and have him explain why they’re wrong and he’s right.