Maher returns for NYE show
BY SJARIF GOLDSTEIN / email@example.com
For political comedians such as Bill Maher, election years are a bonanza.
And with this year’s presidential race, the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” got to have his proverbial cake and eat it, too. He had “a scream” watching the Republican Party settle on Mitt Romney as its candidate and then enjoyed watching President Barack Obama win re-election.
“Elections, as tawdry as they are when they’re happening, when they’re over, it is a little bit exhilarating,” Maher said in a recent phone call. “And when Obama won on Nov. 6 this year, and we saw the pot (legalization in two states) pass, we saw all those idiot Republicans lose their races — every one of them who had said stupid things about ‘legitimate rape’ and the rest of it, all thrown out on their ass — gosh, I felt like a hockey mom at the state fair when the fireworks go off and Jesus appears in the cotton candy! It was really a good night, so I’m gonna try to build on that for the new year.”
For the second year in a row, Maher is ringing in the new year in Hawaii, with shows at the Hawaii Theatre (on New Year’s Eve) and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (on New Year’s Day). If he has his way, this will become an annual ritual.
“I want to become the Don Ho of New Year’s!” said Maher, who plans to bring in a group of friends and spend about a week here, as he did last year. “We had a grand old time.”
ONCE MAHER gets home to Los Angeles, he goes back to work on “Real Time,” the 11th season of which will start Jan. 18.
Maher is more than a little surprised that his political talk/humor show has surpassed the nine-year run of his previous show, “Politically Incorrect,” which started on Comedy Central before stepping up to ABC.
“I can’t believe where the time went and that we’re able to do this,” Maher said. “Between the two shows I’m gonna be celebrating my 20th anniversary of doing this (in July). Gosh, if you’d told me way back then in the early ’90s that this would still be going on, I woulda said you were insane. But you know what? I guess I found a niche.”
With the show’s ratings reaching levels they hadn’t reached since 2004 — averaging more than 4 million viewers at times this season, according to HBO, healthy for a premium-cable show — Maher sees no slowdown ahead.
“You know what is so beneficial for a comedian — especially in stand-up who does what I do, which is talks about basically what’s going on in the country and the current events — is that it’s always changing.
“What I’m doing always changes,” he said. “There’s always new people. … We have elections every two and four years, and they provide a whole new cast of characters.”
His show has already been renewed through the 2014 midterm election season, and Maher sees no reason for his material to dry up.
“The Republican party never disappoints,” Maher said. “A Mr. George Bush goes away, and a Ms. Sarah Palin emerges. And she goes away, and there’s John Boehner and then Mitt Romney and Herman Cain and Rick Perry. Believe me, they will be providing material for me when I’m 100.”
MAHER IS an unabashed supporter of President Obama and the Democratic Party, even donating a million dollars to a pro-Obama super PAC this year. But he doesn’t view himself as a liberal. He prefers the term “practical.”
“Of course, people on the right will not see it that way. They don’t think I’m practical at all. They think I’m just dead wrong. But that certainly is how I see it.
“Because you know what the interesting thing is, is that the definition of liberal and conservative and Democrat and Republican changes all the time. So there’s people who say, ‘Why don’t you just join the Democratic Party? You always seem to be with them.’ Well, I wasn’t always with them 20 years ago. They changed. The Republican Party changed, not me. Twenty years ago Obamacare basically was the Republican idea. This was basically the plan that Bob Dole offered up when Hillary was trying to get health care through. They (the GOP) changed on that. Twenty years ago the Republican Party was the one that was for cap and trade. The Republicans understood that global warming was real, and they had again a business-friendly plan to solve it. Now their attitude about global warming is just deny it, claim it’s a hoax, it’s not happening at all. So once again — they changed; I didn’t.”
MAHER SEES hope for the Republican Party … if it can be saved from itself and its battle within.
“I think that fight, to a degree, is going on now, and there are some encouraging signs that that’s going to happen, certainly on the budget stuff. They see the handwriting on the wall.
They’re still dragging their feet on it, of course, but I think at some level they have to understand that not only did they lose this election pretty badly, they lost the last presidential election very badly. They’ve lost the popular vote in five out of the last six elections.
“And they can blame the candidates, they can blame Romney and (John) McCain, but you know what? Whoever is carrying this (garbage) is going to stink. It’s not the candidate; it’s the party itself. So I think some of them are understanding that.
“What’s not encouraging, for example, is that Marco Rubio (a Republican U.S. senator from Florida), who might be a candidate (for president in 2016), was asked recently how old the world is and he answered, ‘I’m not a scientist.’ Well, you know what? You can Google it, man.
“You don’t have to be Copernicus to know how old the world is. But that just shows you how afraid they are of their base, and I’m sorry to say it, but a lot of their base is based on ignorance. And when you have to appeal to the most ignorant people in the country, it’s gonna be a little tough to come up with policies that sound reasonable.”
For now, Maher is enjoying the comedic mother lode. There’s enough to go around to share with the many other left-leaning comics (Patton Oswalt, Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo, etc.), who come in greater numbers than conservative comics.
“There’s so much more to make fun of on the right,” Maher said, “because the areas that you can belittle are so obvious and so rich. You know the media likes to present this idea, which we call a false equivalency, that the problems of our country are due to the misgivings of both sides, which is not really true. And I don’t say this because I’m a Democrat. I say that because that’s the truth.
“Are the Democrats perfect? No, they’re far from perfect.
“There’s only one party that denies science. There’s only one party that says things like ‘legitimate rape.’ There’s only one party that thinks that a completely disproven theory like trickle-down economics, which we have tried over and over again and shown not to work, (can work and) still clings to it.
“That’s the interesting thing about how the Republican Party operates these days, and it didn’t work out this year, thank God. They run against this president who’s … ‘gonna redistribute your wealth.’ No, he just wants to go back to the old Clinton tax rates. ‘He’s gonna slash defense,’ even though he’s done nothing but raise it. ‘He’s got a nuclear bomb that only works on white people,’ ‘His wife wants to outlaw dessert.’
“It’s just they run against a fictional person, and I would never accuse the American public of being particularly astute about politics, but they could see through that.”