Even though “Real Time with Bill Maher” does not screen in Australia, I am a huge fan of the show. Generally I hate any and all interviews where the interviewee has something to sell, but the debate part of Real Time coupled with the “New Rules” at the end, are enough to see me through. I find it entertaining to see many of the media personalities and commentators that I respect let their hair down and take a good-humoured look at current events. I also like that Maher readily invites people of opposing ideologies and likes to be challenged. So, when I spotted the book “The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody But Me Has Their Head up Their Ass” by Bill Maher, I jumped at the opportunity to read some more New Rules. However, I was thoroughly disappointed.

The book is 360 odd pages of “New Rules” presented in the same monologue format as the show. Maher makes it quite plain at the beginning of the book that many (not all) of the New Rules contained within are actually recycled from the show. Having watched my fair share of Real Time, I did come across quite a lot of jokes I had heard before, especially the “editorials” (the long joke Maher uses to sum up and finish both the New Rules segment as well as the show). Although to be fair there was a lot of new material/material I had not seen. Overall I am quite fine with this, Maher is completely open about it, and its not like I bought the book expecting completely new material. It is a book produced by a TV personality after all, most books produced by TV personalities that I have come across are either ghost written or are merely the rehashing of already used material. However, what I disliked about the book is that all of the New Rules are written in exactly the same as they are on the show. They are specifically written for Maher’s “voice”.

Everyone has a specific “voice”: it’s the sound in your head when you read a book, it’s your specific use of vocabulary, its how slow or fast you read/talk, its how long you stop when you reach punctuation, its how you emphasize certain words. Comedians especially have their own voices. Different comedians not only use different material, but they also structure and deliver their jokes in different ways. This is why if I gave Jerry Seinfeld’s material to Bill Cosby, it probably wouldn’t be funny. The material would be funny on its own, but coming out of Bill Cosby’s mouth it would sound weird. Because they both have distinct “voices”, they both have distinct ways of telling jokes and the material must fit their way of telling jokes.

Anyone who has watched Maher doing stand up or New Rules will be familiar with his particular voice. Maher starts with a theme and says progressively funnier and more “out there” things until he gets to the punch line. Each line is delivered louder, with more enthusiasm, and the punch line is usually screamed over the top of the laughter. This is part of what makes what he says so funny, the delivery. Unfortunately, my “inner voice” does not suite Maher’s monologues. No matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I attempt to imitate Maher’s delivery, it is just nowhere near as funny. My voice is different, it suites other jokes. And this will be the same for many people.

This is a book of monologues, not a joke book. It is therefore not something that everyone can do. Most people who will buy this book will be fans of the show, and like me, will probably end up trying to do their best Bill Maher impersonation as they read. But it is not the same. While it is a very funny book, it just does not live up to the show. In fact, most of my biggest laughs came from reading jokes and remembering when I saw them on the show. Fans of Bill Maher would be better advised to spend their money on one of his stand up DVD’s or maybe a season pass on iTunes.

Title: The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody But Me Has Their Head up Their Ass
Genre: Comedy
Author: Bill Maher
Pages:  368 (Paperback)
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
ISBN-10: 0452298296
ISBN-13: 978-0452298293
Amazon Price (Paperback): $10.88 (AUD)
Rating: 2/5