Bill Maher has been hosting Real Time on HBO for fourteen years. Before that, a blunt comment cost him his old series, ABC’s Politically Incorrect.
Sound familiar? Maher is currently making headlines for using the N-word on Real Time while interviewing Nebraska senator Ben Sasse. And a number of critics want HBO to follow ABC’s example.
But it turns out Maher knows what he’s doing—according to a new Esquire profile off an interview conducted before his recent scandal.
Real Time’s format is old-fashioned, with a monologue, an interview, a panel discussion, some jokes, and a closing argument. But there are no commercial breaks, no re-takes, which leads to the feeling of being in the moment, almost like “a car wreck.”
At a time where almost every comedy host is throwing punches at President Donald Trump, Maher throws punches to the liberal left just as gleefully. Currently, his ratings have never been higher. Over four decades, he’s honed in on his own style and sees himself as the ultimate truth teller. His signature is giving a wide range of views, giving airtime to everyone, despite their reputation, ideologies or views.
The author of the profile, Stephen Rodrick, joined Maher as he traveled to do stand-up comedy across the country. But the profile goes deeper than that, tracing Maher all the way back to his childhood days in New Jersey.
There are some surprising tidbits: Like Maher was bullied a lot when young. Or that he used to sell pot while in college at Cornell. He started doing comedy in the late 1970s and his comedy was neither sophisticated or political.
The moral of the piece? Bill Maher has his place in the zeitgeist figured out—at least in his own mind.
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