Bill Maher is a super leftist stand-up comedian, political commentator and television host best known for the talk shows Politically Incorrect and Real Time with Bill Maher, as well as for his biting sarcasm and criticism of both Republicans and Democrats in addition to religion and mass media. He is also known for his progressive views on marijuana, same-sex marriage and being an animal-rights advocate.
Maher was born in New York City in 1956 and raised Catholic in New Jersey. Before he broke into the stand-up comedy scene, he graduated from Cornell University in 1978 with a major in English and history, but credited selling pot with providing the finances needed to start out in comedy.
He hosted the famous NYC comedy club Catch a Rising Star in 1979 and began appearing on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman in 1982, in addition to small roles in various TV shows and movies.
He was the host of the half-hour talk show Politically Incorrect, which lasted 8 seasons from 1993 to 1997 on Comedy Central and 1997 to 2002 on ABC. It propelled him to fame and established the format that would eventually be perfected on his hour-long HBO series Real Time with Bill Maher (2003-present) which he hosted, co-wrote and co-produced after ABC cancelled Politically Incorrect.
Bill Maher and his fans saw the cancellation as a result of an episode that aired following the September 11th terrorist attacks in which Maher’s guest political commentator Dinesh D’Souza disputed President George W. Bush labeling the terrorists as cowards. Bill Maher agreed and in turn called the U.S. cowards for launching cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away while the terrorists were brave for staying in a plane while it crashes into a building.
Calling Americans cowards and terrorists brave did not sit well with some people.
Maher apologized to people who were offended by the comments and clarified he was criticizing U.S. military policy and not American soldiers, but advertisers fled from Maher after that and ABC cancelled the talk show shortly after, although they claimed it was due to declining ratings.
ABC replaced Bill Maher’s talk show with Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Maher moved to cable (which was where he really belonged) and has continued telling jokes and hosting political discussions to this day, being a beacon of common sense, especially to liberals and progressives, with his anger towards the government and jabs at inept politicians.
Maher preferred to have serious and well-informed guests on Real Time as opposed to the random celebrities on Politically Incorrect.
Every episode begins with an opening monologue and features a one-on-one interview followed by a two-to-three guest panel and a satirical segment called “New Rules” in which he humorously discusses how to make the country a better place.
Both Politically Incorrect and Real Time are widely praised and nominated for multiple Emmys and Writer’s Guild awards. In fact, Maher holds the record for the most Emmy nominations without a win, including for both talk shows and his stand-up specials I’m Swiss (2005) and The Decider (2007).
Maher has also been a frequent commentator on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and HLN, regularly appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Rachel Maddow Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Maher also famously starred in the anti-religion documentary Religulous (2007) directed by Larry Charles (Seinfeld, Borat) in which he pointed out the flaws of religious extremism across the world. Maher is highly critical towards all forms of religion, including Mormonism, Judaism, Buddhism and especially Christianity and Islam which he criticized for sometimes supporting violent and oppressive behavior. These kinds of topics don’t exactly make him popular with Christians and Muslims, but he argues that pointing out the truth should not be controversial.
Maher is obviously no stranger to causing controversy due to comments that a number of people call insensitive, and a few have even called for his show to be cancelled, such as when he told a joke comparing his dogs to retarded children, and when he referred to himself as a “house nigger” (the context is not important).
Despite this, I’ve always been a fan of Maher’s intelligent commentary and have rarely disagreed with his stance on the many issues he brings up on Real Time. Plus I have watched nearly all of his stand-up specials because I am just a fan of his comedy, but while many of his jokes are sharp, the thing I really enjoy is his honesty and his sanity.
In a world of constant injustice and corrupt politicians, Maher’s commentary is the antidote I take every weekend that prevents me from losing my mind. His rage is usually my rage, and I appreciate when he sometimes forgets to tell jokes and just expresses anger because he is actually angry. Most comedians are afraid of not being funny, but Maher doesn’t care because he knows that he gives a voice to many that no other talk show host has, and he knows that they are angry too.