cover image New Rules

New Rules

Bill Maher. Rodale, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-59486-295-3

The new rules TV host Maher establishes for ""a self-obsessed, success-by-any-means, get-mine culture"" make a convincing case for Maher's claim that everyone but him is crazy. Zingers about fads like low-carb dieting and flat-screen televisions (""Congratulations-you just paid $10,000 to watch Hogan's Heroes"") poke fun at appearance-obsessed, megalomaniacal American consumers, and his takes on current news stories such as Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride from Georgia, and the popular television shows Desperate Housewives and Growing Up Gotti (""You don't get a TV show because Grandpa killed people"") are clever jabs at the media and the entertainment industry. But Maher is at his best when he addresses controversial political issues by making a serious point without sacrificing the wisecracks. He slips a cheeky remark about George Bush's past into his discussion of brutal conditions in prisons, and points out that the No Child Left Behind law has created ""pushouts"": poor-performing students who Maher says schools put in ""phony categories like 'transferred' or 'enrolled in GED' or 'dating Demi Moore'"" in order to meet requirements to receive federal funding. Though Maher's rules are sometimes just whiny (he complains about room service personnel not knowing what kind of soup is available) and he repeats a few tired jokes (variations of ""you want to spend your millions on a worthless cause, try donating it to the Democrats"" appear several times), his views on the state of contemporary political and social culture are bound to cause a few laugh-out-loud moments.