kids encyclopedia robot

Bill Maher facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Bill Maher
Maher receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, September 2010
Birth name William Maher
Born (1956-01-20) January 20, 1956 (age 67)
New York City, U.S.
Medium Stand-up, television, film, books, podcast
Alma mater Cornell University (BA)
Years active 1979–present
Genres Political/news satire, observational comedy, insult comedy, black comedy
Subject(s) Mass media/news media/media criticism, American politics, American culture, current events, religion, pop culture

William Maher (/mɑːr/; born January 20, 1956) is an American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. He is known for the HBO political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher (2003–present) and the similar late-night show called Politically Incorrect (1993–2002), originally on Comedy Central and later on ABC. In 2022, Maher started the podcast Club Random.

Maher is known for his political satire and sociopolitical commentary. He targets many topics including religion, political correctness, and the mass media. His critical views of religion were the basis for his 2008 documentary film Religulous. He is a supporter of animal rights, having served on the board of PETA since 1997, and is an advisory board member of Project Reason.

In 2005, Maher ranked at number 38 on Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all time. He received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star on September 14, 2010. In 2014, Maher won a Primetime Emmy Award for his work as executive producer for Vice.

Early life and education

Maher was born in New York City. His father, William Aloysius Maher Jr., was a network news editor and radio announcer, and his mother, Julie Maher (née Berman), was a nurse. He was raised in his Irish-American father's Roman Catholic religion. Until his early teens, he was unaware that his mother, whose family was from Hungary, was Jewish.

Maher was raised in River Vale, New Jersey and graduated from Pascack Hills High School in Montvale in 1974. He then attended Cornell University, where he double-majored in English and history, and graduated in 1978. Maher has said, "Selling pot allowed me to get through college and make enough money to start off in comedy."


Early career

Maher began his career as a comedian and actor. He was host of the New York City comedy club Catch a Rising Star in 1979. Maher began appearing on Johnny Carson's and David Letterman's shows in 1982. He made limited television appearances including on Sara (1985), Max Headroom (1987), Murder, She Wrote (1989, 1990), and Charlie Hoover (1991). His feature film debut was in D.C. Cab (1983). He later appeared in Ratboy (1986), House II: The Second Story (1987),Newhart (1988), hosted the talk show Midnight Hour on CBS (1990) and Pizza Man (1991).

Television career

Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher

Seth MacFarlane speaking at a ceremony for Maher to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2010

Maher assumed the host role on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, a late-night political talk show that ran on Comedy Central from 1993 to 1997 and on ABC from 1997 to 2002. The show regularly began with a topical monologue by Maher preceding the introduction of four guests, usually a diverse group of individuals, such as show business, popular culture, political pundits, political consultants, authors, and occasionally news figures. The group would discuss topical issues selected by Maher, who also participated in the discussions. Jerry Seinfeld, a regular guest on the show, stated that Politically Incorrect reminded him of talk shows from the 1950s and '60s "when guests interacted with each other as much as with the host".

Politically Incorrect won an array of awards, including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Technical Direction, two CableACE awards for Best Talk Show Series, and a Genesis Award for Best Television Talk Show. Maher earned numerous award nominations for his producing, writing, and hosting of Politically Incorrect, including ten Emmy nominations, two TV Guide nominations, and two Writers Guild nominations.

On June 22, 2002, Maher received the Los Angeles Press Club president's award (for "championing free speech"). Maher was on the board of judges for the 2002 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award.

Real Time with Bill Maher

In 2003, Maher became the host, co-producer, and co-writer of Real Time with Bill Maher, a weekly hour-long political comedy talk show on the cable television network HBO. In 2016, HBO renewed Real Time through 2018, for its 15th and 16th seasons. During an interview, Maher told Terry Gross (on NPR's Fresh Air) that he much prefers having serious and well-informed guests on his program, as opposed to the random celebrities that fleshed out his roundtable discussions on Politically Incorrect.

As with his previous show, Politically Incorrect, Maher begins Real Time with a comic opening monologue based upon current events and other topical issues. He proceeds to a one-on-one interview with a guest, either in-studio or via satellite. Following the interview, Maher sits with two or three panelists, usually consisting of pundits, authors, activists, actors, politicians, and journalists, for a discussion of the week's events.

