Comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher has become one of the few candid voices against the George W. Bush administration that people pay attention to -- and he's only getting louder. Entering his fourth season as the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," he has even expanded to the Web, launching his newest show, "Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher," which is available by Webcast on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Amazon.com. His most recent stand-up tour hits the Fox Theatre on Fri., July 7.
Do you enjoy doing stand-up as much as you like hosting your shows, and do you ever change your material when you come down to the South?
I enjoy doing stand-up the most out of anything. Stand-up's very pure, you know. It's just you, a microphone and an audience that you're trying to make laugh so hard their stomach hurts. I never change my material based on where I am. I like performing in the Red States the most because they appreciate it more since they don't necessarily get to hear that [point of view] all the time.
Have you ever asked President Bush to be on your show?
(Laughing) No, no. I'm pretty sure he has a restraining order against me of at least 200 feet. I couldn't even get Clinton to come on my show and he likes me. Such high-profile politicians don't want to come on the show because they know I don't kiss ass like everybody else.
So who would be your ideal candidates for 2008?
There's no such thing as an ideal candidate.
How long have you been doing stand-up?
I started in '79, so this is my 27th year. It took me 27 years to perfect my act.
How much do you get to travel and do stand-up, with all of your other shows going on?
I usually play about 50 nights a year, so I'm not a real road warrior, but it's enough to keep me off the streets while I'm on summer vacation.
"Real Time with Bill Maher" is entering its fourth season beginning in August. Do you have any special plans for this season, or is it going to be fairly similar to the past?
Well, we've pretty much got the format down, so that's not going to change much, but who knows what topics we'll have to discuss? This year is an election year, so that should be interesting because the Democrats have a chance to take back the House. And if you want to talk about a real scandal, we return 98 percent of congressmen up for re-election.
Have you always been a political comic?
You know, people ask me that, but what is a political comic? I mean, to me, everything is politics. I see politics in men and women, I see politics in drugs. I just try to put some nutritious value into everything I do.
Speaking of drugs, you've been outspoken about your belief that marijuana should be legalized. Do you see that policy changing anytime soon?
Well, it's discouraging considering that you can account for all of the progress that's been made in my lifetime as zero. I just think in a free country -- or supposedly free country, we're not free, we're just freer -- it's ridiculous that I'm not able to use a drug that is more benign than drugs that are already legal. Alcohol is legal, and so is Ambien, and I think both of those can be worse than marijuana. Patrick Kennedy drove his car into a pole at 3 in the morning when he was on Ambien because he said he thought he had to go vote. Marijuana has never made me do anything like that.
Is your new Webcast a way of gaining a wider audience of people who don't have HBO, or are you just trying to keep up with new technology and the youth?
Well, that's just the way technology seems to be going. You know, nowadays, everything can be done on a computer. A computer and a television can be the same thing, and I like the idea of where the world is going with technology, so the Webcast is kind of in line with that.
It's certainly one way to keep the younger generations involved. Do you feel that the younger generations care about politics right now? Do they have any interest?
There's always a percentage who do, but most don't. And that's with every generation. My generation didn't always care about politics, and neither did my mother's. It's something people grow into as they get older. But the great thing about the one's who do care is that they're young enough to have the energy and passion to really try and change things.
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