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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Bill Maher

Aired May 24, 2002 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher! Exclusive, not just politically incorrect, the show's canceled. Is he upset? What happens now? Bill Maher, in his first interview since losing the late-night gig. We'll take your calls. He's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's always a great pleasure to welcome Bill Maher to this program. He has been on many, many times. We have had him on a much happier occasions. But we now begin with the sad news of the loss of his show. Were you surprised?

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Well, you make it sound like I died of cancer.

KING: No, no, no. It's not that serious, but it's close. It's show business.

MAHER: Yes, but, you know, we had a good run, nine years. That's a long time to have a television show. And I'm very OK with it. I can go back to my first love, Larry, which is illustrating children's books.

KING: Nine years. What, was it five on Comedy Central?

MAHER: No. Five and a half on ABC and three and a half on Comedy Central.

KING: How do they let you know when something like -- who calls? How does this happen?

MAHER: You know, I cleaned up my office on September 18th, which was the day after I made those remarks about the terrorists not being cowards.

KING: You mean, you expected it then?

MAHER: Yes. I pretty much knew it. I mean, you could just feel it. I've been in trouble over there many times. And I was just moving more closer and closer to that executioner's day. And I knew that was kind of it.

I thought it was interesting about two weeks ago, Bush called the terrorists very clever killers. And I thought, boy, the last time I complimented them, I lost a show, which really just shows you how much things have changed in the eight months since September 11. And it really is about timing. You know, what I said -- if I said it today, no one would even blink.

KING: Do you think -- it wasn't ratings? It wasn't loss of advertising?

MAHER: That's what made me angry, was I read in the press -- and by the way, the press is not conservative as people -- some people say its too conserv -- some people say, oh, the press is liberal. It's not either. It's lazy and obnoxious.

And they just got it wrong. I read in the first three stories, I read sinking ratings. Well, that is such an insult to our audience which never went away. And they had to go through a lot of obstacles to see our show. I mean, I don't want to give you the gory details and I've never been into network bashing. I'll remember the good stuff about ABC.

KING: Ted Koppel never promoted you, right?

MAHER: Never even mentioned it. I mean, we were never promoted. And in the last nine months, when we supposedly had these sinking ratings, which we didn't, we didn't exist. They wouldn't even acknowledge us. We were like the bastard stepchild, the mistress you don't want to talk about. We were Monica Lewinsky.

KING: Advertising dropped off everywhere, so that wouldn't have been the reason. And that was coming back.

MAHER: Well, I don't know if it was. But certainly he network as a whole was not in a good place. I mean, it was fourth among three networks, Larry. That's not easy.

KING: How were you told? Who -- did somebody call? How did they handle this in Networkville?

MAHER: Yes, somebody called.

KING: Somebody called you directly and said...

MAHER: Yes, and said, you're fired. You know what I mean, that's what they basically -- you know, they try to couch it in networkese. But that's what it is, and I knew it was coming. And it's completely OK because, you know, as I said in the first newspaper report about it, and it's true, if I had to choose between losing my soul or losing my show, I'm glad I chose losing my show. You know, I never sold out. When I came over to the network, everybody said you're going to lose your edge. You're going to sellout. Well, I didn't and I got fired. And that's OK.

KING: But are they hearing -- I imagine your fans, which are very loyal, have been bugging the network since.

MAHER: You know what? On the first show after we got the news, I said on the air, I said I appreciate everyone calling and e-mailing and letting me know that you want to protest. Please don't.

KING: Don't? MAHER: Don't because, look, this was never going to improve the situation at ABC. And that's not a bash of ABC. It is just a marriage that didn't work. You know, first...

KING: Five and a half years is a pretty long marriage not to work.

MAHER: Because I have a stuff that is tenacious and because I'm a fighter, too. And we kept that show on. You know, it was a plant that got no sunlight and no water and still managed to live.

KING: Why would a network not promote its own? Then why put it on?

MAHER: Because I think when they bought it, they thought "Politically Incorrect," that's a good title but he's not serious about being -- well, yes. I was very serious about being politically incorrect all the time. So, you know, it was just a situation where I was a little too much of a hot potato for...

KING: Did you ever call Ted Koppel and say, Ted, why don't you say stay tuned for "Politically Incorrect?" I mean, that's done all the time in television.

