I make it a policy to never discuss politics or religion in public, as I don't feel comfortable enough with my knowledge base to enter into debates on these topics. Bill Maher, of Politically Incorrect fame, doesn't share this inhibition, as he loves to discuss these and other controversial topics. And Maher is in rare form in his concert Victory Begins at Home, which was taped live for HBO and has just hit DVD.
Victory Begins at Home was taped at the Hudson Theatre in New York City in July, 2003. The concert is adapted from Maher's one-man Broadway show of the same name. In this concert, Maher appears live-on-stage, which is decorated with mock political propaganda posters. This backdrop certainly sets the tone for the piece, as he opens the show by attacking the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. From there, Maher discuss the linguistics of politics and the way politicians use words and pictures to manipulate the populace. He also talks about religion and race and how these two sensitive topics affect our political views. After talking about America's drug policies, Maher closes the show by discussing gender differences and what he feels is the "feminization" of America.
On Politically Incorrect and his new show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher does a good job of engaging guests with varied political views, so that many viewpoints are discussed. This is not the case with Victory Begins at Home. In this solo outing, Maher is voicing his opinion, and his opinion alone. And that opinion is decidedly liberal and anti-establishment. If either of those words cause you to shudder, then you will probably hate this show. Still, even if one disagrees with everything that Maher says and stands for, he must be applauded for having the guts to step forward and speak his mind in these tumultuous times.
If the decidedly left-of-center content doesn't frighten you, then you will find a treasure trove of poignant views and laughs in Victory Begins at Home. Maher's humor falls somewhere in between Robin Williams and Bill Hicks, as he is deadly accurate with his shots at Bush and other political figures, yet he peppers the jokes with a measure of playfulness and satire so that the entire affair doesn't come across as too heavy-handed. Also, Maher is quick to point out the positive aspects of his targets, while attempting to open the viewer's mind to the bizarre and inaccurate things that most Americans believe. The only time that Maher stumbles is in the last 10 minutes of the show, where he discusses relationships and how males aren't programmed for monogamy. From Eddie Murphy to Chris Rock, any comedian who attempts jokes on this topic comes across sounding like a sex-crazed brute. Maher is better off sticking to the political humor, where he proves himself to be a master of the art.
Bill Maher: Victory Begins at Home chuckles its way onto DVD courtesy of HBO Home Video. The show is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. The concert was clearly shot on high-end digital video, as the image here is flawless. The picture is crystal clear, as it shows no grain or any other overt defects. The colors look fantastic and there is no bleeding of the hues. The background posters do show some video noise at times, but not enough to be distracting. The clarity of the picture helps to add to the illusion that the viewer is in the audience.
The DVD contains a Dolby 2.0 Surround audio track. This track provides clear dialogue from Maher and deposits the audience laughter and applause into the front and rear channels. The audio isn't spectacular, but it sounds fine and certainly does its job admirably.
It's rare that I state that an extra makes a DVD worth a view, but such is the case with Bill Maher: Victory Begins at Home. The DVD contains a 22-minute segment in which Maher returns to the stage following the show in order to field questions from the audience. This is almost like getting a second concert on the DVD, as Maher re-visits some of the topics from the show and also tackles new ones. The audiences members point out some flaws in Maher's show and state their own opinions. Maher takes (most of) these comments graciously and shows a warmer side that doesn't always come through in his act. The only other extra on the disc is a text biography for Maher which discusses his career but tells little of the man himself.
For year, I was perplexed by Bill Maher's acceptance as a political guru, as I though of him as that guy from D.C. Cab. But, Victory Begins at Home has changed my mind about him. The man isn't afraid to speak his mind and makes some very compelling arguments about some very serious topics. Even those who feel that their political and personal views are the polar opposite of Maher's may want to check out the show, as it will certainly make you think.