Harris: Joining us now is a guy we’ve known for a long, long time. When we first met him, he was a stand up comedian, then he had his own show on cable, then he went network and now he is the 90th most powerful person in Hollywood. Here’s Bill Maher from ABC’s Politically Incorrect.
Maher: That’s right and don’t you forget it. There is fire in my wake when I walk now. I’m number 90!
Harris: When Entertainment Weekly came out with their list, did you look through there or did somebody have to show you?
Maher: Oh, no. I looked through there on the first day it came out. I was very happy about that.
Harris: Now, at what point do you become so powerful that somebody else looks through it for you?
Maher: [Laughs] I don’t know, I guess you have to break the top 50 or something.
Harris: Something like that. Spielberg has tons of people.
Maher: You know, I didn’t see Letterman or Leno on that list.
Harris: That’s absolutely right.
Maher: Not that I was looking for them. Not that it matters.
Harris: Well, you’ve got the hippest show and definetly the best monologue by far.
Maher: Well, thank you.
Harris: Which we’ve talked about many times before. You’re bringing your show here to Washington next week, right?
Maher: We’re bringing it right into the lion’s den. And that means you, you are the lion’s den.
Harris: We are. And we prove that by delaying your show to the ridiculous 12:30 time slot.
Maher: Hey, Paul, you know what? When we’re in Washington next week, they are going to put us on at the right time.
Harris: Is that right?
Maher: Thats right, that’s their concession.
Harris: Why don’t they do that all the time, not just when you’re here for that week?
Maher: I know, but I take what I can get. But, it should be nice, we’re going to be on right after Nightline.
Harris: And it will be all Washington people, except me, of course?
Maher: Not all Washington people, but the first night we have Sonny Bono, the Congressman.
Harris: [laughs] I’m sorry, I still laugh when I hear that.
Maher: Donna Shalala. What is her job? Cabinet or something?
Harris: Health and Human Services.
Maher: Yeah, one of those chick divisions. I’m kidding. I’m kidding, people!
Harris: I know, you kid the HHS.
Maher: Exactly. And we have Ted Nugent, who is not really a Washington person, and we have Bill Kristol, who is the editor of The Standard, who happens to have me on the cover this week with the title “Politically Incompetent.”
Maher: That’s why I love coming to Washington because they hate me.
Harris: Yeah, but on your side of the country, you’re number 90 and that’s what’s important.
Maher: That’s right. We know where the real power is.
Harris: And now, while you’re doing this, I also understand that you’re going to be doing Jeopardy?
Maher: I’m doing Jeopardy on Saturday, right.
Harris: This is Celebrity Jeopardy and, you’ve done this before, right?
Maher: Yes. Came in third.
Harris: What happened there? Are you going to blame it on the buzzer?
Maher: No, but I could. That buzzer is hard to figure out. No, I was against Swoosie Kurtz, who knew everything about Broadway, which was one of the categories. I think the trick on Jeopardy is to get the right categories. You get the right categories, that’s where the lobbying comes in. That’s why I am having a series of fund raising coffees with the Jeopardy producers to see if I can get the access. No, but this is like a special political Jeopardy.
Maher: Yeah, that’s why they’re doing it in Washington.
Harris: So, you’re hoping that one of the categories is “The Chicks of the HHS.”
Maher: [laughs] Yeah. “The Women of the Health and Human Services.”
Harris: Now, I know you’ve been appearing on all these other game shows. I saw you on Pictionary…
Maher: Oh, “all these other game shows.” C’mon. I was on one other game show, I was on Pictionary because my friend Alan Thicke has a new game show that’s going to make him as much money as Merv Griffin.
Harris: And you got knocked out on this show.
Maher: Just for a second. I got punched by Erik Estrada, by accident. He’s just a very excitable young man.
Harris: Erik Estrada, by the way, came in at number 89 on the Entertainment Weekly list. Talk about climbing the ladder! If you knock a guy down, you go over him on the list.
Maher: It’s very basic out here, just like in your town. It’s tooth and claw.
Harris: So, Bill, the other night, I saw you on Vibe with Sinbad, and what were those tiger pants you were wearing?
Maher: You know, Paul, it’s an urban crowd, wink-wink, and I was just trying to… You know, all my black friends called me up and said, “Bill, those pants were just so fly, they were just the greatest!” And all my white friends called me up and said, “Bill, those pants were so funny!” But I was saying to Sinbad, you should see the stuff Keenen wears every night, and he’s not kidding. So I thought, if Vibe is going to compete, we’ve got to be on the same wavelength. But, if you didn’t see those pants, they are not to be believed. They are big, fuzzy, tiger, bell-bottom disco pants with a red devil on the ass.
Harris: Sounds like something from the Marv Albert collection.
Maher: Right! Well, I wanted to wish my friend Sinbad good luck on entering the late night arena.
Harris: Well, that’s nice. I saw you welcoming him, and we want to welcome you to Washington as warmly as we welcome Jiang Zemin. I mean, we’re not having a state dinner for you or anything.
Maher: They call me “The Butcher of ABC.”
Harris: What did you think of the Chinese leader coming here? I know Richard Gere is all upset about it.
Maher: Right, he had a thing across the street. You know, China is such a closed society that they didn’t even hear that rumor about Richard Gere. That is what I call a closed society!
Harris: [laughs] Very funny.
Maher: I’m really looking forward to coming there.
Harris: I know you have to run because you have to tape tonight’s show. Who’s on the show tonight?
Maher: Oh, tonight begins sweeps, so we have a powerful lineup. Tonight we have Cindy Crawford, Louie Anderson, Wynonna Judd, and an author you’ve never heard of, Martin Gross. But he’s got a great book out, called The End of Sanity. He believes that a low-cut dress on a woman is a form of sexual harrasssment to a man.
Harris: Which is why you’re having Cindy Crawford on with him.
Maher: It’s an interesting pairing.
Harris: By the way, Bill, I dare you right now to introduce him tonight as “an author you never heard of.”
Maher: Oh, I’ve done that before.
Harris: Okay, Bill, have a good show tonight, and we’ll see you here in Washington next week. Politically Incorrect usually airs at 12:35, but next week, just after Nightline, just after midnight. Thanks, Bill! I appreciate it.
Maher: My pleasure.
Copyright 1997, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Phil Egenthal