MAHER: Well, no...

KING: Jay Leno says stay tuned...

MAHER: Oh, yes.

KING: They all say it.

MAHER: And they have a seamless switch to the next show, whereas we had six minutes of commercials between "Nightline" and us. It was almost as if the network was...

KING: Why not ask why not? I would've ask why.

MAHER: Well, I guess I did early on.

KING: What did you say?

MAHER: First year -- well, you know, I don't want to talk tales out of school. But, you know, I did write Ted early on and I sent him a kind of a nice letter saying it is an honor to be behind such an esteemed show. And he wrote back. I guess he thought it was funny, but it came across to me as just pompous and nasty.

KING: What did he say?

MAHER: He said something like if I knew you could be so obsequious, I might have done a promo for you. But, I guess that's his sense of humor. But, you know, they never lined up that duck. I mean, when we were brought over there, it was supposed to be, oh, "Nightline," hard news into "Politically Incorrect," comedy news. What a nice, seamless -- but Ted never got that memo. And I'm sure he kind of never said he would do that. And they just assumed they could bring him over and they couldn't.

KING: Was cable a safer place for that show?

MAHER: Well, I guess in the sense that it wasn't canceled. When we were on Comedy Central, we were the big deal there. You know, Comedy Central was a very young network. We moved over to a network that had a lot of other problems, which were sometimes good for us because we were not on their radar.

But when we got on their radar, I don't think they ever watched the show except when there was trouble, except when something bad happened. And they never really understood my point of view about the world or my -- excuse me -- fearlessness in defending it. And so, that's OK. But, you know, I do think I could do what I do somewhere else and be a little more appreciated.

KING: Is "Politically Incorrect" dead or are you talking to people about taking it somewhere else? Today, there's a lot of big universe out there.

MAHER: First of all, I can't -- I wouldn't talk about that on the air because nothing is done.

KING: But, is the show going to -- is there a possibility this show will be seen somewhere else?

MAHER: Well, first of all, I do not want to do this exact show anymore.

KING: Oh, you don't?

MAHER: No. I mean, nine years with one format -- not that that's bad. I mean, you've probably had this for more than nine years.

KING: Seventeen.

MAHER: Seventeen, OK. But, you know, I'm ready to do a slight variation. I would call it P.I. 3.0. I'm ready to go a -- but, you know, I do understand what it is I do that the audience appreciates about what I do. And, so, that's a good thing. But it has evolved a little from when I started the show. I was 10 years younger. I was considered just a comedian then. People now, and I can tell because I hear what they say when they come up to me, they see me a little more as someone with a point of view, a commentator. Someone...

KING: You've been compared to Mark Twain. That ain't bad.

MAHER: Well, just by you.

KING: From someone who is a stand-up comic to be put in the Will Rogers, Mark Twain league ain't bad.

MAHER: No, but I thank you.

KING: Our guest is Bill Maher. We are going to be showing you through the program tonight some of the best moments of "Politically Incorrect" on the air.

And by the way, tomorrow night, Lynne Cheney will be our guest for the hour. And on Monday night, Altovise Davis on the life and times of her late husband, Sammy Davis, Jr. Bill Maher will be taking calls. We'll talk about a lot of other topics as well. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republican party should be entitled to a little bit of symbolism to show that this is a party that really does now reach out to women and tries to reach out to blacks.

DICK MORRIS, FORMER POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Listen, I think...

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: You're laughing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the funniest line of the whole night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got TV-14, right? This show, TV-14, right?

MAHER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who gave it to you?

MAHER: God.

(LAUGHTER)

DENNIS MILLER, COMEDIAN: The death penalty has a P.R. problem because, you know, death penalty sounds so horrible. You know, it should have guys in the life relinquishment program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

MAHER: So when people say why don't you run for office, or why did you get fired? Folks, let me sum it up for you. I think religion is bad and drugs are good.

(APPLAUSE)

I think America causes cancer. Longevity is less important than fun, and young people should be discouraged from voting.

I think stereotypes are true. Abstinence is a perversion. Bush's lies are worse than Clintons. And there is nothing sexy about being old or pregnant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Other than that, the man has no thoughts on anything.

