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About (Late) Last Night: On 'Tonight Show,' Bill Maher attacks NRA, Arizona ... and audience [video]

January 12, 2011 |  6:41 am


Bill Maher can always be counted on for a little controversy, and on last night's "Tonight Show," he surely delivered ... and then some. 

After a segment in which Maher poked fun of Christine O'Donnell and the new speaker of the House, John Boehner, Leno opened up the conversation: What were Maher's thoughts about the shootings this weekend in Arizona?

Over the ensuing four minutes, Maher certainly made his feelings clear.

"The NRA should change their name to the Assassin's Lobby, because that's what they are," he began. "Nobody needs a gun that fires 31 rounds."

Maher then criticized Arizona's permissive gun laws, which allow citizens to carry concealed weapons in many public places.  "These guys always think that it's great to have a gun because if some bad stuff goes down, I'll be able to stop the bad guy."  Dismissing this idea as a "fantasy," Maher claimed "You would never be able to do that. People have to be trained for months and months at a time."

Maher condemned the Democrats for abandoning the issue of gun control, a point which fell flat with Leno's audience. "There should be one party that sticks up for this issue," he said, garnering little reaction. "I'm not expecting it from this crowd."  Cue the nervous laughter.

When Leno brought up the hot-button issue of violent rhetoric in politics, Maher let loose, going after Newt Gingrich and a number of other Republicans, whose "go-to rhetoric," he claimed, suggests: "Wouldn't it be fun to kill people we disagree with?"

Some audience loudly disagreed with this point.  Maher responded, "Really, then, do you read?"  

As a rule, insulting someone's literacy is not the best way to win an argument, and it certainly wasn't in this case. Maher did get a more positive response from his comments on the patriotism of bringing home the troops home, expanding healthcare and paying taxes, but it was probably too late. When Leno awkwardly wrapped up the segment with a hasty plug for one of Maher's upcoming appearances, you could practically hear him sighing with relief.

Even for those who agree with him politically -- and surely there were more than a few in the "Tonight Show" audience -- Maher's abrasive tone isn't always easy to like.  

-- Meredith Blake