Harris: Joining us now is an old friend, Bill Maher. We’ve known Bill since he worked in the comedy clubs making the trip from city to city just doing standup. Then he worked his way into doing a gig on Comedy Central and a couple of sitcoms and a couple of movies and now of course it’s the big time with Politically Incorrect on weeknights, late night, on ABC. He was here in town on Sunday night to do the Presidential Gala over at Ford’s Theater and joins us here now. Good morning, Bill.
Maher: Hey, how are you?
Harris: Good, how are you? How did the gig go Sunday night?
Maher: Actually, surprisingly well. I was a ball of nerves but I can’t explain it. They were actually a good crowd. I was expecting a very staid, sort of corporate, politically very correct crowd and they really went with it.
Harris: Were Bill and Hillary sitting there right in the front row?
Maher: Right in the front row, and my biggest laugh was I was nervous coming here and so the director of Ford’s Theater said “You know you should just treat it like a comedy club.” So I said to Clinton, “So, where you from? [laughs] So what do you do there, sir? [laughs]” So they seemed to like it, it was good.
Harris: That’s great. It was your first time playing at Ford’s, right?
Maher: First time playing at Ford’s, yes. That’s something everybody should see. It’s really amazing.
Harris: Is it weird being on that stage knowing the history of performing on that stage?
Maher: The good thing is no matter how bad you do, it’s never going to be the worst thing that happened. [laughs] I kept thinking these Secret Service guys must be so nervous, because if it happened again, oh my god, that would be bad. I mean hey, once, it can happen once anywhere.
Maher: Twice and they’d say that theater is jinxed. [laughs]
Harris: You’re right. At the worst you’re only the second worst thing that happened there. On this trip you got to go to the White House for the first time, right?
Maher: First time. I brought my mother. It was her birthday yesterday.
Harris: Very nice.
Maher: So this was her big birthday present. And yes, we were ushered into the Blue Room with the other performers. Bon Jovi was there, Gregory Hines, lots of good people, Natalie Cole. And they came in and they were very nice, you know, shake hands, a little chit-chat, and how ya doing.
Harris: He must have heard some of the stuff you’ve been doing on your show about him. How did he treat you?
Maher: You know it’s interesting you asked me that because the last time I met him he was very effusive and friendly. He’s always friendly and he couldn’t have been nicer to my mother. He really made her feel wonderful. But I definitely got a feeling that he kind of gave me the evil eye. I can’t put my finger on it, maybe I’m just reading something into it. But when he shook my hand and said hello, I kinda got a look that said “You rat bastard what did you say the other night? I oughta kill you!” You know?
Maher: And later on when he came up on the stage at Ford’s Theater he kinda felt the same way, but maybe it’s just me being overly sensitive. But there have been a lot of fund raising scandals and stuff and we’ve talked about it quite a bit.
Harris: You didn’t get to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, did you?
Maher: [laugh] No, I should have. At Ford’s I said, “I don’t wanna make any judgements about this fund raising stuff, but when we were at the White House today…cash bar!”
Harris: [laughs] And Mom had to be very impressed. I know what it’s like to be in comedy and in show business and you know Moms sometimes just don’t get that impressed. And then you take her to the White House. She must have been blown away.
Maher: She was. It’s hard to convince my mother sometimes that I’m even in show business.
Harris: Yeah, I know.
Maher: You know how Moms are. But I think this was a good thing for her, just to see that her son with his little TV show actually got invited to the White House. It gave me a lot of credibility with her.
Harris: That’s great. Well, the show is doing terrifically…
Maher: But you know what? It’s not on at the right time here.
Harris: We keep putting pressure on Channel 7 to change that. We’re your biggest boosters here.
Maher: I mean of all the places where we should be on at the right time, I figure Washington, DC…come on!
Harris: You’re pushed back a half hour because of Extra. I know you think of this as a town that loves politics, but really we love infotainment!
Maher: [laughs] No, because I know people here who call me all the time and say “Bill, you’ve got to get the show on at the right time. They’re putting Extra on, it’s silly.” I appreciate your efforts and anyone out there who can write them and help me.
Harris: The guy’s name is Terry Connelly. He’s the guy who runs Channel 7. You can call and write and put the pressure on, like we’ve done ourselves.
Maher: Oh, good. I appreciate that.
Harris: And of course in return I expect to be a guest on your show next time you come to Washington.
Maher: You know that could be as early as May.
Maher: That’s right. We figure the only way we’re going to get the right time slot is to come here. [laughs] No, I wanna come here anyway, I love this town. The establishment here is not too fond of me, and the newspaper and so forth.
Harris: Yeah, I know.
Maher: But I’ve always loved playing here, and I love being here. It’s a beautiful place. Look, I’m hoping for May sweeps to convince ABC, I think they’re going to go for it.
Harris: Well, that will be great. So don’t invite Tom Shales. Instead you invite me — and Terry Connelly from Channel 7. [laughs]
Maher: Tom Shales…I don’t even think he knows I’m on. He’s never written about our show.
Harris: No, he hasn’t.
Maher: The Washington Post has, but I guess he’s been conspicuously absent.
Harris: He’s too busy writing that brilliant review of Pauly!
Maher: [laughs] Right.
Harris: Anyway, continued good luck with the show.
Maher: Thank you very much. I’ll see ya soon.
Harris: It’s always great to talk to you, Bill. By the way, on our home page I now have a link to your home page.
Maher: Oh, great!
Harris: So our listeners who click into our place can then go over to yours. The ABC one. And I’m real happy for your success. It’s great to see a friend doing well.
Maher: Thanks, it’s nice to hear. Right back at you.
Harris: And thanks for calling in this morning. Talk to you soon, take care.
Maher: Bye bye.
Harris: That’s Bill Maher. He’s on ABC-TV weeknights at 12:35am, a half hour after Nightline goes off. So stick around through Extra to catch Bill with Politically Incorrect. That’s what VCR’s are made for in my house.
Copyright 1997, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Nicci Murphy.