Bill Maher



William "Bill" Maher, Jr., (born January 20, 1956) is an American comedian, actor, writer, and producer. He hosted the late-night television talk show Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central and ABC, and is currently the star of Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. On June 1, 2006, he also began hosting an internet-exclusive talk show on Amazon.com entitled Amazon Fishbowl.

Maher is known for his political satire and sociopolitical commentary. His commentaries target a wide swath of topics, from the right-wing to the left-wing, bureaucracies of many kinds, political correctness, Hollywood, the Mass Media, and persons in positions of high political and social power, among many others.

Maher (last name pronounced /mɑɹ/) was born in New York City and grew up in River Vale, New Jersey. He graduated from Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, New Jersey. Maher is the product of a "mixed" marriage (Jewish mother, Roman Catholic father), and, in his early stand-up routine, he said that he would bring a lawyer to confession: "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned... I think you know Mr. Cohen..." He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Cornell University in 1978.

Maher has a substantial career as a stand-up comedian and still occasionally tours. He was host of the New York City comedy club Catch a Rising Star in 1979. Thanks to Steve Allen, he began appearing on Johnny Carson and David Letterman's shows in 1982.

He has appeared in several films, usually in a comical role. His feature film debut was in D.C. Cab (1983), and he has also appeared in Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1988) and Pizza Man (1991). He has also appeared in a number of guest roles on television shows, including Newhart, Murder, She Wrote, Roseanne (as a boudoir photographer), and Married... with Children.

Maher is most notable as the former host of Politically Incorrect, which aired on the Comedy Central television network and later ABC. Maher is also currently the host of Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO.

ABC decided not to renew Maher's contract for Politically Incorrect in 2002 after he made a controversial on-air remark, in which he, along with guest conservative political commentator Dinesh D'Souza said

We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly.

— Bill Maher, Politically Incorrect (2001)

Obscured in all the controversy was the fact that D'Souza brought up the topic first: the transcript published on the Politically Incorrect page on the ABC-TV website showed that Maher's controversial remark was actually a repeating of what D'Souza had said a few moments before.

In the context of the sensitive aftermath of the attacks, such a remark was deemed too controversial for some financial supporters. Although some pundits, including conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, supported Maher, pointing out the distinction between physical and moral cowardice, companies including FedEx and Sears Roebuck pulled their advertisements from the show, costing the show more than it returned. The show was subsequently cancelled on June 16, 2002, although the Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) had dropped the show from its ABC-affiliated stations months before that. On June 22, 2002, six days after the cancellation of Politically Incorrect, Maher received the President's Award (for "championing free speech") from the Los Angeles Press Club. Maher has also sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman's Own free expression award.

Another controversial reaction to Maher's comment came from Ari Fleischer, who was the Press Secretary of the George W. Bush administration at the time. Fleischer responded to a reporter's question about Maher's comments by saying that people "need to watch what they say."

Maher's comment about the cowardice of terrorists followed another controversial comment he made on Politically Incorrect earlier that year where he compared dogs to retarded children:

But I've often said that if I had — I have two dogs — if I had two retarded children, I'd be a hero. And yet the dogs, which are pretty much the same thing. What? They're sweet. They're loving. They're kind, but they don't mentally advance at all.... Dogs are like retarded children.

— Bill Maher, Politically Incorrect (2001)

ABC was likely still dealing with the fallout from this statement when it decided not to renew Maher's contract.

In 2003, Maher became the host of Real Time with Bill Maher on the HBO cable television network, a debate show somewhat similar to Politically Incorrect, but with a narrower selection of guests. Maher told Terry Gross (on NPR's Fresh Air) in 2004 that he enjoys having more serious and well-informed guests on his current program, as opposed to the random celebrities that fleshed out his roundtable discussions on Politically Incorrect.

Since May 2005, he's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.

On January 13, 2006, Maher hosted Larry King Live on CNN.

On June 1, 2006, Maher began hosting amazon.com's Amazon Fishbowl, the first ever episodic program on a major internet website. The show's first guests included Dean Koontz and Dixie Chicks. The show ran a preview episode earlier in the year from the Sundance Film Festival featuring guests Stephen King and Rob Thomas. Maher also produces and writes the show, which aired through August 17, eight days before the season premiere of Real Time.

