Bill Maher (Cobb Energy Feb. 19) feels the Bern, wants Obama as guest

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bill Maher doesn't ask much of his audience. But for his 60th birthday last month, he requested a favor: sign a White House petition requesting Pres. Barack Obama be a guest on his HBO show "Real Time With Bill Maher."

To force a response from the White House, Maher needed 100,000 signatures. His fans helped him reach that goal in 38 hours.

"People really came through," said Maher in a recent interview. He's hosting a show at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Feb. 19,which he has visited multiple times. (Buy tickets here though it appears to be sold out. Stubhub has seats available for $100 to $180 apiece.) "I was very touched. It made for a great birthday."

Fans, when they realized Obama's omission, were "outraged," he said. "They thought it was a terrible injustice. 'Doesn't he know you gave him money?' I didn't mention that on purpose. That's not the reason he should be on the show."

He feels his Libertarian-leaning fans are being "disrespected."

"It's an alternative point of view audience," he said. "They are much more independent thinking. They may not be down-the-line Democrats. This audience is much more anti-religion, much more open about drugs. They in  many ways represent the maverick views I hold. We deserve representation, too."

If Obama does eventually say yes, Maher doesn't have a specific agenda. "I'm not going to let my mind wander until it happens," Maher said. "Otherwise, I'll be more disappointed. Believe me, he'll have a good time. He does well in interviews. He could have gone into show business."

On his weekly show, the current focus is very much on the 2016 Presidential election. "I've never seen an election like this," he said. "All the rules are out the window. Nobody could have predicted the Republican party at this point would be so into Donald Trump. For months, the conventional wisdom is he'll cough up a hairball. A bright orange hairball."

What this proves is pundits, he said, "are always wrong. The people are always right. That's what's fascinating about democracy. I don't know if it's good for the country but it's fascinating."

He may not agree with everything Trump utters but "good or bad, he eats third rails for breakfast. That is a breath of fresh air."

His theory on why Trump touches a nerve and why he just might nab the Republican nomination: "The country has been choking on political correctness. I identified it on my show in the 1990s on ABC. It's been a theme ever since his campaign started, however flawed it is. I don't know what he could say to turn his fans off."

Maher is amused that even moderate Republicans are accepting this Trump possibility, especially with the rise of Ted Cruz.

"Donald Trump seems like he can be talked to," Maher said. "He's changed his mind quite a bit. So I think he can change it back. Some of what he says is to attract votes. He knows his audience. He's a natural politician. He's a billionaire who attracts the working class. He smites any opposition that comes in his path."

Analogy wise, "Trump is like releasing a Great Dane into a children's party. He just f**** things up!"

On the Democratic side, Maher said he didn't realize until recently how bad a campaigner Hillary Clinton was. She grew up in a world where politicians were careful and parsed every word. "You say anything offensive, you backpedal immediately," he said. "But we now live in the world of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. She looks terribly inauthentic."

He now thinks Sanders could actually do better in a general election than Clinton. "He excites the base," Maher said. "The beliefs he espouses are the beliefs a lot of people hold - including many Republicans. Many do believe in global warming and that corporations are too powerful and the rich have too big of the pie."

On last Friday's show, for Valentine's Day, he gave this line: "Roses are red, violets are blue, time for America to elect a Socialist Jew!"

If former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg were to jump in as a third party candidate, Maher thinks that would hurt the Democrats more. "The sane vote would be split," he said. "The crazies are not going to vote for the nanny stater who outlawed soda. I don't think he should do it. Else, we might end up with President Trump or God forbid, President Cruz."

What might keep Cruz from the presidency, he said, is his craven ambition. "People are suspicious of someone who wants it that bad," he said.

We ran out of time so I asked him quickly about some Georgia guests on his show before he got off the phone:

  • Ralph Reed: "He's a happy Republican warrior. There's something in their DNA. They're generally not mean people. That's why Ted Cruz stands out. When a Republican shoots you, they do it with a smile on their face. Ralph's happy to come here and be the only conservative that breaks things down that way. He says his peace. And he has a sense of humor."
  • Jimmy Carter. "I've had him on before one on one. I always defend him. He's the only president in how many decades who never fired a shot, who really gets it. When you're the biggest, baddest country, you don't need to do that. He had a very understated presidency. He told people what they had to hear as opposed to pandering to them. Of course, post presidency, it's unbelievable how much he's done on the world. He said that his one wish is the last guinea worm dies before he does.This guy almost singlehandedly cured a disease that killed millions of people.
  • Killer Mike, who supports Bernie Sanders. "I love Killer Mike. He gave me a big jar of weed! That's enough to get him invited back." [Indeed, he was on the panel this past Friday.]


Bill Maher

8 p.m., Friday, February 19


Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta

Buy tickets here at


"Real Time With Bill Maher," 10 p.m. Fridays, HBO

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