People: Whoever wins, Bill can’t lose

Bill Maher clearly loves to speak his mind.

But unlike other comedians, what is on Maher’s mind isn’t his bad date or his crazy mother. It’s the bad government and crazy culture.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Maher saw his ABC late-night talk show, “Politically Incorrect,” canceled after five years on the air after he referred to some U.S. military actions as “cowardly.”

But, oh, what a difference a few years and an unpopular war make. Maher has hosted the HBO series “Real Time With Bill Maher” since 2003.

Q. After your comments and ABC’s canceling of “Politically Incorrect,” did you worry your career might be over?

A. Well, definitely, at the onset of it. … That period in the fall of 2001, the country was cuckoo. I mean, Bush was considered smart for a few months. That’s how crazy the country was. …

The nine months we were still on the air after that, I think we did our best work. We were liberated; we weren’t trying to satisfy the network and have on sitcom stars. In that last nine months, we were really able to do a much more in-depth kind of show. The whole country was serious for a little bit.

Q. Was there pressure with your new show to tone things down?

A. Oh, yes. We went on the air with the HBO show just as we were going to war. In 2003, we went on the air in February, and the tanks rolled up to Baghdad in March. It was a very strange time to be on the air, and I can’t tell you how many people suggested we just lay off, especially coming from a job where I had just been fired.

The tabloid headlines had my picture with Barbra Streisand, Alec Baldwin and Tim Robbins. They put us together like we were a cabal and meeting in Hollywood to overthrow the government. People overreact very quickly.

Q. Coming into this new presidential campaign, which candidates look ripe for ridicule and which look good?

A. For a comedian, it’s a pretty good field. On the Republican side, you have Rudy Giuliani, who on a substantive level, I can’t wait to get into. We did a little bit this season, but it will get hotter. He is running on being a great terrorist fighter – but he put the terrorist command center in the building that got attacked.

Then on the Democratic side, Hillary (Clinton) is, of course, a font of humor. I have no doubt the Republicans already have dirt on (her husband’s) philandering. I just know the second she gets the nomination, they’ll release stuff and that’s all the election will be about. …

Bill Clinton had sex behind her back when he was president, just think what he’s been like now with time on his hands.

The birthday bunch

Director Ingmar Bergman is 89. Actor Dale Robertson is 84. Actor Harry Dean Stanton is 81. Actress-singer Polly Bergen is 77. Actor Jackie Earle Haley is 46. Actor Matthew Fox is 41. Actress Missy Gold (“Benson”) is 37. Musician taboo (Black Eyed Peas) is 32.


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