Checking in With Bill Maher (in 1999)

Page 3 of 3

Jerry Lewis will be thrilled. Do you harbor any political aspirations yourself?
No. I wouldn't want to be a politician, because they aren't allowed to change their mind. If they do, they're accused of being inconsistent. There's no such thing in politics as evolving, as learning, as growing, as keeping an open mind, because if you did, why, then you'd be a flip-flopper. You'd be someone who grew. How awful.

But I'm forty-three. In twenty years, I think the country could be in a real different place — if they legalize drugs, if people are OK with a bachelor president. I'm saying Jesse Ventura is just the vanguard. I think the country is ready for a sea change from what I call old-lady politics. It seems like the whole country is based on what an old lady would think: "Oh, my God, the president fooled around." "Oh, that's a marijuana cigarette." But that's not who we really are. Nobody has the guts to challenge that. Somebody will, and it will fall like a house of cards. It will be the Berlin Wall.

So I take it you did inhale?


Is Politically Incorrect good for America?
Yeah. I think if America could get back to wit, it would be a better country. It may not always reach the heights of Masterpiece Theater...

Or Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.
But at least it's really for adults. The fact that we've gotten a nice slice of that audience tells me there is some hunger out there for real adult conversation about adult things that isn't always about pandering to the lowest common denominator — girls in their short skirts with their tits hanging out. We have supermodels on, like we had tonight, but we don't have them on for their tits. We want to hear what they have to say.

How do you feel about politicians who refuse to come on your show?
I have the highest respect for people who genuinely turn their nose up. Like Pat Moynihan, who's a true intellectual. I have no respect for people who pretend to turn their nose up and are really just afraid to mix it up, afraid to look bad.

Now that your old home, Comedy Central, has exploded with South Park, are you happy that you got your start there and didn't wait for a network to pick you up?
I think we were very important to Comedy Central at the time we were on. When we started, it was certainly an open issue as to whether they would survive. I think we were important to them, getting them into the next phase, where they could have a real breakout, like South Park. I'm happy for Comedy Central — I wouldn't be here without them. ABC would have never hired me if we hadn't been there first.

Is there any way that the networks will be as influential as they once were?
I think they could, if they would change their ways — if they'd get hip. They're sort of a mirror image of Washington, another example of socalled leaders being out of touch with the people they're leading. I think people are clamoring for more innovative programming.

So what's needed is more South Park and Jesse Ventura?
If you want to sum it up that way.

What's your take on MSNBC — the twenty-four-hour blow-job network and pundit central?
I have total responsibility for so many of those people being on the air, starting with Arianna [Huffington] and including Laura Ingraham, Susan Carpenter-McMillan. Other shows make stars out of actresses; we make stars out of pundits.

Who's your favorite right-wing blond babe? Who's the hottest?
The hottest or my favorite?

Probably my two favorites — because they're my friends — are Ann Coulter and Kelly Anne Fitzpatrick. And Arianna is one of my best friends, my bar buddy. She's kind of the matriarch of the whole group. But we've broken so many of those pundits, and it's funny the way other shows not only appropriate our guests, which is fine, but sometimes the very same pairings of guests.

Talking about appropriations, what's your feeling about Howard Stern saying that you took the idea of Politically Incorrect from him?
He's insane and jealous. He hates anyone who has a good sex life. That truly is my estimation of Howard. He has rested his reputation as a nice guy on the fact that he has never strayed from his wife, but what kind of compliment is that when you're always drooling, foaming at the mouth over every woman? So I just think he hates anyone who hasn't gotten married and is still what Gay Talese called "the emancipated male."

Finally, if the Friends of Bill at DreamWorks eventually do build the Clintons a home in the Hollywood Hills, do you think he'd be a good Politically Incorrect regular?
They just announced they're going to New York, but I would like to think that when he's out of office, we could have a conversation with him. And I'd like to think he might say, "Hey, I appreciated the support during that rough period, that little tough time I had. I appreciated you saying some of the things I couldn't say myself."

The night of the famous speech to the nation, August 17th, I made the speech he couldn't make. It ended with the words, "She blew me — fuck you."

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