Real Time has earned widespread praise. It has been nominated for more than ten Primetime Emmy Awards and six Writer's Guild awards. In 2007, Maher and his co-producers were awarded the Television Producer of the Year Award in Variety Television by the Producers Guild of America. Maher holds the record for the most Emmy nominations without a win, having been nominated on 22 occasions and not winning once. Eleven of the nominations were for Politically Incorrect, while nine were for Real Time. The other two were nominations for two of his HBO comedy specials: I'm Swiss and Bill Maher: The Decider.

Political commentator

Maher is a frequent commentator on various cable news networks, including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and HLN. Maher has regularly appeared on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and has also been a frequent guest on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Rachel Maddow Show, and Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Maher has also appeared as a guest on HLN's The Joy Behar Show. He wrote the foreword for the 2002 book, Spin This!: All the Ways We Don't Tell the Truth by show host Bill Press.

Maher hosted the January 13, 2006, edition of Larry King Live, on which he was a frequent guest. Maher appeared as a special guest on the June 29, 2010, edition of the show, on which CNN anchor Larry King announced his retirement. Maher co-emceed the final show of Larry King Live on December 16, 2010, with Ryan Seacrest.

Other work

In 2004, Maher appeared in The Steve Allen Theater production of "Hollywood Hell House". The show featured a rotating cast of over 160 celebrities, including Andy Richter (Jesus), Richard Belzer, Dave Thomas, Traci Lords, Craig Bierko, Sarah Silverman, and Julia Sweeney.

Maher and director Larry Charles teamed up to make the movie Religulous, described by trade publication Variety as a documentary "that spoofs religious extremism across the world". It was released on October 3, 2008.

In 2013, Maher became one of the executive producers for the HBO newsmagazine series Vice.

On March 21, 2022, Maher launched a podcast titled Club Random, a series hosting one-on-one interviews with guests, recorded in his bar at home, where he discusses everything except politics. Guest have included Quentin Tarantino, Jimmy Kimmel, Bella Thorne, Judd Apatow, Mike Tyson, Killer Mike, and William Shatner.

Political views

Bill Maher and Ingrid Newkirk by David Shankbone
Maher and Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA. Maher is on the board of directors of the animal rights group.

Maher often eschews political labels, referring to himself as "practical". He identifies as liberal and stands against political correctness. In his words, "The difference is that liberals protect people, and P.C. people protect feelings." In the past, he has also described himself as a libertarian, and has also referred to himself "as a progressive, as a sane person". He once said in an interview: "It's ridiculous to label criticism of a religion as a phobia of a religion. I'm going to criticize any person or group that violates liberal principles...."

Maher favors the ending of corporate welfare and federal funding of non-profits.

Maher describes himself as an environmentalist, and he has spoken in favor of the Kyoto treaty on global warming on his show Real Time. He often criticizes industry figures involved in environmental pollution. He is a board member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The comedian has noted the paradox of people claiming they distrusted "elite" politicians while at the same time wanting elite doctors to treat them and elite lawyers to represent them in court.

Bill Maher and Mark Warner
Maher with Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia)

Maher endorsed a 2014 Maine referendum to ban the use of bait, traps and dogs to hunt bears in Maine. He specifically criticized the use of bait, referring to its use as "nothing but an execution". Maher also supports the death penalty.

Candidates and endorsements

In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Maher announced his support for U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). Although Maher welcomed Obama's electoral victory, he subjected him to criticism after he took office for not acting more boldly on health care reform and other progressive issues. On February 23, 2012, after his "Crazy Stupid Politics" special streamed on Yahoo! Screen, Maher announced that he was contributing $1 million to Priorities USA, the Obama SuperPAC.

In the leadup to the 2014 midterm elections, Maher conducted a "Flip a District" contest on his HBO show. His audience was asked to select one "terrible, entrenched" member of Congress in a close election race—"the loserest loser of all"—to remove from office. Maher aimed to help oust that representative by shining a "national spotlight" on the politician during segments of his show and stand-up comedy appearances in that member's district during the Fall election. Maher ultimately selected Republican Representative John Kline from Minnesota's 2nd congressional district, but he failed to prevent him from winning against his Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party opponent Mike Obermueller.

