The American stand-up comedian Bill Maher was once host of a late night show on the US ABC network called Politically Incorrect. The network decided not to renew his contract after he made remarks on-air just after 9/11 to the effect that the terrorists involved were not cowards. "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly," said Maher, who has described himself as a "libertarian". "Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."
As is so often the case, the ensuing media storm centred on the wrong point made by the wrong person at the wrong time. The effect of opportunistic controversialism such as Maher's, posing as it does as political sophistication, is always to take the impressionable away from the real issue and march them up a blind alley.
Exactly the same can be said of Religulous, the comedian's new cinema "documentary", which sets out to show, as the name rather clunkily implies, that all faith is ridiculous - or indeed worse, that it represents the most dangerous impediment to man's progress. If, as it seems at present, it is open season on religion, and Richard Dawkins has the literati covered, then Religulous should cater nicely for the comedy circuit and its willing audiences of those who laugh on principle - especially as the movie is directed by Larry Charles, the man behind the terminally hip TV series, Curb Your Enthusiasm.