Hoffman's Houston
phoning it in

Ken Hoffman calls out Bill Maher on his 'phones are bad' rant

Ken Hoffman calls out Bill Maher on his 'phones are bad' rant

smartphone social media iphone
Sorry, Bill Maher, you're a total hater when it comes to phones. Photo by Getty Images

Almost always, most times anyway, I agree with Bill Maher and his “New Rules.” I enjoy watching entertainers call out the status quo, get under the skin of those in charge, drive the establishment crazy.

If a comedian can get the leader of the free world to file a $5 million lawsuit because the comic said Mr. President was the son of an orangutan, that’s pretty funny. (That actually happened.)

But last week on his HBO show Real Time, Maher got off on a rant that really missed its mark: “Phones make you a bad person.” Some highlights:

  • “They make you shady.”
  • “They make you passive-aggressive.”
  • “They make you fake and cowardly.”

I disagree. I think phones — Maher was talking about cell phones — are the greatest tech invention of the past half-century. Phones make life easier, less stressful, safer, more interesting, and more fun. They certainly can get you out of a pickle.

Saved by the phone
For example: I was sitting in a restaurant, waiting for my dinner to arrive, when I noticed a local newscaster walking toward me. Uh-oh, this’ll be misery. What did I write this time? I took out my phone and pretended I was talking to someone. The newscaster turned around and went back to his table.

The fake phone call, second only to fake sleep in helping you avoid an unpleasant conversation.

Having a phone in your pocket is better than sitting in the Library of Congress, where they frown on visitors eating a half-gallon of ice cream out of the container and they make you wear pants.

If we’re watching the Super Bowl and someone says “of course Brady will be the MVP, they always give it to the winning quarterback,” I can hit Google and two seconds later say, “Not always, actually a quarterback wins it only about half the time.” It’s an annoying habit, nobody likes a know-it-all, but I like to know.
(The last non-quarterback Super Bowl MVP was Patriots receiver Julian Edelman in 2019. I just Googled that.)

I once read a poll, if you could possess one superpower, which would it be. No. 1 was “being invisible.” Phones are almost as good.

Work from China — it's a thing, thanks to phones!
True story: One time I got a call from my editor asking what I thought about a headline. The editor asked if my street was flooding from the rain Houston was experiencing. The editor thought I was hard at work in my spring-summer home in West U.

I was standing on the Great Wall of China. I see a cheap airfare, I go.

A phone makes sitting and waiting in a doctor’s office tolerable. I play trivia games or read the news. Best app for news: SmartNews.
I don’t get lost driving nearly as much as I did before smartphones.

You can order a pizza, buy a car, or find true love on your phone. During my last checkup, one of the nurses said she met her current boyfriend on Bumble and their romance is going great. (Fun fact: Serena Williams is an investor in Bumble.) 

Kids need phones too
Maher said it’s “ridiculous” for kids to have a phone at age 14 — “or even younger, 10 years old.” Unlike Al Bundy, Maher is unmarried without children. It’s a different world than what Maher remembers when he was young. Phones have parental controls. It’s a good idea for children to keep a phone in their backpack now. Calling 911 can save their life.

Plus, phones let parents know where their children are at all times. Not sure if that is a good idea or not.  At a certain age, it gets creepy.

Phones are an instant camera and you don’t have to wave a Polaroid until it’s dry or take film to Walgreen’s and wait in the candy aisle. (That’s a dangerous aisle. Last week I was driving to Austin and stopped at a Walgreen’s for Advil. I left with Advil and Ghirardelli “Intense Dark Cherry Tango” chocolate. They work the same.)

If I’m driving somewhere and discover that I left my phone at home, I turn around. I’d rather be late than phoneless. I get jittery without my phone.

Phones let you block people out of your life. I’ve never blocked anybody and I don’t think I’ve ever been blocked — for more than a day or two. 

True story: one of my first “celebrity interviews” was with TV psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers. I asked her, what’s the most important advice you give people?
She said, “I give common sense advice. People will tell me, whenever I have lunch with my mother-in-law, I leave angry and depressed. I tell them don’t have lunch with your mother-in-law.”

Phones let you avoid lunch with your mother-in-law. You’re busy that day. And the next day. And the day after that.

So phones are wonderful. Now, if only they’d invent a device that would allow people to talk to each other.