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Maher initially endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders on February 5, 2016. Maher later announced his support for Hillary Clinton after Clinton won the nomination from the Democratic Party primary elections in June 2016.

Maher highlighted Trump's own public references to Maher's assertions that Trump was "not going to leave", and quoted Trump's March 14, 2019, assertion that "I have the support of the police, the military, the bikers [for Trump]" and "the tough people", citing this as evidence that Trump would seek to remain in office by force. Maher predicted there would be violence by armed Trump supporters attempting to keep Trump in power and criticized Democratic Party politicians for not taking the threat seriously.

Over the course of 20 different editions of Real Time with Bill Maher broadcast between April 13, 2018, and August 7, 2020 and in several press interviews, Maher predicted that Donald Trump would refuse to concede any loss in the 2020 United States presidential election, dedicating a 'New Rules' end segment to the subject on January 25, 2020.

In January 2022, Maher declined to run in the 2024 United States presidential election following speculation by Dana Perino that he may be called on to do so.


Protests against Bill Maher TIFF08
Protesters outside Ryerson University awaiting the arrival of Bill Maher on September 6, 2008

Maher is highly critical of all religion and views it as highly destructive. He has been described, or self-identified, variously as an agnostic, atheist, and apatheist, while objecting to having his views defined by a single label. In his 2008 feature film Religulous, he refers to himself as agnostic. He has rejected being grouped with explicit atheists, saying in 2002, "I'm not an atheist. There's a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn't believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don't need, but I'm not an atheist, no."

Maher has occasionally referred to himself as an apatheist, saying in 2011 "I don't know what happens when you die, and I don't care." When discussing his apatheism and his views on the existence of God, he said on a scale from 1 to 7 (7 being "absolutely certain there is no god"), he was only at 6.9, like Richard Dawkins, "because we just don't know ... but we just don't think about it." He added, "There's atheist and there's agnostic, and I'm okay with us not splitting the difference on those; if you are just not a super-religious person, you are on my team." He has reiterated his stance during other interviews, rejecting both the certitude of the existence, as well as the certitude of nonexistence of deities, concluding, "I'm saying that doubt is the only appropriate response for human beings."

Maher received the 2009 Richard Dawkins Award from Atheist Alliance International. He was an advisory board member of author Sam Harris's Project Reason, a foundation that promotes scientific knowledge and secular values within society.

National security

On June 7, 2013, Maher expressed on his show limited support for the NSA's PRISM intelligence data collection from private phone calls and the Internet, saying that the threat of terrorists obtaining and using nuclear weapons was the tipping point for him. While he stated that he trusted the Obama administration to employ the program responsibly, he described the NSA's access to private data as a "slippery slope", and worried about whether other politicians would be as responsible.

Since the 9/11 attacks, he has endorsed certain uses of profiling at airports, saying that "Places like Israel, where they have faced terrorism for a long time, of course understand that profiling is part of all detective work. It's part of all police work. If they stop calling it profiling and start calling it high-intelligence screening or something, people would go, it's about time."

Maher opposed Trump's Executive Order 13769, an order which banned entry into the US of citizens from five majority-Muslim countries and has hosted multiple guests, including Sam Harris and Jim Jefferies, on his show who have also opposed the order.

Foreign policy

Maher opposed the Iraq War from the beginning and has summarized his opinion by saying that the United States and the world have had to pay too high a price for the war. He is skeptical of Iraq surviving without civil war.

