At the 2017 Emmys, Stephen Colbert joked about Bill Maher’s recent use of a racial slur on his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher.
During his opening monologue, Colbert noted that the nominees this year are some of the most diverse in history, and he proceeded to list off people of color who are up for awards. His list concluded with Bill Maher.
“I assume he’s black since he’s so comfortable using the N-word,” Colbert said.
— Variety (@Variety) September 18, 2017
Colbert is referring to the controversy that erupted earlier this year when Bill Maher used the N-word during an interview with Ben Sasse. This was not part of a scripted segment but was said by Maher off-the-cuff. When Sasse made reference to working in the fields, Maher said, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n*gger.”
Maher was immediately criticized for these remarks, with many calling for the comedian to be fired from the show. That did not end up happening, although the network released a statement condemning him.
“Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless,” HBO said at the time. “We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”
Maher soon released his own statement apologizing for the comment.
“Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show,” Maher said. “Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
Despite this controversy, Bill Maher’s show was still nominated for an Emmy.
During the Emmys, this joke about Maher earned one of the biggest laughs of the night, with Anthony Anderson in particular being heard laughing long after most of the crowd had. Bill Maher did not appear to be at the show, as the live feed did not cut to him in the audience.