Warning: If you’re a Donald Trump supporter, today’s column will almost certainly leave you with blood coming out of your eyes, blood coming out of your wherever.
Although, truth be told, liberal-leaning comic Bill Maher has a penchant for rankling even his own legion of fans with his blunt, snarky, frankly-I-don’t-give-a-damn-who-I-offend approach to politically motivated humor.
The host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” (which was just renewed through 2018) is taking six weeks off from TV to regroup for the run-up to the presidential election – as well as to perform stand-up shows in 10 cities, including Charlotte’s Ovens Auditorum on Friday, Aug. 19.
And oh, will there ever be Trump jokes.
A little history: Maher, 60, and the Republican presidential candidate famously feuded in 2013, after the comedian quipped on NBC’s “Tonight Show” that he’d donate $5 million to charity if the billionaire could prove he’s not “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.” (Trump sued for the cash after showing a judge his birth certificate, but later withdrew the suit. Yes, this is real.)
Anyway, without further ado, here are excerpts from my Wednesday afternoon phone interview with Maher. Hold on tight.
Q. What’s the primary emotion that you feel when you think about Donald Trump?
Nervous laughter. I mean, this guy does make me LOL on a pretty much daily basis. He doesn’t mean to. He doesn’t know he’s doing it. But he is funny, in a horrifying way. The fact that he could become the president? That makes the laughter very nervous.
Q. So you think he can win?
Absolutely he can win! Why? It’s a stupid country. He’s a stupid person. He says things like, “We should run the country like a business,” and they think that’s brilliant. “He’s one of us.” I hear that from a lot of Trump people. This is not a virtue or a recommendation to me. “He’s gonna shake things up.” Like, this is as much as they know about politics and national affairs, that you just “shake things up.” You know: “Just send somebody in to bust s--- up!” ... So, yeah, he could win, and that’s why I’m nervous.
Q. Pundits on both sides argue he’s made enough gaffes that would have sunk other campaigns. How, then, do you explain that close to half the country is behind Trump?
The half that likes him? These people are just (complete jerks). I mean, every week we say, “What does he have to do to turn people off?” And, uh, apparently nothing can turn these people off. ... When the Republicans chose Donald Trump as the nominee, they handcuffed themselves to a dead hooker. But he’s not the dead hooker. It’s their voters. That’s the dead hooker they can’t shake loose from. And that’s why he continues to survive, and sometimes even thrive. Because there’s something like 40-41 percent of the people who – no matter what he does – will stick with him. That’s a real problem.
Q. What’s your biggest criticism of Hillary?
Well, she campaigns like a hospice nurse; that’s my biggest problem. By her own admission. She has said, “My husband is a natural politician, I am not.” Obama said a couple of weeks ago that other people give a better speech – for example, anyone. ... She was never my first choice. But I also think she’s a fine public servant, who sweats the details, does what a public servant should do. If you actually read her emails, instead of getting hysterical about them, what you’ll see is a boring wonk. That’s who the Clintons are. That’s why they’re effective. Is she as left as me? No. Bernie Sanders is. She’s much too cozy with Monsanto and Wall Street and fracking. But look, you can’t have everything.
Q. Shifting topics: It’s been a tumultuous year – to say the least – for North Carolina, politically. A few years ago you did a segment on “Real Time” titled, “Why North Carolina Is Going Apes---.” Should we expect a sequel soon?
It’s funny you mention that, because the monologue I do at the end this week is about the bathroom laws. That it smells like the kind of wedge issue that Republicans use as bait to trap Democrats in elections, the way they did with gay marriage with Bush in 2004 and Bill Clinton’s (Monica Lewinsky scandal) in 2000. Don’t die on that hill, Democrats, is my advice. I do think that transgender people should be allowed to pee where they want, but let’s just shut the f--- up about it until after Trump is defeated.
Q. Come on, surely you’ve got more to say about this.
I mean, practically, how is this going to be enforced? Are we gonna post an armed guard outside of every public restroom in America to make sure that your genitals match your hairdo before you go in? It’s, again, one of those issues the Republicans gin up that doesn’t really exist. ... No one was ever thinking about it before. There aren’t crazy sex fiends roaming America’s bathrooms looking to watch the wrong person pee. They’re just in people’s minds. So, to a degree, when you react so vehemently, you are kind of taking the bait.
Q. Despite all this, you’ve said before that you love the South. Still?
Absolutely. The audiences are better. The audiences are more appreciative that you came there, and they’re less politically correct. ... They’re not different than any other city in the country. The people look the same – at least the ones who come to my show. It’s not like they have a f------ piece of straw in their teeth and are wearing bib overalls. I think people have a very outdated version in their minds of what the South looks like in the cities. Now, when you get out into the country, yes, you can drive through Appalachia and see ... kids carving their names in each other’s feet. Absolutely that happens. The “Deliverance” life is going on somewhere. But I don’t go there. No one goes there. They’ll shoot ya! They’ll think you’re a revenuer.
(Columnist’s note: For what it’s worth, I had planned last fall to give similar weight to an interview with conservative talk-show hosts Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller, in advance of their co-headlining a show at the same venue – Ovens, which is Charlotte’s largest auditorium; I submitted interview requests with both, and they were denied.)
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19.
Where: Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.