On the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Maher says he is "more on the side of the Israelis" and does not consider both sides equally guilty. He acknowledges that "Palestinians do have gripes", and he has been critical of U.S. financial aid to Israel, saying "they don't need our money, they can handle it themselves." Maher also notes that most Israelis would prefer a two-state solution and oppose the hard-line stance of their Israeli government, which he describes as having been taken over by their version of the Tea Party. However, Maher has defended Israel's military actions against Palestinian militants amid criticism over civilian deaths and disproportionate casualty count between Israelis and Palestinians during the 2014 Gaza war. He argues that Israel is still showing restraint, and he finds it ironic that the same people who were incredulous over how the Jews in World War II were led "to their slaughter", can't understand why they are defending themselves now. In August 2019, Maher denounced the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, saying: "It's predicated on this notion ... I think it's very shallow thinking that the Jews in Israel are mostly white and Palestinians are mostly brown, so they must be innocent and correct and the Jews must be wrong." He responded to Rep. Rashida Tlaib's call to boycott his talk show: "Some people have one move only: boycott. Cancel. Make-go-away. But here's the thing, the house voted 318 to 17 to condemn the #BDS movement, including 93% of Dems. Does Tlaib want to boycott 93% of her own party?".

In April 2020, Maher criticized those who equated using the term "Wuhan virus" with racism, stating, "Scientists...have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time. Zika is from the Zika Forest, Ebola from the Ebola River, hantavirus the Hantan River. There's the West Nile virus and Guinea worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and, of course, the Spanish flu." He added: "This has nothing to do with Asian Americans, and it has everything to do with China."

In March 2021, Maher criticized China's treatment of Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. He said the United States has "lost" to China in the "battle for the 21st century." According to Maher, China is dominating the world while United States is wasting time in a "never-ending woke competition".


In November 2015, Maher expressed opposition to the United States accepting Syrian refugees. Maher argued that they have different values which are at odds with American values due to some refugees may be coming from places which are governed by Sharia law or want to be. In 2021, after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Maher urged America to take in Afghan refugees. Maher has criticized Donald Trump’s opposition to immigration, including his proposed border wall on the southern border.

Maher has criticized Democrats' approach to immigration and has praised Canada's system, saying "Canada is much more to the right on immigration. You have to have a skill. That's mostly what it's based on. Ours is mostly based on family".

Gun rights

Maher is a gun owner, and explained in his February 12, 2013, appearance on the late-night TV talk show Conan that he owns guns for personal home protection. However, he does not identify himself as a "proud" gun owner, commenting that being a proud gun owner is akin to "saying I'm a 'proud remote control owner'". Maher has stated that statistics showing that gun owners are more likely to harm a member of their household are caused by irresponsible gun owners. Maher has also questioned the need to own large arsenals of guns.

Health care

Maher supports the establishment of a Medicare-for-All universal single-payer health care system, and has consistently agreed with the proposal since 2011. Maher has stated that the American Medical Association is a powerful lobbying group and one of the primary reasons why the United States had failed to enact health care reform in the decades prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. On Fox News in a televised debate with Bill O'Reilly, Maher said that "if Jesus was in charge of the country we'd probably have health care for everybody."

Maher has expressed the view that a lot of illness is the result of poor diet and lack of exercise, and that medicine is often not the most appropriate way of addressing illness. In an episode of his show about the 2008 presidential candidates' health plans, Maher stated that poor nutrition is a primary cause of illness, and that "the answer isn't another pill." He has expressed his distaste for the pharmaceutical and health care industries in general, on the grounds that they make their money out of treating people who are made sick by consuming unhealthy food that corporations push on the public. He maintains that mass consumption of high-fructose corn syrup is a contributor to the rise in frequency of obesity in the United States.

In a discussion with Michael Moore about the film Sicko, Maher said, "The human body is pretty amazing; it doesn't get sick, usually, for no reason. I mean, there's some genetic stuff that can get to you, but, basically, people are sick in this country because they're poisoned. The environment is a poisoning factor, but also, we gotta say, they poison themselves..."


Maher has said his influences include Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Robert Klein, and George Carlin.

Comedians who have said they were influenced by Maher include Chris Rock and Seth MacFarlane.

Awards and nominations

Maher has received 41 Primetime Emmy Award nominations winning for Outstanding Informational Series or Special for Vice in 2015. He also received two Grammy Award nominations and various Producers Guild of America Award and Writers Guild of America Award nominations.

Personal life

Maher next to his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2010

Maher has never married. In 2005, Maher began dating Karrine Steffans, author and former hip hop model.

From 2009 to 2011, Maher dated former adjunct professor, science educator, and current Skeptics' Guide to the Universe co-host Cara Santa Maria. Since 2014, Maher has dated Ontario-born singer Anjulie Persaud.