MAHER: And that went on for another three minutes of...

KING: Bill Maher, the moderator of "Politically Incorrect." How many more weeks? When does that show end?

MAHER: OK. We are going until the very end of June. I think June 28th is the last show.

KING: Are you planning a special last show?

MAHER: Well, I don't know if we could...

KING: Tom Cruise going to dance across the stage? Roseanne will come on...

MAHER: Ben Affleck came on tonight's show. Yes, so, it's not -- I've really landed on a bed of feathers in this in a lot of ways because people have been so nice and they let me know immediately that they either missed it already, it hadn't even gone away yet, or somebody people have called up and said I want to come on just before you go?

KING: Any special plans for closing night?

MAHER: I haven't thought about that yet. But I think I would just talk to -- you know, the audience has really been the relationship of my adult life.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) do it yourself? Why not do a stand-up closing night?

MAHER: I could. That's not a bad idea. I was planning to have on the four people who I met through the show and who I became the closest friends with because I got some great friends.

KING: Who are they?

MAHER: Well, one of them would be Arianna Huffington. I mean, there's a lot to choose from. Christopher "Kid" Reid from Kid 'N Play, my boy. Michelle Phillips is a great friend of mine. Ann Coulter -- people think...

KING: You disagree a lot.

MAHER: Yes. But, you know, that's one thing the show taught me. You can disagree and still...

KING: Rumors that you're going on the radio.

MAHER: Yes, there are rumors. Again, I'm not going to say what I'm going to do because nothing has been sealed, signed and delivered. But it intrigues me because I've been in a place for nine years where, in only a half-hour, it's so hard to get out everything I want to say and to be clear and have the time to explain myself, and to create the kind of intimacy with an audience. And everybody who knows me, who actually knows me, says if people could only know the real you...

KING: They would know you.

MAHER: They would know me because you have the time. Radio is all about expanding.

KING: Do you know or have any feelings about Jimmy Kimmel, who is going to do the program that replaces yours?

MAHER: I love Jimmy. I mean, Jimmy was a good guest on our show. And I'm a big fan of "The Man Show." You know, I think everyone is curious how if we were not the appropriate companion to "Nightline," what Jimmy is going to be able to do to bridge the "Nightline" gap. That I think we're all curious about. But, you know, that's his problem now. But I wish him luck. He's a great guy and he's a very funny talent.

KING: What about conforming and dissent since 9/11? As Dan Rather recently told the BBC -- and Dan's going to be with us in a couple of weeks -- patriotism became so strong in the United States after September 11, that it prevented us journalists in the United States from asking difficult questions. Rather says a form of self- censorship has been at work.

MAHER: Well, that's him. Yes, it wasn't at work for me. Right. If you were going to cow to that feeling, yes. But some people didn't. Ted Rahl (ph), the cartoonist, did some amazing things. You know, I'm sure I'm not the only one who got fired or lost his job.

Yes, I mean, it's a matter of putting up or shutting up. But, yes, I would say that one of the big complaints I do have about the Bush administration is they did try to link dissent with treason. Ashcroft said those who would hamper me are aiding terrorists. And Tom Daschle, the leader of the Senate, the opposition party's leader, said something very benign a few months ago about -- before we commit anymore money, we really need to know what direction we're going in. That's all he said. And the response came back from Lott and DeLay, disgusting -- they basically called him a traitor.

And, you know, if you're going to start calling people traitors or bring that up, I could mention a few people who I think are much more traitorist, beginning with companies that move their operations to Bermuda so they don't have to pay taxes. I mean, we're finding out about Enron and those kind of companies that they basically have been doing for the last, I don't know how many years.

What caused that Asian market collapse in the late '90s? Wealthy people did all sorts of ridiculous accounting tricks to hide the money that they were making or not making, counting on corrupt politicians, who they had bought off to look the other way. Well, that is what's sort of going on in America now.

KING: And they're investigating companies that maybe screwed California in the energy crisis. It wasn't a crisis. MAHER: Absolutely. To me, this is a lot more traitorist than Tom Daschle asking, hey fellas, I'm the leader of the opposition party. Could I find out where we're going?

KING: What do you make of this current squabble about the president getting the memo early on?

