Bill Maher was born in New York City and grew up in River Vale, NJ. His Irish Catholic father, William, was a radio announcer and news editor. His Jewish mother, Julie, was a nurse. Maher was raised in the Catholic faith. While attending Cornell University, he decided to try stand-up comedy. His first stand-up routine was in a Chinese restaurant on Route 17 in Paramus, NJ. He soon landed a regular gig at Catch a Rising Star in New York City. After a few years, he became a regular host at the club and was spotted by a scout for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962). Maher made numerous appearances on the show, and Carson had been a hero of his since childhood, but he always felt constrained by the rules of network television. During this time, he appeared in films and made guest appearances on numerous sitcoms.
In 1993, Maher was offered his own talk show by Comedy Central. Maher developed the show as a roundtable discussion on current events. "Politically Incorrect" (1993) premiered to critical acclaim and attracted major celebrities as well as politicians and pundits. In 1997, the show moved to ABC where it aired to continued success. On September 17, 2001, Maher made controversial comments regarding the terrorists who orchestrated the September 11 attack on the US. Sponsors pulled their ads and affiliates refused to air the show. ABC canceled the show in 2002, citing "low ratings". Maher had been nominated for 11 Emmys for his work on the show. In 2003, he was able to continue his television work with a similar program on HBO titled "Real Time with Bill Maher" (2003). He remains single and lives in Los Angeles.
Graduated from Pascack Hills High School (New Jersey)
He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Cornell University in 1978
Supported Ralph Nader during the 2000 presidential election.
Received a great deal of bad press for his comments after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center when he criticized the United States government. Subsequently, advertisers such as Sears and Federal Express pulled their ads and some television stations stop showing his program "Politically Incorrect" (1993). This eventually led to ABC canceling the show the following year. Commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, Arianna Huffington, and David Horowitz defended his right to free speech and said that his program should not be canceled.
22 June 2002 - Received the Los Angeles Press Club's highest honor, the President's Award, for "championing free speech." The award was given six days after the final episode of "Politically Incorrect" (1993), Bill's social-satire show from which he was dismissed for politically incorrect statements about the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Was a major supporter of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election. Though he traditionally supports Democrats, in 2000 he threw his support behind Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.
Stubby Kaye was his father's cousin.
Was good friends with Steve Allen.
The cable TV sex channels don't expand our horizons, don't make us better people, and don't come in clearly enough.
[from a 1998 "Mother Jones" interview] My generation didn't face the kind of urgent, pressing issues that my parents did, who fought through a war and a Depression and know what suffering is. That's why Bob Dole had a tough time with this electorate. He was an old-fashioned curmudgeon who knew about sacrifice, and we didn't know if we could live up to his standards. But we knew we could live up to Bill Clinton's. He's more like one of us.
[when asked what he liked about the Playboy mansion] The food is out of this world!
I get the Playboy thing a lot. People assume I go out with bimbos. I couldn't go out with bimbos if I tried! I scare them off! The women that like me are smart. So I go to the Playboy Mansion four or five times a year, but people think I go all the time.
We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly.
All I did was tell the truth. That's is what the whole show is about! And if "Politically Incorrect" (1993) has to go down for it, so be it!
I saw this anti-drug commercial that showed a kid smoking pot in his dad's room with his friend. This kid finds a gun, the gun accidentally goes off and kills his friend. Only in America is the villain in this commercial not guns or bad parenting, but pot.
Kids, they're not easy, but there has to be some penalty for sex.
Republicans are always saying we should privatize things like schools, prisons, social security -- hey, how about we privatize privacy! Because if the government forbids gay men from tying the knot, what is their alternative? They can't all marry Liza Minnelli.
I hate religion. I think it's a neurological disorder.
There's no greater model, in my view, than Jesus Christ.
I'm not even sure that they [Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert] are getting at the truth. I mean, just because you're on the side of the liberals doesn't make it true. People are lazy. And I'm talking about media people too. So they're very insecure about what's the right answer, and if someone with confidence gives an answer, and it seems right and people are applauding, they all flock to it. It's a sad state of affairs when the people who are supposed to be separating truth from fiction themselves don't know what it is. It's like having a bad teacher in school. If the teacher doesn't know, then the kids can't know. And if the media isn't up to their job in delivering the news then the people are not going to be well informed.
Religious people don't need to be ethical, because religion is mostly about salvation. It's about closing your eyes, very tightly, and believing in someone so much, without question, that when you die he will save your ass. Religion is about saving your ass. And that ain't ethical. There's a million reasons I could give you as to why a religious person is less moral than an ethicist, but here's just one. Religious people think that animals don't have a soul - we're so sure people do - so it's okay to torture and kill and do anything you want to animals because there's some bullshit in the Bible about how we have dominion over them and they don't have a soul. For that reason alone I dislike religion.
I want America to go towards the light! God, there's so many areas where it needs to be patched up and fixed. In general, I want to see America get out of the [Iraq] war, so that we have the money and the energy to do something else. I want us, obviously, to address the environmental problems that are becoming so frightening. The frogs are dying, the bees are dying, the glaciers are melting. I don't know what has to happen before the world takes notice. And, you know, America always bragging that it is Number One. Well, if it's Number One, it's got to take the lead. And it hasn't taken the lead, so why should other countries fall in line behind us?
