‘Real Time’ returns with Bill Maher apologizing for N-Word controversy: ‘I did a bad thing’

A week after Bill Maher shocked the nation by using the N-Word during an interview with Nebraska junior Senator Ben Sasse, all eyes were on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night as it returned to HBO. Maher didn’t beat around the bush when it came to addressing the controversy. “I did a bad thing,” Maher said to his guest Michael Eric Dyson, an author and Georgetown University professor. “For black folks, that word — I don’t care who you are — has caused pain. I’m not here to do that. That’s why I apologized freely, and I reiterated tonight. That’s sincere.”

Maher began the show by poking fun at himself during his monologue, saying awkwardly, “Thank you for letting a sinner in your midst. Michael Eric Dyson will be out here shortly to take me to the woodshed. But first, there is someone who had a worse week than me: Donald Trump.”

Celebrity guest Ice Cube took Maher to task, telling him honestly, “It’s like a knife, man. When I hear my homies say it, it don’t feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it’s like a knife. That’s our word now and you can’t have it back.”

Also in the episode, Maher alluded to the Kathy Griffin debacle in which the female comedian was photographed holding a bloodied head of Trump. She “owes me a fruit basket for getting her off the front page,” Maher remarked with a smile.

Until recently Maher was known as the Susan Lucci of the Primetime Emmys, having racked up dozens of nominations for writing, producing and starring in “Politically Incorrect,” various stand-up comedy specials and “Real Time” without ever taking home an award. That losing streak finally ended in 2014 when Maher won Best Informational Series as a producer of HBO’s “Vice.”

Will the N-Word controversy help or hurt “Real Time with Bill Maher” at the upcoming Emmys? He faces stiff competition from last year’s winner “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” as well as returning nominees “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Other contenders hoping for their first shots are “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

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