Bill Maher recently jumped feet-first into a huge no-go zone when he made a joke about being a "house [n-word]."
The clap-back was immediate and thorough and brought a surprisingly quick apology from Maher, whose public persona has always had a pretty strong "no apologies" vibe to it.
On Friday's Real Time With Bill Maher the host continued in an apologetic vein, telling guest Michael Eric Dyson, an author and professor of sociology at Georgetown, that he "did a bad thing" and that it didn't "matter that it was not said in malice, it caused pain and that's why I apologized. I'm not that big of an asshole."
Dyson handled the conversation frankly but with a little bit of an academic tone, telling Maher to essentially remain aware of his white privilege.
It was hip-hop legend Ice Cube who really let the host have it. "I knew you were gonna fuck up sooner or later," Cube said. "I love your show, you got a great show, but you've been bucking up against that line a little bit. You've got a lot of black jokes."
"Sometimes," Cube continued, "you sound like a redneck trucker."
While Maher noted that he'd apologized, Cube wasn't done. He accepted the host's apology, he said, but there was more to it than that. "I think there are a lot of guys out there who are too familiar," he said, "or think they're too familiar, or they had a black girlfriend or two that made them some Kool-Aid and they think they can cross the line. And they can't."
Ice Cube made the difference between hearing the n-word from another black man and hearing it from a white man very clear. He told Maher that hearing another African-American say it "don't feel like venom." But a white man like Maher? "...It's like a knife."
There are red lines for everyone, and few are much clearer than this one. If Bill Maher didn't know that before, he damn sure does now, after hearing it from the founder of NWA.