Bill Maher on Palin, Pot and Patriotism

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When I do a monologue on the show, that's a different animal. It's more of a Johnny Carson monologue. I watched him so faithfully for so many years when I was young that I think his rhythm for a monologue is in my DNA. You can see me doing Carson-esque inflections, gestures. And of course, Johnny used to always say he stole it from Jack Benny.

Who are your political heroes?

Jimmy Carter is definitely one of them. He never fired a missile, not a bullet, not a bomb dropped on anybody – wow. To me, he's heroic for that.

Did the Terry Jones/Koran-burning debacle encapsulate everything you made Religulous to speak out against?

I’m sometimes reluctant to go after religion now; you don’t want to be that Lenny Bruce guy, who’s a broken record on one topic. But on this one? Let’s just throw that fastball right down the middle of the plate and say, “Blame religion.” It’s about a crazy Christian and a crazy Muslim who both did crazy things — and people got killed. And it happened in Afghanistan, where we wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for 9/11 — which also was completely the fault of religion.

But as wrong as it is to incite people, I was so disappointed in the voices coming out of the West, our civilization. Lindsey Graham had a ridiculous statement, like, “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.” A great idea!? I’d hope an officer of the United States government would speak out a little more strongly for free speech. And Gen. Petraeus made a big statement condemning the burning, but he said nothing about the reaction that it caused. Yes, it was a stupid thing to burn the Koran, but guess what? The lion’s share of the guilt should be laid on people who then kill over it. It’s like a violent, drunken father. When his kid sets him off and he beats the shit out of the kid, do you blame the kid for setting him off? No, you blame the father for being a violent drunk.

Are you done with movies?

All done. I’m not interested in becoming a filmmaker. I had one subject. And I had to work for ten years to get that movie made — it was my Moby Dick. I found the right director in Larry Charles. And the right independent studio in Lion’s Gate; it couldn’t have come out of a studio like Paramount that was part of a conglomerate where people could call up and say, “If you release this movie, I’ll stop buying your toothpaste.” It’s the one movie that nobody else would have made, and I don’t know what subject I could go to now that would compare. Where do you go after you take down God?

Does that explain why you were salty about not getting an Oscar nod —because this was your one shot?

We weren’t even considered. Even though Religulous was something like the seventh most successful documentary ever, the documentary committee would not even put it on the short list from which they then chose the five nominees. The same thing happened with Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story — a documentary that people actually see as opposed to the one about the Lithuanian violinist in the Holocaust. Of all the bodies that are irrelevant, the documentary division of the Oscars has to be close to the top of the list.

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