A few weeks ago, the Times chatted with comedian and host of HBO's "Real Time," Bill Maher. Maher will perform Saturday at 8 p.m. at Robinson Center Music Hall. Tickets are $60-$86.
I saw that you're going to Alaska this weekend.
Is this your first time to go there or did you finally decide to take the fight directly to Sarah Palin?
I was last there in 1996, so it's been quite a while, I've been anxious to go back. And of course it's beautiful this time of year. I'm not just going to be working, I'm going to be enjoying a little bit of the sights. I've got a helicopter ride organized for Saturday so I can see it from the air and hopefully spot some of the people who were trying to shoot the wolves.
You're not going to do any wolf-shooting yourself?
No, not myself, I'm a wolf lover. I'm on the side of the wolf.
You're on the board of PETA too, right?
That's right. But yeah, I'm really looking forward to that.
Looking at some of your show dates from earlier this year I see you've been to Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas — some of the reddest of red states. How do the crowds differ there versus some progressive utopia like Portland or San Francisco?
The truth is they're the same anywhere. This is true of anyone who does personal appearances. You know, like if you stand outside a Prince concert you'll mostly find Prince fans?
So a Bill Maher crowd is a Bill Maher crowd is a Bill Maher crowd?
Yeah, however there is an extra bit of enthusiasm in these states you've mentioned, what they call the red states, because I think it's more unique for someone like me to be in a state like that and the progressive people who live in those states, I think they find it more of a special event that someone who thinks like them who they don't usually see comes to their state. I also want everybody to know in states like that I don't write off the whole state. You know, just because North Carolina is going insane, I understand that there are lots of people in North Carolina who don't like it that their state is going insane. So yes, I come to every red state I can and I have fun.
Are there jokes that you just know aren't going to fly in Oklahoma? Do you ever tailor it a little bit?
No, I feel like the people who are progressive, free-thinking people, they want that even more. The stand-up crowd is so far superior to any crowd I could ever get anywhere else. They're different than the HBO studio audience — they're a good audience, but they're not nearly as freethinking and tolerant as the stand-up audience. Those people are the real fans, they want you to go to the edge, and I will.
Is the material you're performing now as political as the stuff on your show? Is it more general-purpose laughs?
I think for folks who watch the show, they would be very comfortable and familiar with the type of material that material that I'm interested in. I was never, even when I was a young comedian, I was never interested in trivial stuff, I never did dogs and cats and all that stuff.
Isn't it funny when ...?
Yeah, "Have you ever noticed that ..." I was never that kind of comedian, so I think that the subject matter is similar but the difference with stand-up is that, unlike the show, which is a mixture of the serious and the funny, the stand-up is supposed to be just funny. You should just really make it your business to get them laughing, laughing, hysterically laughing and then "Goodnight." So nothing gets through a stand-up performance that isn't ... if I want to talk about a subject and I don't have the jokes, then I'll just wait until I have the jokes.
Saturday's Harpeth Rising CD Release Concert at The Little Rock Folk Club (Thompson Hall, 1818…
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