Bill Maher on Palin, Pot and Patriotism

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But I’m very fortunate that at the age of 55, my career is better than ever. How often does that happen? It’s one of the great things about comedy, you can do it until you’re 100. George Burns was booked when he was 100, and he damn near made the gig.

You love pot.

Come on. You know I gave that shit up when I got saved… [Laughs]

When you’re out on the road, doing standup in Oklahoma City, how do you avoid… Willie Nelson problems?

I have only ever smoked marijuana 12 miles off the coast of the United States — that’s where it is legal. I learned that from William F. Buckley. I put a video up on FunnyorDie about a month or so ago called 12 Mile,  I interviewed Sarah Silverman, and we had the ocean on a green screen, sailors’ caps — like we were on a boat. That was my subtle way of saying we were both very stoned in that interview — but we were 12 miles off the coast, so it is legal.

So what do you smoke — medical marijuana?

I only smoke what floats up there 12 miles off the coast! It’s lucky that there’s so much intercepted marijuana coming in from Mexico that it is floating out there in the ocean, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Why are you so out in front on the issue?

Partly because it has been beneficial in my life, partly because I believe in freedom. What could be more private than what goes on inside your mind? You should be allowed to manipulate that as an adult any way you want. Is it one of our top 10 problems, to legalize pot? No, but ending the drug war would be a great way to save a metric fuckton of money.

You say pot has been beneficial to you. You've also said you "miss alcohol like a dead brother." Are the two connected?

They've been connected on many nights in the past [laughs]. At a certain point, you just can't drink, or you'll look like Ted Kennedy. That's one of the concessions you have to make to getting older.

I was a shy, nerdy kid who never really had that much fun when I was in high school or college. I never went to spring break in college, but I went for years after. I went to Freaknik '93, and I stayed until 2006. Now I limit myself to a very few precious drinks a week. As far as marijuana? Some people, it makes paranoid. Some people, it makes tired and lazy. And some people, it wakes up and makes creative. [Raises hand] I'm in that group.

The intro to your show is a heavy hip-hop beat that’s different from the usual fanfare.

That was written by one of my very best friends, the person who, in all those years when I was going to Freaknik, was my main drinking partner, Christopher “Kid” Reid from Kid N’ Play. He definitely still has his hip-hop chops, and I asked him to write the theme song, and I still love it: I walk out onstage to it when I’m on the road, and I never get tired of it.

Who were your comic heroes as a kid?

Johnny Carson, George Carlin, Robert Klein, Alan King, Dean Martin, Don Rickles.

Whose spirit stays with you most when you're onstage?

In stand-up, George Carlin. George was funny and brave and only ever got better at what he did, pretty much died onstage, did it to the end. When I'm tramping around this country, one of the things I think about is that if everything else went away, I'd have that. George Carlin never had a late-night show. He built an audience that appreciated free speech the way he practiced it and the way I try to do it – stuff for the people who are not easily offended.

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