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Maher crosses picket line, says 'Time to bring people back to work'

"This is bigger than me," Barrymore said about the strike and her resuming her show.

Published: September 16, 2023 10:52pm

Updated: September 17, 2023 11:27am

Bill Maher had the perfect Plan B for the ongoing Hollywood strikes.

The host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” joined the podcasting revolution earlier this year as a creative side hustle. So when the May 2 writers’ strike shut down every late-night talk show save Fox News’ “Gutfeld!” Maher kept on talking via his “Club Random” podcast.

Now, Maher is ready to resume his “Real Time” duties even though the strike is far from over. Drew Barrymore is doing the same on her eponymous talk show. 

Will these industry veterans pay a price for their actions?

For Maher, getting back to work made sense, and he shared why on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work,” he wrote. “The writers have important issues that I sympathize with, and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people with issues, problems, and concerns. 

“Despite some assistance from me, much of the staff is struggling mightily. We all were hopeful this would come to an end after Labor Day, but that day has come and gone, and there still seems to be nothing happening.”

He won’t have writers or celebrities hawking their upcoming projects. The stars have been silenced by a concurrent actors’ strike, which began July 14 and that forbids them from working on or promoting upcoming films and TV shows.

Maher’s social media post got plenty of snarky blowback, including notes from comedian Titus, a “Gutfeld!” regular; “Bob’s Burgers” co-star Kristen Schaal; former sports and TV talker Keith Olbermann; and author Stephen King (“This is exactly how strikes are broken”)

Maher isn’t the only TV talker getting back to business.

Child star turned talk show host Drew Barrymore originally was going to go back to work, but announced Sunday she would not resume her show until the strike ends.

"I have listened to everyone, and I am making the decision to pause the show's premiere until the strike is over," Barrymore wrote on Instagram." I have no words to express my deepest apologies to anyone I have hurt and, of course, to our incredible team who works on the show and has made it what is is today."

"We really tried to find our way forward. And I truly hope for a resolution for the entire industry very soon," she added. 

Her daytime talk show was set to resume Monday sans writers. Ironically, Barrymore previously turned down hosting duties for MTV’s Movie and TV Awards gala in solidarity with the strike.

She, too, will be restricted by the actors’ strike regarding potential guests, but Barrymore on Monday invoked the industry's oldest saw – The show must go on.

“I own this choice,” she originally posted on Instagram. “We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time.”

Maher has not backed down from his stance yet. His actions could convince others to do the same, where possible. That doesn’t mean he won’t pay an industry price for what many peers view as betraying the integrity of the dueling strikes.

Barrymore’s original decision drew quick fire across the industry. Two former “West Wing” stars, Bradley Whitford and Josh Malina, savaged her for the decision. Malina dubbed her a “scab” on X for defying the strikes, while Whitford vowed he won’t “forget” her decision.

That’s likely true given Hollywood’s insular nature.

She’s already lost one gig due to her defiance. The National Book Foundation backpedaled on plans for Barrymore to host its annual awards ceremony.

“The National Book Awards is an evening dedicated to celebrating the power of literature, and the incomparable contributions of writers to our culture,” the foundation said Tuesday. “In light of the announcement that The Drew Barrymore Show will resume production, the National Book Foundation has rescinded Ms. Barrymore’s invitation to host the 74th National Book Awards ceremony.”

Other talk shows have soldiered on with far less attention. “The View” returned to the airwaves earlier this month with fresh conversations.

Last month, silenced late-night talkers summoned Maher’s side hustle to keep themselves busy during the strikes. 

Five late-night veterans gathered for the limited podcast series “Strike Force Five.”

Co-hosts Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers promised revenue from the show, which quickly sprinted to the top spot on iTunes on its debut, would go to late-show workers suffering due to the protracted strike.

Will Maher and Barrymore coax other stars to bend the rules, where possible, and resume their Hollywood careers? Each knew the consequences of their actions but pushed forward all the same. Their lack of regret sends a message, no doubt.

Many stars are eager to resume their careers, while others have a more pragmatic need to see the strike end. Bills are stacking up, and the strikes show no sign of stopping.

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