Checking in With Bill Maher (in 1999)

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Kathy Ireland needed to weigh in before you put it to bed?
The chick didn't even shake my hand. Did you see that?

Do you feel it was intentional — a supermodel slight?
Absolutely not. But that almost makes it worse.

Like the president, you've had a certain bad-boy reputation.Do you think there's a lesser standard for you than for him?
A way-lesser standard. One point I was at least trying to make on the show tonight is that I really object when people treat the president like he's their peer. He is not their peer. He is certainly not Monica's peer. He's someone with great accomplishments who in some ways deserves great slack. I'm not saying he could kill people....

Though some have said so....
Yeah, it's amazing the way so much of this is driven by such pure hate. But they couldn't beat him. He's smarter, he's more talented, he's put up with more shit. It just bothers me that these people begrudge this man — who is on the case 24/7, doing a job in a way no-body else could — ten instances of prison sex. He is getting blown by a fat girl in a hallway. We've made the presidency and the White House the jewel of the prison system. He's living a life that would be wished upon nobody, and they begrudge him that?

So do you know whether the Big Creep watches your show?
I know several high-ranking politicians and people who tell me he does. I feel bad sometimes when I say something very critical of him, but I have to. I'm a big fan of his, as a person, and his ability as president, but I take issue with a lot of his policies. I am not for this giving away all our money that he's so good at.

You've been described as a libertarian.
I'm a libertarian. The line I've always used is, I would be a Republican if they would. Which means that I like the Barry Gold-water Republican Party, even the Reagan Republican Party. I want a mean old man to watch my money. I don't want a Republican to be funny. I don't want him to be charming. Because government is a sieve that takes as much money as it can and gives it away, usually needlessly.

I am for freedom, a waning cause in this country. The GOP — which used to be the party of freedom and getting government off our backs — is now quite the opposite. And it's because the Christian right is a parasite that has taken over the host Republican Party. Like any parasite, they're going to kill it. It's not their party. It's the party of Barry Goldwater, who was like, "If you're gay, so what? I don't want to know about it, I don't want to see it, I think it's kinda gross, but it's not my business." Which is a far cry from last year, when the legislature in Alabama outlawed the sale of vibrators.

Speaking of freedom and democracy, your show promotes the democratic notion that all of us — be we rock star, politician, model-actress or full-time pundit — have an equal vote. In a time when celebrity has largely replaced God as a guiding principle in American life, have you ever considered the possibility that perhaps there's such a thing as too much goddamn democracy?
There is such a thing as too much democracy. I think that Politically Incorrect is proudly part of the problem and not the solution. But, God, we're just an entertainment show. I'm a comedian.

I don't understand the media. On one hand, they ascribe all this power to me; on the other hand, they've completely stopped covering me. Still, the people are there for this show. I think they sense the honesty. That's what Politically Incorrect means — it means I'm not bullshitting. ABC just did a focus group last year — only fourteen percent of the people said they agree with me most of the time, yet they still like the show, because people respect honesty. I don't think we are in much danger of helping the republic fall, but it's an alternative where people can get a little more meat in their diet than they would by watching the competition. We're at least attempting something that is a little more erudite.

Who in current politics impresses you with their honesty?
I think Jesse Ventura is the most important politician in America right now, because he is the first one who is not a robot, not a suit, who doesn't wear a tie and doesn't watch his language. He's the anti-Al Gore. He's not some guy who's beaten down all the rough edges and all the things that might offend anybody until he's a big pile of bland mush. That's why I didn't like Monica Lewinsky on Barbara Walters. I felt she had become a politician. That was the irony — this innocent little girl now was practiced in the art of spinning, as good as the master who taught her. I think people are ready for honesty — they won't revolt if you're a human being. They proved that with Clinton: They're OK with sex. I think the next thing to fall is going to be drugs, then assisted suicide. Right down the line. We're France now.

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