Sharon Osbourne, who lost her long-running job as a co-host on “The Talk” late last month, will sit Friday for an interview on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.”
Maher, an outspoken critic of cancel culture, should be an interesting foil for Osbourne in her first public appearance since CBS announced she was leaving the show. “Real Time” promises a one-on-one, in-studio exchange between the two TV personalities, followed by a panel discussion including law professor and author Rosa Brooks and “GZERO World” host and businessman Ian Bremmer.
“Cancel culture is real, it’s insane and it’s growing exponentially, and it’s coming to a neighborhood near you,” Maher said during a recent episode of “Real Time,” noting that with “everyone” being online these days, everyone was a public figure subject to public chastisement.
“Is this really who we want to become? A society of phony, clenched … avatars walking on eggshells, always looking over your shoulder about getting ratted out for something that actually has nothing to do with your character or morals?” he said.
“Think about everything you’ve ever texted, emailed, searched for, tweeted, blogged or said in passing. Or now, even, just witnessed. Someone had a Confederate flag in their dorm room in 1990 and you didn’t do anything? You laughed at a Woody Allen movie?”
In that same monologue he name-checked recent stories about Justin Timberlake, Gina Carano and Chris Harrison, all of whom ran afoul of what some call the “woke police” for previous behavior and comments. Maher said that while everyone hates cancel culture, nobody stands up against it, because it’s easier to just say nothing.
“Mature people understand humans are continually evolving,” Maher said, “as opposed to Wokeville, where they’re always shocked we didn’t emerge enlightened from the primordial ooze.”
Given the controversy surrounding Osbourne’s firing, she and Maher should have plenty to talk about on the show, which HBO said is shot live on tape.
Osbourne’s March 26 departure from “The Talk,” where she was the remaining veteran from the show’s debut 2010 season, came after an internal investigation into an intense March 10 exchange with her co-hosts, particularly Sheryl Underwood. In that episode, Osbourne’s defense of Piers Morgan against allegations of racism went sideways, though she had said she didn’t agree with his opinions about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, only with his right to have them.
Osbourne asked Underwood tell her what Morgan had said about Meghan after her Oprah Winfrey interview that was racist, then said she felt like she was “about to be put in the electric chair because I have a friend who many people think is a racist, so that makes me a racist.”
Osbourne dropped an F-bomb as the show went to commercial, then after the break pleaded with her co-host to “educate” her. Underwood stayed calm and got teary eyed at one point, prompting Osbourne to say, “Don’t try and cry, because if anyone should be crying, it should be me.”
Osbourne apologized publicly the next day for her behavior during the exchange, and sent texts to Underwood after that apologizing for, among other things, accusing her of faking her tears. The show went on hiatus until this past Monday, when it returned with a discussion about what had happened.
Underwood on Monday acknowledged receiving the texts but said she hadn’t gotten an apology call — or any call — from Osbourne since they finished taping that week’s episodes. She didn’t respond to the texts, she said, because she was unsure what to do during the network’s investigation.
“It’s difficult to go back to that day because I just feel the trauma,” Underwood said Monday, noting that during the exchange she had aimed to set an example of how to handle such a discussion. She said she didn’t want to come across as the stereotype of an “angry Black woman” and explained that she began to tear up while talking to Osbourne because she had to restrain her strong feelings.
Osbourne, who came out of the gate after March 10 with inflammatory interviews on “Entertainment Tonight” and with the Daily Mail, has been reserved on social media since losing her job, posting only uncontroversial videos and animal memes.
Tonight’s chat with Maher, however, has the potential to deliver more fireworks, as did Morgan’s recent post-firing interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson after parting ways with “Good Morning Britain.”
“Real Time With Bill Maher” premieres on HBO each Friday at 7 p.m. Pacific and also streams on HBO Max.