For decades Bill Maher has pushed the boundaries of political satire with TV shows like “Politically Incorrect” and his current “Real Time” on HBO. Maher is also a bestselling author, his newest book, The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody but Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass.
The Weekly caught up with him via the phone to talk about his New Year’s Eve Honolulu performance, the world ending in 2012 and, of course, politics.
Where you calling from today, LA?
Yep. Right here at home in LA. It’s crummy weather, so it’s making me ever more anxious to get to Hawaii. It’s ok though, it gives me more time to learn my basic phrases in Hawaiian that I’m trying to master before I get there.
This is your first gig in Hawaii, right? Of all places, why did you choose Honolulu for a New Year’s show?
Well come on, that’s what we call a no-brainer in show business. Where would you rather be on New Year’s, Hawaii or Pittsburgh?
I’ve been asking my agents for years to make this happen. I finally kind of put my foot down and said “Either book me in Hawaii this year, or I’m hiring someone else.” When they finally did it, it turned out it wasn’t that hard to do, which is what I kept saying. I said, “There are a lot of smart people in Hawaii; it’s a state now; they get the newspaper; they watch television; I think they’d really like a show like this.”
Being as non-religious as you are, do you celebrate Christmas at all?
Well, I certainly don’t celebrate it as a religious holiday, but I’m also not down with the hardcore atheists who say we shouldn’t call it Christmas. That’s so silly. First of all, it’s a national holiday. Second of all, I have too many great memories of Christmas. I was a kid once. Christmas for me is my family; we have all those great memories of sitting home and playing our Robert Goulet Christmas records. No one is going to take that away from me because it uses the word Christ in the name, that’s silly.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
My resolution this year is to do the resolution I made in 1996, which I still have not gotten around to.
So your track record of fulfilling resolutions isn’t good?
I think when you get to a certain age you just stop making them because you realize that life is really about evolution. It’s certainly not about the fact that when the calendar turns from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 you’re going to somehow be a whole new person.
Are you worried about any ancient prophecies coming true in 2012?
[Laughs] You mean the Mayan calendar?
That’s the one I’m referring to…
Well, I would say if Newt Gingrich gets elected president, I’m going to take a very serious look at the Mayan calendar.
[Laughs] On that subject, do you have a prediction on who will be the next GOP presidential nominee?
One of the fascinating things about doing my standup act all year long was that almost every week I had to write a whole new act because it changed so quickly. One week, it was Donald Trump who was getting all the headlines. The next week it was Michelle Bachmann. Then it was Rick Perry, and then it was Herman Cain… I never thought Newt Gingrich would come from the back of the pack to lead the way, so I am not going to be making predictions.
I’ve been saying for the longest time that it was Mitt Romney’s nomination. I thought it was a done deal, now I don’t know. This Republican electorate is so cuckoo that they could just nominate a relic from the nineties like Newt Gingrich. Someone with the moral compass of an opportunistic infection could wind up leading the Republican Party, so I’m out of the predicting business at this point.
You have been a supporter of Obama for the most part. Wouldn’t you like to see him up against Newt Gingrich? Doesn’t Obama seem like a shoo-in for reelection up against Gingrich?
I would say yes, except that when the economy is in the state that the economy is in–which is not Obama’s fault, but people have very short memories–when unemployment is above 9 percent, it is always possible for the party out of power to win the election. So it scares me very much to think that Newt Gingrich might be the beneficiary of that bad economy. That would be a disaster. I’m not a big fan of Mitt Romney, but at least he eats with a knife and fork! He’s all that stands between us and the rise of the apes. When it comes to the Republican nomination, I am definitely rooting for Mitt Romney to get it.
But aren’t you worried that Romney has an actual chance of beating Obama?
It’s too risky in a bad economy to have the Republican nominee be someone like Newt Gingrich, who is truly dangerous. I do not think that Mitt Romney is dangerous. He’s actually a very reasonable, business-type, old-school Republican–not what my preference would be for running this country, but at least it won’t destroy this country completely. Newt Gingrich? I don’t know what he would do, but I sure don’t want his finger on the nuclear button. Actual newts are not as slimy as this guy!
I’m looking forward to your New Year’s Eve show at the Waikiki Shell…
You’re going to really like it. Bring your ass, you’ll laugh it off.