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Comedian Bill Maher wraps up every installment of his TV show, Real Time, with a segment called "New Rules." That's where he takes potshots at whatever's bothering him — from wrappers on ice cream cones, to red light cameras, to more serious subjects like war and economic ruin.
His new book, The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody But Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass, sports a title we can't say on the radio and a mix of rules both lighthearted and serious, some of which never appeared on television.
"I would say, for people who have been following what I do for a long time, this is one of the more silly things," Maher tells weekends on All Things Considered host Laura Sullivan.
For example, the book kicks off with this new rule: "If you tweet neat stuff about your life for your friends to read more than 10 times a day, I can tell you a neat fact about your friends. They hate you."
But it's not all fluff. The book also contains longer, more heartfelt editorial essays. "The editorial is something I hope people take away with and go, 'Oh, you know what, that's something I was thinking, and he really crystallized it,'" Maher says.
Maher says he gets very passionate about the editorials. "I'm Irish, you know. Irish people get mad at anything, and the country is real screwed up, and it's a shame."
"Many of us think things are so off track, and that there are so many greedy, selfish people who have hijacked what was good about this country," he says. "We're No. 1 in meth labs and fat toddlers. The things we're No. 1 at are mostly not good things."
One editorial, from 2005, was remarkably prescient about the housing crash. What's surprising about that, Maher says, is that the essay came from a comedian and not an economist. "I don't think it was that hard to see that there was a bubble," he says.
The rules and essays are arranged only by alphabetical order. Maher says he and his writers thought about categorizing them, or coming up with some kind of organizational scheme, but in the end they decided it was much more fun to be random.
"You know, you'll have one that's sort of about a serious topic, and you'll follow that up with one about how, you know, stop calling bagpipes a musical instrument," he says.
"Bagpipes are not a musical instrument; they're a Scottish breathalyzer test," he adds. "You blow in one end, and if the sound that comes out the other end doesn't make you want to kill yourself, you're not drunk enough."