Bill Maher all these things and worse, and despite his reputation, he probably wouldnt dispute them. Im all for unsettling peoples opinions, Maher says. For my money, thats the best kind of comedy. The former host of Politically Incorrect (ABC canned him in 2002 for refuting the supposed cowardice of 9/11 hijackers) and current mastermind of HBOs live-format Real Time with Bill Maher (9 p.m. Fridays) brings his incite-ful standup routine to the Mahalia Jackson Theater tomorrow, and Gambit rang just to push his buttons. Easier done than said. (Full transcript after the jump.)
Whats your reaction to the reaction to (your film) Religulous?
Very few religious people saw it. I didnt really hear a lot from them. There were some people who said, Ill be praying for you.
Theyre very serious. But the people who saw it adored it, I have to say. I know that sounds immodest, but you asked me the question Im not going to lie. We did what we set out to do. This was my Moby Dick, if you will. This is something Id been trying to make for over 10 years. Its the one subject that really has always fascinated me, that I thought deserved to be made into a feature-length movie. Theres never been a movie like that. And I do think we harpooned that fing white whale. [Laughs] Having done so, I have no desire to ever make a movie again. This wasnt a gambit to start a new career. Im not interested in that career. I was interested in making one movie about this one subject.
You know, it really doesnt, because wherever I go, the people who appreciate what I do come out of the woodwork. Ive played Salt Lake City and Tulsa, Okla., places you might think are hostile, and I have no illusions probably a good percentage of those places are hostile to what I have to say. But those people dont come out to the theater. Thats the good thing about charging.
Right it would be a very different story, and Id need firearms. Actually, theyre very grateful that someone came to their town who thinks like they do. The redder the state, the more excited the crowd. And, really, the funnier the show.
Never. So Im really looking forward to it. Ive been in the city before, pre-Katrina, and of course, how can you not have a good time. Ive been bugging my agent for the longest time: When can I get to New Orleans? Finally, they got it.
[Laughs] I think there might be. I havent really thought about it yet. But if you have any tips on whats going on there locally that I dont know, Id love to hear it.
Oh yeah, Mayor Nagin. I should call my friend Harry Anderson.
My retort would be, he sounds like hes expressing one of the problems with the media, which is what I call fake fairness. Sometimes the truth is all on one side. One of the problems with our media is that they dont really know whats up, so they always have to posit the idea that everything is a 50/50 situation. Youll see a cover story in Time or Newsweek on legalizing marijuana, and theyll give the pros and the cons. Well, you know what, be honest with yourself. There really arent any cons. Its one of the most benign drugs in the world. Pharmaceuticals and liquor kill hundreds of thousands of people a year; marijuana doesnt kill anybody. This is, I think, the biggest cash crop in America. But of course its all going to drug dealers and illegals instead of the government. Its really a no-brainer issue, but its not treated that way in the press. So I would say to this guy, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, Extremism in the defense of truth is no vice.
I dont think it would completely solve the recession. But in a time when we do need revenue, and desperately, its absolutely a great way to do it. I live in California. This state is facing a kind of economic meltdown that I dont think any state in modern times has faced. I mean, we are really desperate. Theyre talking about releasing prisoners and closing schools. Its ridiculous.
You know, thats a good question. I havent had much contact with them in recent years. I was a little disillusioned. Ive always said, one of the reasons theres been so little progress on the marijuana issue front is that what the movement needs more than anything is some kick-ass, take-no-prisoners, Karl Rove-type lobbyist, you know? And that just never happens, because its all a bunch of stoners. You got to get up for that 8 a.m. breakfast meeting with the congressman on Capitol Hill!
I am not. Really, she wants a pit bull genocide? Shes the Hitler of pit bulls? Im hearing about this for the first time. Youre sure about this? Im going to have to look into this. I know Ingrid very well, and Im a great admirer. I think shes taken a cause that was not even on the agenda in America and moved it to a place where even if its sometimes mocked, at least its on peoples minds. But look, Ive never been in lockstep with PETA. I always refer to the title: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Thats what I believe. But Im not a strict vegetarian myself. Animals do kill each other. I just would like them to be treated ethically.
Its a diet that should not be eccentric. The American diet is whats a disaster. I think people, when they hear the word diet, they think of something that makes you lose weight or eliminates carbs, something like that. My diet, without going into the details that would bore you, is just about purity. Its about eating things that dont have all the processed nonsense that goes into American food production.
