”This is my eighth HBO special,” says comedian Bill Maher of The Decider, the all-new, live stand-up show he’s performing this Saturday on HBO at 10 p.m. EST. ”And two of them got Emmy nominations! So I’m hoping that I can lose another Emmy with this one.”
We got the Real Time With Bill Maher star on the phone to talk about this weekend’s live show at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, George Bush, his regular gig (Real Time returns to HBO on Aug. 24), who he likes for president, and the already buzzed-about documentary on religion he’s shot with Borat director Larry Charles.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Real Time’s been off the air since May. You been fine-tuning your stand-up set since then?
BILL MAHER: Yeah. I’ve been on the road trying to get it just right. I think it’s as tight as a gnat’s…rectum. [Laughs] Or whatever word we can use.
With a title like The Decider, it sounds like you’re going to take on President Bush in a big way.
Well, this is really my last shot at him. He’ll be out of office if I do another special, because it would be down the road, in 2009. And you know, when I was first critical of him, people were against me. He was a popular guy, even as far back as when he was running the first time. But I was not a fan, and I used to say so. I don’t think they liked that at ABC [which canceled Maher’s Politically Incorrect after he came under fire for remarks he made after 9/11]. And it’s sort of a little bit of a sweet payback that the country has turned around on that. I feel great that they’re all with me on the subject now. [Laughs]
Since you went on hiatus, he’s been in trouble again, on Iraq at least.
But ”Will he change?” is the question. And I promise you he won’t. And the reason I know that is because the other day during his press conference — did you see him talking about being loved? That’s the sign of death. Because when a president says, [imitates a Bush drawl] ”Sure, everybody’d like to be loved,” that means he’s already written off the present. See, he’s convinced himself that the decisions he’s making now — even though they’re getting him hated by everyone, including his own party — are going to be seen as brave decisions in, you know, like, 5 million years. Way down the road. That’s what a genius he is, you see. Not recognized in his own lifetime. He’s like the Van Gogh of presidents — never sold one in his lifetime, but wait!
What else is on your mind lately?
Everything! I don’t want people to think [the special] is just on Bush. I cover Iraq, prescription drugs, health, food, men, women, sex. What else? The environment. Immigration this year, big issue. And of course religion. My fave!
Which do you like doing better at this point, stand-up or Real Time?
You’re asking which one of my children I like better. You know, I guess the show is more like a day job. Which makes the stand-up more fun, because then it’s like my hobby, my mistress.
NEXT PAGE: ”We went everyplace from the Vatican to a truck-stop church in a trailer in South Carolina.”