In early 2006, Bill Maher's television show Real Time was released as an audio podcast along with another podcast entitled Bill Maher's New Rules which features clips, segments and teasers from Real Time.

In 1997, during filming of an episode of the game show Pictionary, Erik Estrada accidentally punched Maher in the face in a moment of exuberance, knocking him out cold briefly.

In November 2004 Maher was sued for 9 million dollars by his ex-girlfriend, Nancy Johnson, also known as Coco Johnsen, for breach of a non-marital relationship contract. Johnson claims that Maher did not fulfill promises made to her and that he physically and verbally abused her. Maher publicly refuted her allegations on Larry King Live on November 23, 2004. His lawyer responded to the lawsuit with a claim that Maher is a "confirmed bachelor" and never promised to marry or support Johnson and that "California law doesn't allow for the palimony suit brought by Ms. Johnson." On May 2, 2005, a superior court judge dismissed the lawsuit.

In late May 2005, Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus sent a letter to Time Warner's board of directors requesting Real Time be cancelled due to remarks Maher made about low military recruiting numbers on the May 13, 2005, episode which Bachus felt were demeaning to the military and in bad taste. Maher's comment was "More people joined the Michael Jackson fan club. We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies." Maher responded by reiterating his support for the troops and asking why the Congressman criticized him instead of actually doing something about the problem.

Recently, he has been linked to infamous ex-rap video performer Karrine Steffans (formerly Yizette Santiago), who is best known as "Superhead".

Maher describes himself as a libertarian and has praised similar quasi-libertarian figures such as Larry Elder and P. J. O'Rourke, but the accuracy of his libertarian label has been disputed. In a recent interview in the The Onion, when asked if he favored any candidates for the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, he said, "There are some people who I think have potential. I think John Edwards, Joe Biden, Al Gore, even John Kerry." All four candidates are Democrats. In the same interview, he also said, "My thinking is, government is really there to do the things that people absolutely can't do for themselves."

He favors partial privatization of social security, ending corporate welfare, and legalizing gambling, prostitution, pornography, and all drugs (he is a member on NORML's Advisory Board, an organisation which supports the decriminalization of marijuana).

While differing with many libertarians on such issues as the issue of private firearm ownership and the Second Amendment, Maher stated more than once on Politically Incorrect that he thought libertarianism was enough of a "big tent" that there was room for him in it even with that difference of opinion.

Maher also describes himself as an environmentalist, in which he brings public awareness on the topic of global warming many times on his show Real Time.

He supported Bob Dole in the 1996 U.S. presidential election on the basis that Dole was a war hero. and the kind of "old-fashioned" Republican he appreciated, as he stated numerous times on Politically Incorrect: "A mean, old man who will guard my money!" He has expressed disdain for many of the liberal positions regarding hate crime, sexual harassment, etc. as being "things that make women nod." Although he told Libertarian candidate Harry Browne at the end of a Browne appearance on Politically Incorrect that Browne would have his vote, he later said on other episodes that he instead voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

Maher publicly supports PETA, an animal rights organization, and has expressed his distaste for the pharmaceutical and health care industries in general, on the grounds that they make their money out of curing people who are made sick by consuming the unhealthy food that society urges upon the public. He has expressed skepticism that vaccines are responsible for helping to eliminate many diseases. On the August 11, 2005, episode of Larry King Live, Maher announced he is not a vegetarian but eats meat rarely. He claimed he is still a board member of PETA and supports animal rights.

Prior to the 2004 U.S. presidential election he became very forthright in his opposition to the re-election of George W. Bush and his support for John Kerry as the best candidate to defeat him, going so far as to publicly kneel on his show, with director Michael Moore, and beg Ralph Nader to drop out of the race. Maher often says that the word "liberal" has been unfairly demonized, and during the elections he criticized Kerry for being ashamed of the word. He has been called a "libertine socialist" by political commentator Jonah Goldberg. Maher also supports the death penalty, the legality of abortion and euthanasia, often stating his position humorously as "pro-death." Expanding on this statement, he revealed his belief that the size of the human population has led to damage to the earth's ecosystem, so that he is generally in favor of anything that would reduce the size of said population. Since 9/11 he also has on numerous occasions stated his endorsement of racial profiling at airports.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, while acknowledging FEMA's failure regarding Hurricane Katrina, Maher's views differ from libertarians by suggesting that it was a failure of "federal responsiblity" as opposed to a call for more personal responsibility and less dependence on the federal government. He faulted President Bush with negligence and suggested that President Clinton would have been better prepared with a more efficiently run FEMA, rather than taking the libertarian position against the existence of such a government program.

