On the eve of a rare Santa Cruz gig, we probe the mind of Bill Maher and explore how comedy and politics helped send the comedian’s celebrity soaring into one hell of an orbit.
It’s political hunting season and, man, is Bill Maher on the prowl. Of course, this isn’t “breaking” news. The unabashed liberal comedian has fiercely pointed his creative Uzi toward the American political system—and its mixed bag of politicians—for nearly 20 years now. Back in the ’90s, when Comedy Central’s Politically Incorrect first aired (it later moved to ABC), Maher quickly became known for being not just your garden-variety envelope-pusher, but somebody far more crafty (and sane). He was able, through a clever mix of wit, wisdom and insight, to help reinvent the way modern comics and commentators approach the issue of politics and present it to television audiences. In the years that followed, especially when the comic found success on HBO with Real Time With Bill Maher (beginning in 2003), others followed suit. Without Maher, some would argue, the likes of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert may not have been so lavishly embraced by the masses.