Exactly. Not chemicals, not preservatives, not red dye No. 2, not steroids, not hormones, not antibiotics. Not all that stuff. Its mostly raw, and its mostly chemical free. Now, I dont always stick to it. You cant. Youll drive yourself crazy. You can kill yourself easier with the stress of trying to stick to a diet that makes you unhappy. So I eat that mostly. But if I want a pizza, Im going to have it.
This is not making a point. I get booed all the time, sometimes by my own audience. But I hope its in service of making a point that has to be made. Im all for unsettling peoples opinions. For my money, thats the best kind of comedy. But I dont know what point theyre making here. I dont know what this is in service of. If the point is to just let New Orleans go, I think that first of all, thats just ridiculous and impractical. Its a major American city. Theres too much history. And it can be protected, for crying out loud. They protect Amsterdam. Venice, the whole city is underwater. It can be done. The problem is that in America, we forgot how to do stuff. We forgot how to accomplish stuff. We forgot how to build roads and bridges and infrastructure. Mostly, this happened because all the money went to the richest 1 percent in the last 30 years. So this country is dilapidated and falling apart. I dont understand this view that the conservatives have that we cant spend money now. We have to spend money. Yes, were spending a metric fk ton of money. Its not for shits and giggles. The idea that you would just cut loose a major American city, its just ridiculous. If youre going to do that, it better be a little funnier than that. We did a thing two weeks ago on autoerotic asphyxiation.
Well, we never mentioned Carradine. We did a little sketch at the beginning of the show we had been doing kind of a running gag with the Snuggie, and it was a Snuggie with the rope built into it: Theres got to be a better way to masturbate while strangling yourself. [Laughs] I was touchy about the subject, because the guy had just died. But it just made us laugh so much. And when we showed it, the audience laughed. I mean, they couldnt help it.
If its funny enough, and if theres enough sentiment from reasonable people about a point youre making. I dont know what point [Tosh and Mencia] are making. It loses me.
She also never picks up the check for lunch.
Again, this is the first Im hearing about this. Thats probably because they dont make any money, do they? I think Im probably more sympathetic to her point of view in this than the people who are criticizing her. Ive never been a fan of, for example, the National Endowment for the Arts. I dont think thats something the government should be (involved) in. I think if people do something that rises in quality to the point where people want to pay for it, they will pay for it. But, you know, nobody subsidized me when I started out as a comedian.
I dont think you should subsidize artists of any kind. If youre good enough, yes, people will then buy your product. And until then, you struggle. I didnt get an endowment when I was starting out as a comedian. I lived in a shithole apartment on 8th Avenue over a bus stop, and I kept working it. Eventually, I made enough money to make a living at it. Then, I made a good living at it. But it took years and it took a lot of work.
[Laughs] Thats the lowlight of my career.
Ive certainly gotten a lot of shit from the liberals, because I have been criticizing our president. I have a nasty habit: I still read the paper. And I think a lot of people stopped reading the paper after he got elected. I happen to love newspapers. They may be dying, but they still have information. And the information about him is not promising, Im sorry. Hes not standing up to the corporations that have a stranglehold on this country. If you look at almost any of the problems that are besetting us, from health care reform to the environment to the financial meltdown, its almost always because the fat cats, the corporations, the lobbyists, wont let change pass. [Obama] was going to be the hero, and the crusader, I thought, who fought for real change. And he doesnt seem to be doing that.
Thats not how youre going to get a second term. We voted for him to effect this sweeping change. Change you can believe in! The audacity of hope! I said the other night, audacity of hope? Hell, Im hoping for some audacity. I dont know if you get a second term unless you do it now, in any administration. But especially one that takes office in time of crisis. You got to strike while the iron is hot. They talk about FDRs first 100 days. This is what amazes me when people say, Hes only been in office five months. Yeah that was the time to do it. Far from being too soon, it may be too late. Things go back to business as usual very quickly. Is there time to get these things done? I hope so. But the pressure needs to come from the left, not from the right.
I think somebody like that would be electable if the media would treat them not like theyre not crazy, and if more people would rally around them. Michael Moore is an awfully popular filmmaker. Hes not a politician, but Nader basically has the same platform as Michael Moore, I would say. Nader just doesnt have the charisma. Or a second suit. [Laughs] But you see in somebody like Michael Moore, there is that potential. People love Michael, and they rally around him and they believe in him in giant numbers. You take somebody like that, with that platform and the right charisma, I think youd really have something.