He was originally opposed to the war in Iraq, but briefly became less skeptical of it after the Iraqi election of 2005. Maher now views the Iraq War as a failure and implied on the February 24, 2006 episode of Real Time that Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein and that the U. S. cannot control the sectarian violence like Saddam did. He has said the invasion of Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism. He has also stated his concerns about the possibility of a future civil war in Iraq or about the possibility that Iraq is already involved in the early stages of a civil war.

On the May 13, 2006 season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher stated his support for the impeachment of Bush, assuming the Democrats win the 2006 November midterm elections.

He is an outspoken critic of right-wing pundit Ann Coulter who is, nevertheless, a close personal friend of his.

Maher is often critical of organized religion. He has described religion as a neurological disorder that spreads guilt and hatred among people while offering nothing in return. In two separate appearances on Real Time, atheist comedian George Carlin and Maher alleged that organized religion is a cause of many of society's problems, and that the practices of organized religion are mired in hypocrisy. Maher credited Carlin's views as inspiration for him to speak out against organized religion.

Maher has said many times that religion works under the guise of morality, but that its tenets generally have nothing to do with morality; that religious prohibitions are being confused with moral law. In Maher's view, just because a religion prohibits abortion or decries homosexuality, that does not mean that having an abortion or being homosexual are immoral acts. Instead, Maher argues that an immoral person is one who harms others; an activity which harms another individual such as murder or rape would be an immoral act. This is also a traditional libertarian position.

Maher opposes religious monuments such as The Ten Commandments being placed in or near court houses, saying that this would violate the separation of church and state. He has countered the assertion of conservative Christians who claim that American law is based on the Ten Commandments by saying that of the ten, only two (the prohibitions on murder and theft) apply to American law. The other commandments, he argues, such as honoring no god before the Judeo-Christian God, keeping the Sabbath holy, or honoring thy mother and thy father, are not American laws at all. In answer to the suggestion that a divine moral authority is necessary, he suggests "Couldn't we just get together and agree on the few basic Commandments that are laws? Like 'I won't slaughter you, and don't take my shit.'"

Maher has stated on both Politically Incorrect and Real Time, and in several appearances on Larry King Live that he does, indeed, believe in God, but that organized religion is nothing more than tradition and superstition. He asserts that organized religion provides answers to questions that "cannot possibly be answered". Questions such as "Where do I go when I die?" or "Is there a heaven?", he says, are impossible to answer. By claiming to have the answers, Maher argues, organized religion is dishonest and it "stops people from thinking".

During Maher's appearance on Larry King Live on August 11, 2005, he said he was an agnostic who nevertheless is still quite open to the idea that God exists. The following exchange also occurred on that program:

CALLER: "Hi. Well, my question is, the Lord spoke to me approximately three years ago, and if the Lord spoke to you [Maher], I was wondering if you'd become a believer."

MAHER: "No, I'd check into Bellevue, which is what you should do..."

Maher then explained that certainty in one's religious belief is absurd, using the example of Scientology: ..."You [a Scientologist], like all religious people, have a neurological disorder. And the only reason why people think it's sane is because so many other people believe the same thing. It's insanity by consensus."

Author and Christian evangelist Ray Comfort recently challenged Maher to a public debate on Intelligent Design versus evolution, at a venue of Maher's choosing, but this is yet to take place, although an online petition exists which calls upon Maher to accept the challenge.

* He dated for a time retired porn actress Heather Hunter.

* He drove a Toyota Prius for three years before trading it in for the Lexus RX 400h hybrid. He still rides in limousines to and from his stand-up concerts, however.

* Huge fan of both The Beatles and The Eagles, occasionally referring to them in his work, once saying on Real Time that comparing Saddam Hussein to Hitler is like comparing the band Oasis to the Beatles.

* He is 5'8" tall.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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