MAHER: I defended him. You know, I am not, as people think, anti-Bush from the get-go. I do have a lot of problems with him and I could go into those, and I'm sure we will. But when he says something or does something which I think needs or requires defense, I will come to that defense.

And I thought it was disgusting what the Democrats were doing. They were doing to him exactly what the Republicans did to Clinton. We're going to get him. We'll work backwards about how. That's not important. The Democrats are too afraid to take on the real issues because Bush has this enormous popularity rating. So, it's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. They don't criticize Bush because of the approval rating. But because they don't criticize him, he has that high approval rating.

So they go after these kind of little nitpicky (ph) things. What did he know? Well, you know what? That's not really the issue because I'm not so concerned with what Bush knew before September 11. I'm much more concerned with what he's done after September 11. And before September 11, the Republicans, the Democrats and all the people in this country who vote for Republicans and Democrats, we all made a pact: terrorism was not our No. 1 priority. So to look back and start pointing fingers and to pick out the one memo that, oh, see, we found the one that correlates to the thing that happened and now, you're guilty, that's exactly the kind of stuff they did with Clinton.

KING: But how about the FBI story today in Minnesota, where they really recommended -- let's look into this guy? Let's tap into his...

MAHER: Yes. And certainly our law enforcement agencies need a good shaking up. But I will say this: One of the reasons the FBI is hamstrung is because in the last 15 or 20 years, they've been hamstrung with so many more doodies that pandering politicians, when they run for election, will say, we should make it a federal crime to this, to that because, of course, that gets votes.

But then when it becomes law, somebody actually has to do it. So, you know, you have a lot of FBI agents pursuing things that they really probably shouldn't be pursuing because somebody ran on a platform and didn't care about the repercussions down the road.

KING: Bill Maher's our guest. We'll be showing you highlights during the show of wonderful moments from "Politically Incorrect," a show any thinking American is going to miss. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

JAMES CARVILLE, FORMER POLITICAL CONSULTANT: That is not right. That is not right. What is right is President Clinton is the first president since World War II to reduce the deficit three years in a row. It now stands at its lowest point since -- for a long, long time.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: What's the first thing they say when they talk about Colin Powell? What's their compliment? He's well-spoken. Well-spoken is not a compliment. Well-spoken is something you say about people you don't expect to be able to speak. How do they expect Colin Powell to sound? Like, "I'm gonna drop me a bomb today!"

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TONIGHT SHOW")

JAY LENO, HOST: And the Vatican, the Vatican has criticized Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Aniston and Catherine Zeta-Jones for wearing crucifixes as fashion accessories. Still, that's good news, isn't it? It's nice to see someone in the Catholic Church looking at women for a change. At least, that's a step up. Come on. At least they're paying attention. Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bill Maher. Last month, Bill got the First Amendment Award at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. He was also selected as this year's recipients of the President's Award by the L.A. Press Club. Since Leno was talking about it there, what do you make of this Catholic situation?

MAHER: Well, you know, I was raised Catholic, Larry.

KING: Catholic and Jewish, right?

MAHER: Well, I wasn't raised Jewish. My mother is Jewish. But I never even knew I was half-Jewish until I was a teen-ager. I was just so frightened about the Catholics and everything that was going on there in the church -- and I was never, you know, molested or anything. And I'm a little insulted. I guess they never found me attractive. And that's really their loss.

KING: You were special, Bill.

MAHER: I was very special. You know, I'm just -- I'm shocked that people are finding out that priests are no altar boys, you know. It's the institution that really needs fixing, and of course you really can't fix an institution when it is religion. Because when you say religion, immediately you can get away with anything. I mean, look at what the Muslims did with women around the world. If you did that to anybody else, if it wasn't under the guise of religion, you could never get away with stuff like that. So...

KING: You see no good in religion?

MAHER: Not very much, no. I don't. I mean, as long as there are people who think that this is the only way, you're going to have wars and killing and death. I don't think the hate that comes from the Muslim world comes from religion. The hate comes from some place deeper. But the religion gives it a noble framework to put it in. So, that's why it's extremely dangerous.

KING: So this act I'm doing is a noble thing, I'm doing it for a higher power.

