Maher didn't miss a chance to needle her with one of Trump's own epithets.
Attempting to explain the Democrats' dismal fortunes with working-class voters, he told her, "They don't like you, Pocahontas." Warren didn't respond to the insult, choosing instead to stare a hole through her host's high forehead.
The day after he sparred with Warren, I joined him on a flight to Chicago, where he had a show scheduled that night.
I brought up the Pocahontas remark before he disappeared under his sleep mask."Is that when it looked like she was tearing up? "Just like everybody in life, not everything everybody says is always the most wonderful thing they ever heard that day," he said, without quite suggesting remorse. You move on." (Maher did, however, apologize for using the -word with Sasse, calling it "offensive.")Three hours later, our plane bucked over Illinois in near-zero visibility, jostling the unpasteurized goat-milk yogurt he had brought for the flight.
A few weeks later, Maher would answer a joke by Nebraska senator Ben Sasse with a similarly tone-deaf response.
When Sasse extended an invitation to come work in Nebraska's fields, Maher playacted surprise and said, "I'm a house nigger." Whereas the Pocahontas remark prompted another round of an ancient Internet dispute—whether Maher is a misogynist, a dick, or a fearless political savant—the comment to Sasse sparked universal outrage.
"Then it was back to the airport for a flight to Texas.
Backstage, he ate his usual postshow meal of baked potato and whitefish, a break from his weekday diet of seeds ground with fruit.He's addicted to provocation, and more often than not, he's driving his show into a brick wall by design."It's really old-school in that sense," says Larry Wilmore, who hosted his own series, on Comedy Central, until last year. The preparation that goes into making it look effortless like he does is extraordinary."Onstage, Maher wore a black suit, white shirt, and blue tie.He waited for the shouts of "Trump is a whiny little bitch" to subside—the line has become something of a catchphrase—and then went into his routine.Heavy on international politics, it included one of his favorite chestnuts: "Islam believes in peace.