Ezra on Maher: Stiff and Serious Until He Talks ‘Skins’

This review was written by Betsy Rothstein and Alec Jacobs

Come on, Ezzy, loosen up!

That’s what we kept screaming at WaPo‘s liberal Boy Band lead singer Ezra Klein Friday night during HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.”

The positives: The earth tones, a mushroom green blazer and olive tie, worked well. His hair was neat and looked freshly trimmed. His glasses (aside from making him look like he had a black left eye from the glare) made him appear older and sophisticated enough to be there. Maher praised him effusively (especially for Maher), saying Klein was among his “favorite television characters.” Klein was well-prepared, soundbites, metaphors all ready to go.

If the sophisticate was the look Klein was going for as he went on his wonkfest, he achieved it. He dismissed Washington just like politicians have been known to do, saying, “You don’t hear that many smart things in Washington all the time.” Yes, Ezra, Washington is despicable and the people who work there don’t have enough degrees. Good thing you live, work, breathe and eat fresh figs there. Maher is wont to interrupt such serious rants, as he did with ABC’s Jake Tapper not long ago. But with Ezzy? Maher’s attitude was, ‘Fine, whatever he said,’ and he’d move on. But not everyone gave him a free pass. During the panel, comedian Tracey Ullman made a crack about Klein’s age.”She’s about two years younger than you are, Ezra,” she said, dripping his name out slowly with grand emphasis on each syllable: “Ezzrahh KLIIIHHN. The man with the Dickenesian name,” Ullman cooed, telling the panel about her daughter who works in the Houses of Parliament.

For some reason, the show kept playing up Klein’s religion. During a segment about anti-Semitism, the camera kept panning over him. Later, Maher poked fun at his name a little bit: “Ezra Klein? A Jew? Huh…” Ezra played along to a point. When Ullman made that comment about Klein having “Dickensian name,” Ezra said, “Yeah, if Dickens had grown up in Israel.” But when it came to assigning blame for the week’s instances of anti-Semitism (Maher brought up Charlie Sheen, John Galliano, and Moamar Gadhafi as examples), Klein oddly pinned it all on a “bad economy,” which the panel didn’t buy.

Klein’s bite back at Ullman fell flat. Sure, it probably made fellow Boy Banders giddy. But it made him look like he’d gotten beaten up by a girl.

The negatives: Klein dominated the panel, and not necessarily in a good way. While California’s dreamy Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom injected himself politely but confidently into the conversation, Klein overstepped, even cutting off Maher. Way too serious. Stiff. If he showed himself to be young and unseasoned anywhere, it was in the way that he sat perched forward on the edge of his seat like a leopard cub about to pounce. He overtalked and was not gentlemanly enough toward feminist and political activist  Gloria Steinem in allowing her to have the floor. He sometimes looked at her with impatience as if to say, “You almost through? I have more knowledge to share.”

But the most awkward moment of the night …

didn’t come until after the show was over and the panel moved their discussion to HBO.com. There, Klein talked briefly about “Jersey Shore,” which he said didn’t have the “realism” of “Skins,” a program about teens having sex, taking drugs and sneaking out at night. He then said he was beyond the age demographic of “Skins.” His exact words: “I’m actually above the age bracket,” Klein reasoned. “I’ve mainly read about ‘Skins’ like an old person in news magazines.”

Must be his ripe old age of 26.