MAHER: For a higher power, exactly. And as long as one religion says, "I am the way and the truth and the light and the only way to the Father is through me," and the other one says, "Mohammed is the only prophet and Allah is the only God," and people believe that to the death, I mean, they're going to...

KING: Why hasn't the church, Bill, come down harder on the priests who have done this?

MAHER: Because they didn't have to. Because again, it's religion. It's the thin black line I call it. You know, it's like the cops protect each other, so do the priests. And it's just amazingly hypocritical that they have zero tolerance for just about everything else. I mean, you know, I remember when I was a kid being deathly afraid when I got to be 12 or 13 of what they called "a nocturnal emission." Do you know what that is in the Catholic Church? Sounds like something from NASA. But it means, you know, if you should have a...

KING: A release.

MAHER: ... a release in your sleep -- I couldn't stop it when I was awake, but you know -- in your sleep. That's when I said, you know, I'm never going to satisfy these people, these are -- but I mean, that was a sin. But when you screw around with a kid -- you know, say three hail Marys, and you know, we'll send you to another diocese.

KING: Some other things.

MAHER: Yeah.

KING: Color signals for terror. We're in a yellow now. We are in yellow. I had Vice President Cheney on the other night; he acknowledged that yellow is serious, and we've got the Memorial Day weekend. What do you think of this color idea?

MAHER: But they don't really ever say what to do. It's like yellow -- take a sweater. You know, I mean, I don't know what's supposed to come after that, you know. It's...

KING: Be on guard. MAHER: Be on guard. It's just all so much covering their ass. I mean, they really made me mad this last week when after the "Bush knew" flap hit, the Republicans threw a little temper tantrum, because they're not used to being questioned. And as I just said, I think the Democrats were not right to say that, what did Bush know and how did he mispronounce it. No, that was a bad question.

But they shouldn't have thrown this temper tantrum this week, with, oh, you know what, you want to know what we know -- you want a warning? It's going to hit you in your apartment building, it's going to be in the water, that thing we do...

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: Bridges are coming down. That was not a good thing. And I know in Washington, it's a big trick of theirs to lower expectations. You know, I remember when the Iraqi oil fires were burning, they said, it's going to take five years to put them out. Well, they were out in eight months. Y2K, remember, we were all going to be foraging for food with mutants. You know, AIDS was going to explode into the heterosexual community.

None of this stuff ever happened. But you know, this is war now, fellows. You really got to do a little better than just, you know, beating the expectations is not as important as beating the terrorists. And I think they don't have that through their head.

KING: When they say something is going to happen, not will it happen, it will happen, what do you do with something like that, logically? Terror will occur again. What do you do with that?

MAHER: Well, they did -- there was one time, it was back in the fall, they said 100 percent chance tomorrow -- and I thought, that's a very high percentage. How do you know that? Are you doing it? I mean, how do you know -- and of course nothing happened. And I think the more -- I don't know what you do, actually, Larry. I mean, if they say it's going to be the bridge, stay off the bridge, obviously.

But I think at a certain point, we hear this over and over again, it becomes crying wolf. It becomes, oh, you know, we're on yellow again. Great. So, you know. And people become very fatalistic about it.

I think the more important thing is to get people to change their attitudes. You know, the other thing I'm mad about Bush is, he had a golden opportunity, he had a window of about -- I would say -- six weeks, maybe two months, when we were ready to change as a people. And he did not take advantage of that opportunity. And now, that window is completely closed.

KING: Change as how?

MAHER: Change our attitudes. I mean, this past week the news was filled once again with Gary Condit and sharks, Larry. When it's back to Condit and sharks, nothing has changed. But I mean, after September 11, until about maybe Thanksgiving, people I think were ready to adjust their attitude a little. To have some priority adjustment. How have we changed? Not at all. I mean, people act like if you say to them, well, you should drive a car that gets better gas mileage like you're affronting the Bill of Rights. I'm an American and I'll drive whatever I want.

I mean, can you imagine in World War II, when we were saving tin and stuff like that, if somebody said, you know what, I'll use all the damn tin I feel like. I'm an American. This is nonsense that we have to be loyal to our flaws. Yeah, I'm dumb and I don't know much about foreigners and I eat like a pig and I waste a lot of stuff, but that's American. You know, I mean, this silly theory people have that if you do anything differently, they win. Well, no. If you become less gluttonous, less greedy, less myopic, more savvy about the world in general, they don't win; you win. We all win.

