Though he didn’t directly address the backlash, he did express his appreciation for his writers, staff members and the Writers Guild of America nearly 20 minutes into Friday’s episode of his political talk show.
“First of all, I want to thank everybody who made this possible, to be back,” Maher said. “You know, I’m talking about my brilliant staff, writers and non-writers, who scrambled the jets so we could be on in two days. And the union folks who expedited the paperwork so we could get back so quickly, so thank you.”
His comments were made just before starting a panel discussion with Sam Harris, host of the Making Sense podcast, and Mary Katharine Ham, author and co-host of the Getting Hammered podcast.
The current 21st season of Real Time premiered in January, and then went on hiatus after the Writers Guild of America strike got underway in May. Typically, the show airs 35 weekly episodes and runs through the end of November.
But in September, the 67-year-old host declared he was going to return to work and stop participating in the strike. “Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing,” Maher wrote on X. “It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work. 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 … I’m not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much.”
The move led to industry backlash from many prominent names. But then Maher reversed course a week later, citing the WGA and studios returning to the negotiating table, and delayed resuming his show.
“My decision to return to work was made when it seemed nothing was happening and there was no end in sight to this strike,” he explained on X. “Now that both sides have agreed to go back to the negotiating table I’m going to delay the return of Real Time, for now, and hope they can finally get this done.”
With the resolution of the writers strike earlier this week, HBO then announced Real Time would be back on the air after all.
The new episode featured a one-on-one interview with Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, who was coming off the second Republican primary debate earlier this week.