Bill Maher has hung onto his job hosting HBO talk show Real Time for 10 years now, despite his penchant for politically incorrect comments that would require most public figures to turn their publicists into human shields.
But he knows that at some point, his bosses at HBO could tap him on the shoulder and put him out to pasture.
So he continues to hit the road with his smug, snarky brand of political comedy: This winter, his weekly schedule typically has included the hour-long show aired live on Fridays from a studio in Los Angeles, followed by Saturday and Sunday shows in various U.S. cities. This Sunday night, he performs at Charlottes Belk Theater.
Maher, 57, spoke to the Observer recently about Donald Trump, who is suing Maher for $5 million over a joke he made about Trump being descended from an orangutan; President Barack Obama, who Maher calls Django Unchained; and the real Django Unchained a movie he found almost as disturbing as Trump.
Q. Whats the best thing about being a political comedian?
Im always being given a fresh batch of fun material to work with. I feel sorry for these observational comedians who sit there at a diner looking at the ketchup bottle, thinking, ----, Ive gotta come up with a joke about this. What is funny about a ketchup bottle? And then you finally come up with something and they tell you, Oh no, George Carlin observed that in 1974. But especially with these Republicans, Ive got funny stuff every week.
Q. And with Trump, right?
Trump! Everywhere I go now, thats the first thing the crowd yells out: Trump!
Q. So have you been fretting about his lawsuit against you?
Oh my God, when this thing goes to the Supreme Court, let me tell you. Ahh, no, I dont know what to tell you about this man. Like I told Conan (OBrien) last week, its as if they made Lenny from Of Mice and Men a billionaire. Its insane. I dont think hes even a person. Its like some sort of 80s pop reference that Im having a feud with. Its like J.R. Ewing and I are fighting.
Q. Earlier this month, you made headlines after airing an editorial on Real Time that skewered the popes resignation and Catholics in general. Why do you think people get so fired up about religion?
Because for so many people, its what they cling to. Its, yes, frightening when the light goes out at night to think that you may not wake up and if you dont youre just worm food, but come on. Its attached to too much bull----.
The point we were trying to make in that editorial was that Catholics dont really follow anything the pope says anyway. Ninety-eight percent of Catholics use birth control thats quite a blowing-off of church doctrine. They masturbate and they divorce and they have premarital sex. OK, so if youre not really following what the pope and the church says anyway, and the church has been shown to be a safe haven for child molesters, what are you sticking around for? If he quits, you can quit.
Q. Your thoughts on Obama at the beginning of his second term?
I keep calling him Django Unchained for the second term and the Republicans are really coming across to the American public as sulking, pissed off, reacting out of personal grudge as opposed to whats best for the country. Well see. I think Obama had a very important lesson to learn in the first term, which is that yeah, it was right to reach out to people. But all he got was the back of their hand and Go back to Kenya, you ------- Socialist. So it just seems like hes taking a different tack now, which is basically to take it to the people and embarrass the Republicans into doing something.
Q. Lastly, since its Oscar week, lets talk movies. Did you see Argo (which won best picture Sunday)?
Loved it. Great entertainment.
Q. How about Lincoln?
Loved Lincoln. I saw that and then I saw Django Unchained about a week later. (Theyre both) about slavery and that whole era. I had real problems with (Django). That scene where they cant see out of their klansmen outfits is right out of Blazing Saddles. To go from a scene where Kerry Washington is whipped to that scene, I just couldnt make that adjustment.
Q. Im particularly curious, since it has religious themes did you see Life of Pi?
No, I have not seen Life of Pi. I have stayed away on purpose. I like Ang Lee a lot and I think hes a great director, but I know people whove seen it and theyve told me, Bill, youre probably not gonna want to go see this one.