Not many comedians can say that they have multiple websites devoted to bashing them (just Google “Bill Maher Sucks”). Then again, not many comedians have managed to match Bill Maher’s level of spewing socially conscious jokes that speak the truth — no matter how brutally honest it might be.
Maher is known as a staunch liberal; since his days as a stand-up comedian on the New York City club circuit in the late ’70s, Maher has been identifiable by his dry, sarcastic delivery — not to mention a few expletives thrown in here and there. And though many celebrities tend to keep their political beliefs to themselves, Maher has made a career out of sharing his thoughts with the masses. For every loud conservative Glenn Beck yell, Bill Maher is waiting to make a quick-witted liberal jab.
Hyperbolically speaking, college is a time for young students to mold their ideals, ideals that will most likely stay the same for the rest of their lives. For Maher, it was no different.
“[Cornell University] was a great place to learn; and I had some amazing professors, and I do remember having intellectual epiphanies that I wouldn’t have ever had if I didn’t go to Cornell,” Maher said. “[But] socially, it was terrible. It wasn’t a fun place to be: it was cold, there weren’t many girls and I was still kind of finding my way as an awkward adolescent.”
Those intellectual epiphanies would help Maher navigate the tricky road of political commentary later in life. After the New York-born, Jersey-raised funnyman graduated from college, he found himself on the New York City comedy club circuit before branching out into television and film appearances. Soon, however, Maher found his niche with his show Politically Incorrect and currently on Real Time with Bill Maher.
Like his Comedy Central counterparts, Real Time features discussions on pop culture, politics, religion and more. But unlike Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Maher’s Real Time does not try to stay relatively out of the proverbial partisan loop (not to say that Maher never goes after one of his own liberal kind). Instead of “playing nice” and picking on obvious flubs by political figures, Maher goes in for the kill and attacks anyone — anyone — who warrants a public spanking. And being bipartisan? Forget about it. Maher’s criticism of modern conservatives reaches down to the core.
“I’ve always believed that political beliefs are an outgrowth of moral beliefs and you cannot separate them,” Maher said. “Your politics are your morality.”
Maher usually starts Real Time off with a monologue, followed by an interview and then a panel consisting of everyone from Chris Rock to The Soup’s Joel McHale to Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post to Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom. Topics range as well, with discussions on everything from gun control to government spending. One of Maher’s favorite discussions, however, includes the debate on the legalization of marijuana. A longtime advocate of its legalization, Maher is happy that the United States seems to be moving in what he sees as the right direction.
“Colorado and Washington have already legalized it and [President Barack] Obama who was a huge a–hole on this issue in the first administration has lightened up lately,” Maher said. “… Obviously we thought this would happen earlier because all of us remember sitting in the dorm room in the late ’70s and saying, ‘Hey, when we get to be 50 and we’re running the show, of course [marijuana] is gonna be legal.’”
Maher’s barbs against Obama haven’t been isolated occurrences. Though he once supported the Democratic president ardently, Maher has lately been speaking out about how Obama has forgotten about seemingly radical social issues in favor of staying ahead in polls and not rocking the boat too much.
“[Obama] is the Jackie Robinson of American politics,” Maher said. “Being the first black president, he had to be almost perfect.”
Even though Maher wishes that Obama would discontinue the use of many of former President George W. Bush’s antiterror tactics, he recognizes that the current leader had quite a lot to deal with in office.
“[Bush] left a flaming pile of dog sh-t on the White House lawn,” Maher said. “Passing health care, something that every other Big Boy country has, he finally got that through.”
At first, Maher’s witty and brutally honest jargon might feel out of place in the relatively sunny atmosphere of Los Angeles. But according to him, Maher loves the city too much to follow the trend of “b-itching about it.”
Just as brutally honest in real life as he is on television, Maher had no problem saying that “the Yankees are a horrible team who spend more than anyone else and they can go f-ck themselves” (granted, he’s now a minority owner of the Mets) and he thinks that “it’s the nature of youth to be more self-involved and narcissistic.”
But honesty is always Maher’s best policy: it’s how he has separated himself from other, more tame political comedians, and how he has maintained a career that spans decades.
It’s that kind of honesty and sense of humor that allows a young college interviewer to ask a question involving the immature game of “Screw, Marry, Kill” involving conservatives Ann Coulter, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
“This is tough,” Maher said. “I’d f-ck Sarah Palin, I would marry Ann Coulter as long as we never talk politics [and] I’d kill Michele Bachmann.”
“Ann Coulter has been a good friend for 20 years, she’s a legitimate friend, and of course, who wouldn’t want to kill Michele Bachmann?” Maher said.
Unguarded, unmuzzled and fiercely intelligent: Maher is certainly here to stay.
Bill Maher will speak at the Bovard Auditorium tonight at 8 p.m.
Follow Sheridan on Twitter @IamSheridanW