KING: Bill Maher's our guest. We're going to be including your phone calls for Bill Maher of "Politically Incorrect." Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN: I think one of the problems is attaching the spiritual need and hunger to a thing called God. The fact that we are taught to believe there's an invisible man who lives in the sky who has a list of 10 things he doesn't want you to do, who watches you every minute and if you do something he doesn't like you're going to burn forever -- yet he loves you! He loves you!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

MAHER: You defended the Menendez kids. What do you care about facts?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You actually don't know anything about facts.

MAHER: I know they blew their parents heads off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they didn't.

MAHER: What did they do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They unloaded shotguns in their direction, but they...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Great moments from "Politically Incorrect." And he's had...

MAHER: That's one of my favorites.

KING: ... a ton of them. That was great. Altovise Davis on the life and times of her late husband Sammy Davis Monday night. Lynne Cheney tomorrow night. Let's include some calls for Bill Maher. Houston, Texas, hello.

MAHER: Uh-oh.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi.

MAHER: Hi.

CALLER: You just gave all these reasons why you wouldn't run for office, but I don't see -- those views are the very reason you should run. And you can be more representative of a large group of people. How do you use that as a reason?

KING: That's a good question.

MAHER: OK. And thank you, I think, for the support. And I love all the people who do support those views. But we are a minority, a distinct minority. And minorities don't win.

KING: How do you get to be a majority?

MAHER: You don't. Not in my lifetime. Do you think in my lifetime people are going to believe all those things I said, that religion is bad and drugs are good? And you know, I'm for mad cow disease. You know, these are...

KING: You're for mad cow disease?

MAHER: Yeah.

KING: Why, Bill?

MAHER: That's the truth, a lot of -- it needs explaining. Because if there were a few cases of mad cow disease in this country, so many lives would be saved in the long run, because people would stop eating meat, which is an ecological disaster, to say nothing of what it does to you internally.

And I'm not, look, I'm not a communist. People can do whatever they want. I'm more of a libertarian. If you want to kill yourself, kill yourself, fine. I'm pro-death. But to have some of these substances that are poisonous on the OK list and some of them get people in jail I'm not for that. And meat, it takes -- I think it takes 7,000 pounds of water and 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of meat. So it's not good for the part of the world that's starving. It's not good for us. And factory farming causes way more pollution to our rivers and streams than anything in industry.

KING: But you think if you ran for office, you'd be just the still small voice in the night, even if you were elected?

MAHER: Yeah. I mean, you could never -- you could never overcome what I consider the true axis of evil in America, which is the brilliance of our marketing people, combined with the naivete and often just plain dumbness of our population. That's the real axis of evil. Marketers can make you believe anything. They can sell you anything. Anything from George Bush to dog food. It doesn't matter. And when you have the kind of money that big-time politicians have, they can make you believe what they want you to believe. And that's kind of why we're...

KING: You agree with Mencken who said, "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people?"

MAHER: Almost no one, right. Yeah. So you know, I appreciate -- I think I told you this once -- in focus groups they always found that 14 percent of the people agreed with me most of the time. And that's about right. And it's funny the way I see that figure around that figure. About 14 percent of people now say they don't believe in religion, which is up 7 percent in a decade, which I think is good news. About only 16 percent of the people in America now think that international affairs, including terrorism, should be our number one priority. Can you imagine that? Only eight months after this attack, which supposedly transformed our nation, and only 16 percent of the people think now it should be our number one priority.

KING: What do you make of that? That don't sound -- that's illogical.

MAHER: It's not illogical for a nation that is self-indulgent, as it was before September 11, and it is now. I mean, truly nothing has changed in this nation since September 11. And that's OK, because people bother me when they clap themselves on the back and say, we're supporting our troops. No, you're not. If you're driving a big gas- guzzling car, you're actually making it more likely that those troops will have to go somewhere in the world to defend that oil, because the guys who are hating us have the oil and we have the Lincoln Navigators.

So, you know, don't say you're supporting our troops and not do the hard work of making the connections to where that follows up here on the home front.

