It’s Maher time! Bill Maher’s humor can be eye-openingly refreshing. For some, it may not go down so smoothly.
That doesn’t stop the political comedian from tapping any topic.
“I think the public has just become a lot more sophisticated about, ‘Yeah, let’s talk about stuff.’ Now, that’s not to say anything you say some people won’t object to. I could say ‘Good morning’ on Twitter and there’d be 20 responses within 10 seconds: ‘How dare you use the word “morning,” Bill Maher. It belongs to Ronald Reagan, you g**damn commie atheist,’ ” he said, laughing.
“There’s always going to be people who, for whatever you say, they’re too sensitive to it. But, in general, I think just the way we’re getting used to gay marriage, we’re getting used to this being a pot-smoking country, we’re voting for that, we’re becoming a little more European,” he said.
Covering controversial subjects and sharing his views and wit started with “Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher,” which aired on Comedy Central from 1993 to 1997 and then ABC from 1997 to 2002. He has continued exploring issues and dishing out sarcasm on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” which has been on HBO since 2002.
“My goal was to stay on the air, which is still my goal,” he said and laughed. “And I think the way to stay on the air is to do those two things — [educate and entertain].”
During a call from his Los Angeles office, Maher added, “I’m fortunate to be on HBO, where we do not have sponsors, so sponsors can’t threaten me and pull out as happened at ABC, so that’s a great kind of freedom.”
Contrary to what some may think, Maher isn’t a news junkie.
“I’m usually behind on the news and I like it that way during the week because I want to stay a little like the average person until the end of the week when I really focus about Thursday afternoon. Between Thursday afternoon and when we tape the show live Friday at 7, I’m just in complete cramming mode,” he said. “But during the week, I like to feel like I’m just the average person who doesn’t follow the news that closely, so when things hit me, they kind of hit me in the same way it might hit that person.”
Growing up, his exposure to news was anything but average: His father was a newsman.
“Just the fact that the news was always in our house I think was atypical of an American family. I don’t think a lot of American kids get a sense either way of what their parents feel politically, ’cause Americans aren’t that political,” Maher said. “You know, 41 percent of Americans don’t know that Obamacare passed, I just read. Wow, isn’t that something? That’s four out of 10 people, it’s almost half. After all that, they don’t know the thing is law and has been; it’s just astounding.
“But that was not the case in my family. My parents, I always got the sense that they were concerned and cared and talked and they had opinions and I knew what those opinions were, and I knew in a general sense what was going on in the world.”
The comic learned that information is power — and powerfully funny. Maher wielded facts and that sharp sense of humor in his 2008 film, “Religulous.”
“It was just that one subject that I felt nobody was going to do and that I could do and that I had sort of earned the reputation over the years of talking about [religion] on TV that if I did make the movie, people would go to see it, and they did. For a documentary, it did amazingly well,” he said.
The movie made more than $13 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
“From all the messages I’ve received on Twitter, Facebook, just people coming up to me, thousands and thousands of people have had the same experience of seeing that movie or hearing me talk on television and giving up on religion. It’s very, very easy actually to turn people away from religion. You just have to point out a few things, a few discrepancies, a few ridiculous things that are in the Bible, and they start to, you know, the walls start tumbling down,” Maher said.
“Just to put it in perspective, I mean, I’ve been on television 20 years, the number of people who have come up to me or written me and said that they switched political parties or just an affiliation from, ‘Oh, I used to be a conservative, but now I’m a progressive,’ that almost never happens. But religion? It happens all the time.
“And that’s why I always say when people ask me, ‘Which historical figure do you associate with?’ I always say Toto from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ cause he’s the little dog that pulls back the curtain and exposes the guy going [laughed and adopted authoritative voice], ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.’ Yeah, Toto, that’s me. ‘And your little dog, too!’ Remember the witch? Always threatening the dog.”
Maher will bring his passionate political repartee to the Stranahan Theater at 8 p.m. June 15. Tickets range from $32.50 to $68.
“My stand-up act is, of course, a much broader survey of the whole political scene; I try to keep it completely current,” he said. “I think for people who want to get the broad view of everything that’s going on politically, they’re going to see it in my act. And it’s stand-up comedy; it’s there to make people laugh. I take that very seriously, to make them laugh, laugh hard, laugh long and leave satisfied.”