Q&A: Bill Maher's Views on Vegas
by mark adams
Bill Maher will have new material when he arrives in June, but he prefers his Vegas old-school.
With his lethal wit, his news savvy, and certainly his foul (and funny) mouth, Bill Maher entertains America weekly on his live HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher. But when he isn’t moderating Real Time’s often-intense discussions among politicians, professors, journalists, and celebrities, the political provocateur is on the road, bringing his signature humor to audiences across the country. Before the launch of his limited Pearl residency at the Palms, Vegas sat down with Maher to discuss stand-up comedy, what Obama should do in his second term, and how Las Vegas is going old-school.
So many people know you from your current HBO show. Will your shows at the Palms follow that format?
Bill Maher: [Laughs] No, no. I’m a stand-up comedian. The HBO show is a hybrid of comedy and serious talk, but no, no, no. Stand-up comedy is all about laughing, constantly and hard, so I take that very seriously. The subject matter is similar—I’m interested in politics and what’s going on in the world. I don’t do trivial stuff about dogs and cats.
How much do you have to change your stand-up routine, since current events dictate your material?
BM: No comedian turns over an entire act in a night. But if you saw me in March and then came back to see me in June, yeah, a lot of new stuff would have happened that I would be commenting on.
Vegas is certainly a unique city. What do you think of it?
BM: I love Vegas. And I love it more now than when I first was here in the ’80s. I remember when I was here opening for Diana Ross, David Brenner said to me, “You know, they still look at me as the newcomer.” Now it’s great, because they know who I am and the crowds could not be better. And I love the fact that Vegas seems to be returning to actual old-school entertainment: people as opposed to f****** dolphins and that kind of stuff. When I was first in Las Vegas, you could see a person at every hotel—Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Buddy Hackett, Shecky Greene. I feel like we’re getting back to humans, human entertainment. I hope it’s a trend.
You’re in town a lot. What do you like to do when you come here?
BM: Last time, my girlfriend and I found a lounge. I was looking for the olds chool lounge with a lounge act, you know? Live entertainment. And everybody kept saying, “Oh, they don’t exist anymore.” Well, we found one. We danced the night away to this little trio playing rock ’n’ roll covers.
What would you like to see Obama do with his final term?
BM: I keep saying, “Second-term Obama: Django Unchained!” I certainly would like him to get serious about the environment before the planet literally melts. I certainly would like to see him cut the defense budget, because at some point somebody has to make the connection between always writing a blank check to the Pentagon and the fact that we have no money. These are all liberal fantasies perhaps.
Bill Maher performs at the Palms June 8 and 9
photography by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images