In 2012, Maher purchased a minority ownership interest in the New York Mets.



Year Title Role Notes
1983 D.C. Cab Baba
1986 Ratboy Party Guest
1987 House II: The Second Story John
1988 Out of Time Maxwell Taylor TV Movie
1991 Pizza Man Elmo Bunn
1998 Primary Colors Himself
1999 EDtv Himself
2001 Tomcats Carlos
2002 John Q. Himself Cameo
2003 Pauly Shore Is Dead Himself
2005 The Aristocrats Himself Documentary
2007 Heckler Himself Documentary
2008 Swing Vote Himself Cameo
Religulous Himself Documentary; also producer and writer
2012 The Campaign Himself Cameo
2013 Iron Man 3 Himself Cameo
Delivery Man Himself Cameo
2014 A Million Ways to Die in the West Comic Uncredited
The Interview Himself Cameo
2015 Ted 2 Himself Cameo
2018 Gringo Himself Cameo
2019 Late Night Himself Cameo


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Alice Officer Gary Conroy Episode: "Vera's Anniversary Blues"
Sara Marty Lang 13 episodes
1987 Rags to Riches Freddie Episode: "Pilot"
Hard Knocks Gower 3 episodes
Max Headroom Haskel Episode: "Whacketts"
1988 Newhart Norm Murphy Episode: "The Buck Stops Here"
1989–90 Murder, She Wrote Rick Rivers/Frank Albertson 2 episodes
1991 Charlie Hoover Elliot 4 episodes
1993 Married... with Children Adam Gold Episode: "You Can't Miss"
The Jackie Thomas Show Mr. Lorre Episode: "Strike"
Roseanne Photographer Episode: "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today"
1993–2002 Politically Incorrect Himself (host) 2,266 episodes; also creator, writer and executive producer
1995 Bill Maher: Stuff that Struck Me Funny Himself Stand-up special
1997 Bill Maher: The Golden Goose Special Himself Stand-up special
The Larry Sanders Show Himself Episode: "The Roast"
Dharma & Greg Himself Episode: "Mr. Montgomery Goes to Washington"
1998 V.I.P. Himself Episode: "One Wedding and Val's Funeral"
1999 Spin City Himself Episode: "Politically Incorrect"
Brother's Keeper Himself Episode: "Politically Impolite"
Snoops Himself Episode: "Higher Calling"
2000 Bill Maher: Be More Cynical Himself Stand-up special
2000 The Chris Rock Show Himself Episode: "5.8"
2002 Son of the Beach Himself Episode: "Penetration Island"
2003–present Real Time with Bill Maher Himself (host) Also creator, writer and executive producer
2003 Bill Maher: Victory Begins at Home Himself Stand-up special
2004 MADtv Himself Episode: "10.6"
2005 Bill Maher: I'm Swiss Himself Stand-up special
2007 Bill Maher: The Decider Himself Stand-up special
2008 True Blood Himself Episode: "Strange Love"
2010 Bill Maher: But I'm Not Wrong Himself Stand-up special
The Sarah Silverman Program Himself Episode: "The Silverman and the Pillows"
The Boondocks Himself (voice) Episode: "It's a Black President, Huey Freeman"
2010–2017 Family Guy Himself (voice) 3 episodes
2012 Bill Maher: Crazy Stupid Politics Himself Stand-up special
The Good Wife Himself Episode: "Anatomy of a Joke"
2013 House of Cards Himself Episode: "Chapter 6"
2013–2018 Vice 113 episodes; Executive producer
2014 Bill Maher: Live from D.C. Himself Stand-up special
2015 Blackish Himself Episode: "Elephant in the Room"
2016 Bill Maher: #WhinyLittleBitch Himself Stand-up special
2018 Bill Maher: Live from Oklahoma Himself Stand-up special
2022 Bill Maher: #Adulting Himself Stand-up special

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bill Maher para niños

  • List of animal rights advocates
National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Famous Hispanic activists
Rodolfo Gonzales
Ernesto Galarza
César Chávez
Oscar Zeta Acosta
kids search engine
Bill Maher Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.