We are a nation that was founded by people who were trying to get away from religious dogmatism and the authority of kings and priests. The founding documents are very vague. They talk about "the Creator" but nothing very specific - nothing at all about Jesus Christ. You'd think, if it was [to be] a Christian nation they would mention Jesus in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. That alone should tell you something. They [the religious right] try to take quotes out of context. Jefferson wrote that bible where he took out all "woo-woo" from Jesus; just left the philosopher. And he [Jesus] is a great philosopher. We can all admire the philosophy.
The Founding Fathers were more deists. If you had to categorize them as anything. There was some sort of moving prime force. But it's an impersonal force. Some people call it Nature. Certainly not this personal god who you have a personal relationship with, who listens to your prayers and answers them, or doesn't. You know, not the silly stuff that most Americans believe because we're such a dumb nation.
One thing people don't often ask me is "What do you actually believe? We know what you don't believe." I mostly preach the doctrine of "I don't know." It doesn't trouble me that much that there are big questions that I can't answer. I've never been able to answer them; I never will. I just kind of let it go. "Where did we all come from?" "What's the meaning of it all?" "What happens when you die?" Who the f-- knows? What I do know is that it gets my Irish up, to beg the point of our interview, when people make up stories and sell an invisible product. It's such a scam. I just think people should man-up, suck it up, and just say "I don't know," instead of closing their eyes very tightly and insisting on believing something that part of them must know is not true. So when people say, "Yeah, but could it be Jesus Christ?" Yes, it could be. And it could be the lint in my navel. It could be a lot of things. I tend to doubt very strongly [the story of] Jesus Christ or any other story that just smacks of the kind of thing that primitive men would come up with.
It seems to me a very strange moment in our history to be pushing libertarianism. I said many, many years ago that I was a libertarian, like in the early '90s, and I've heard people say, "Well, Bill, you just really care about smoking pot and sex". Exactly, that's really what it was, you got me. But at this moment when BP, a private corporation, is ruining an entire ocean, when Wall Street private companies brought down an entire economy; isn't that a strange moment to be pushing for libertarianism?
I got into some trouble with the Catholic League; not the first time, [they're] not my biggest fans; because I said in our little essay ending the show, I said, "The Pope," and I looked at it again, I looked at the words carefully, "used to be a Nazi." Okay, now first of all, it was a joke, okay? We were in a comedic context. I said, "He used to be a Nazi, and he wears funny hats, and ladies, he's single." So, right away, we're in the context of a joke, okay, and "used to." Okay, but, you know, you got me. The Pope was not a Nazi. When he was a teenager, he was in the Hitler Youth, which meant that he said the oath directly to [Adolf Hitler] and not to the Nazis, which is sort of worse! But, but wait a second, the thing that argues for their side of this is that, you know what, he was coerced into that. He was a teenager. I wouldn't blame any teen, he was a fourteen-year-old kid in Nazi Germany, of course he's going to do what they tell him to do. So, on that score, you know what my Catholic friends, I will never make the Pope is a Nazi joke again, because you're technically right, okay, and also because it distracts from the main point. And the main point I was making was that if the Pope instead of a religious figure was the CEO of a chain of nationwide daycare centers, who had thousands of employees who had been caught molesting children and then covering it up, he would have been in jail. And I noticed they didn't say a word about that!
[To participants at the launch of the 2011-12 TV season] Thank you very much to the three people who applauded. It is really something to be back here at the job fair.
If you think we can solve the environment with everyone recycling, you're crazy. It's like saying World War II could have been won by everyone saving tin.
[on drug-troubled mayor Marion Barry] (He) promised to get drugs off the street, one gram at a time.
I think people hate us around the world because they perceive that we waste what we could share. And they're not totally wrong about that. We have a holiday where we stuff food into other food... I mean, Thanksgiving is really typical of how we think about third-world indigenous people. We celebrate the one nice moment we ever had with the Indians.
Ladies and gentlemen, on September 11 2001, America was attacked by a squad of Saudi Arabians, working out of Germany, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And by that I mean, we were attacked by Iraq.
The Pope is consistently pro-life, I am consistently pro-death.
I'm pro-choice, I'm for assisted suicide, I'm for regular suicide, I'm for whatever gets the freeway moving - that's what I'm for. It's too crowded, the planet is too crowded and we need to promote death.
You know they're talking about 60 votes they need. Forget this stuff. You can't get Americans to agree on anything. Sixty - percent? Sixty percent of people don't believe in evolution in this country. He just needs to drag them to it. Just drag them to this.
[on his Johnny Carson] He was my comedy god more than any of them. Also, he's just a cool guy. When you're that age, it's the same reason you like James Bond. He has control. Girls like him. Everything I wasn't. You gotta aspire.
(February 2003) Host of "Real Time with Bill Maher" (2003), live on Friday nights at 11:30pm on Home Box Office.
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