BILL MAHER MIGHT SEEM almost establishment now — or as close to it as a Bible-dissing, PETA-loving pot smoker can be — but just a few years ago, he was practically on his way to the gulag. “I have a newspaper headline on my wall that says WHITE HOUSE KEEPS HEAT ON ABC’S MAHER — for a couple of weeks, I really was public enemy number one,” Maher says, laughing. “The country had no place to put their anger, so I provided a service for America.” Maher’s civic duty as a national pariah began in September 2001, when his comments that the 9/11 terrorists weren’t cowards ignited such a shitstorm that his show Politically Incorrect was canceled. He bounced back, landed at HBO and began hammering the Bush administration each week, and millions loved him for it. But as Real Time With Bill Maher enters its seventh season on February 20th, we asked the host how he’ll fare without George Bush to kick around anymore.
When Bush’s helicopter flew off did you worry, “There goes my best material”?
We will never be able to enjoy such a thundering doofus as George Bush. He was so good for comedy. When I do my stand-up around the country, there’s a feeling of “us against the world,” because the Man is in power, and here we are balling up our tiny-fists and making jokes. I don’t know if we can have that feeling again, but can there be comedy in an Obama administration? Honkie, please. Are there still Democrats and call girls? Republicans and anonymous gay sex? Fox News and the truth? Sure, maybe a smart, competent guy is a smaller target than a doltish dry drunk, but he’s the president. He’s not some infallible chocolate Jesus. That’s Kanye West.
Still, doesn’t Obama’s coolness make him a much harder mark?
Yeah, this is the first time I remember that the coolest guy in America and the president are the same guy. Clinton was cool, but he was also a barbecue-eating, ass- squeezing red-faced hillbilly who fucked ugly girls — remember, this is the guy who struck out with Paula Jones.He wasn’t cool in the way Obama is cool. This is a First Couple that has drinkability. They fist-bump, they look each other in the eye. So suck it up, OPEC — our president gets it on with a hot black chick. We finally have a First Family with game! That’s the thing about him: It’s great that we have our first black president, but also it paves the way for the first really black president – President 50 Cent, some day. And, yeah, Obama is cool. He is so cool that I feel like sometimes he must be on Xanax.
But aren’t expectations a little too high?
Yeah, but already you’ve seen mistakes: Tom Daschle just withdrew, the stimulus plan seems to be overloaded with pork. And we’re only two weeks into it. Please, comedy fans, we’ll be fine.
For all the talk of bipartisanship from Obama, the Republicans don’t seem to be interested in helping him out.
The Republicans are geniuses at picking very small issues and making them giant issues. We’ve already seen it: Obama wants a more informal White House, which has a lot of the conservatives enraged. In the Bush years, a jacket and a tie were required to enter the Oval Office — not to mention a strictly enforced two-drink minimum. But Obama has said, “We’re gonna keep it a little more laid-back,” and people are acting like he’s going to cover the Oval Office with black-light posters of Pam Grier, for God’s sake. It’s not like he’s showing up in corn-rows with a neck tattoo. He’s just taking his jacket off. And by the way, you fucking clown posse, you may have forgotten, but when people are working, that’s what they do: They take their jacket off’.