KING: What do you make of the TV trends in reality shows, including "Celebrity Boxing," "The Bachelor," "Fear Factor"?

MAHER: Oh, "The Bachelor," I went all over town on that one. Because "The Bachelor" -- you know, they have these 25 women who said, well, it is kind of a humiliating thing to do, but we have to because there's no good men out there.

Well, that's not true. There's plenty of good men out there. It's just that women have been fed this pandering nonsense from the Oprah/Dr. Phil propaganda machine. We have pandered to their fantasies and their fairy tales. And so they believe that everybody -- every guy should be the bachelor. There's a lot of good men out there. But you know, they're plumbers, and Larry, you know, a creature like no other can't marry a plumber. She has got to have Alex.

KING: So that show then plays to that common denominator. Aren't the Dr. Phils and the Oprahs helpful? They care about people. They try to make people better than they were.

MAHER: No, I don't think they're helpful at all, because I think they feed this idea -- somewhere along the line, it became national law that women are spiritual, ethereal, perfect beings, and men are brutish louts. And you know, I feel sorry for the lummox who comes home at 6:00 and hasn't been watching Oprah all day and doesn't understand about what he's supposed to be and what men are supposed to be, because he was at work all day.

KING: You think they're anti-men?

MAHER: I think the country is. I mean, look at all of our culture. It's always head up his ass dad and brilliant mom, who somehow -- you know, she treats the husband like one of the children. And somehow she's martyred and put upon. But she gets through the day, even with old dummy on her, you know...

KING: "Life of Riley" lives.

MAHER: Yeah.

KING: Our guest is Bill Maher. More phone calls, more highlights from previous shows. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR: Sexuality is a window to true spiritual liberation.

(LAUGHTER)

ALAN THICKE, ACTOR: You can go into marriage with all of the confidence and love and trust that an airtight pre-nup can offer.

SUZANNE SUMMERS, ACTRESS: When you first fall in love with somebody, you just like -- you just want it.

DANA CARVEY, COMEDIAN: What do you mean? Describe that.

(LAUGHTER)

SOMMERS: You want it. You both want it.

CARVEY: You want what?

SOMMERS: A lot. All the time.

CARVEY: You got to have it.

SOMMERS: You got to have it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: New York City is on one of those terror alert things. Now here's what you do. If you see anything suspicious, you make a note of it and you send it off to Washington and it should get to President Bush sometime within the next couple of years.

(LAUGHTER)

So that's all you got to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You're right. Now that kind of humor eight months ago, forget it.

MAHER: Oh, absolutely. Right.

KING: Ellijay, Georgia for Bill Maher. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, thank you very much. Great show. Mr. Maher, how would you compare President Bush with his father and with former President Bill Clinton?

MAHER: Well, I think he's a lot more like Bill Clinton than people realize. He's a complete political animal. I mean, that's one thing that bothers me about Bush is that he's always saying I don't listen to the polls. I follow my gut. Oh, please. Please.

He is the most poll-driven political person I can think of. And that's why he got there. But, you know, when you go back to politics as usual, which is what he has done, you send a message that the war's over. Stuff isn't that important. You know, the war stuff is not that dire because I can care about the swing states more than I care about Iraq. That's the message when he -- remember the steel tariff thing.

OK, you know, when you upset our allies who you are telling us one day we have to get on board to fight the war on terror and civilization is at stake, and the next day sell them out so that you can win Pennsylvania, that is not patriotic. I'm sorry. That is not what a real...

KING: You compare him more to Clinton than say his father?

MAHER: Well, his father, at least -- you know, when his father raised taxes, he probably knew he was losing the election. To me, it's sort of comparable to my situation. We were talking in the break about Chris Rock. And I said he, like me, is somebody who is not afraid to get booed because we are two comedians who enjoy unsettling people's opinions.

It's easy to go out there and confirm prejudices. But when a politician does that, Kennedy sending troops into the south in 1963, losing the south, which before then, was the solid south meaning Democratic, for a generation, maybe getting himself killed for it, who knows? Certainly he would have had trouble winning the election. He would not have won all the southern states again.

George Bush, after read my lips, no new taxes, raising taxes because it was the right thing to do, those are the presidents I admire because they give up what they prize the most, which is election, for the greater good. And you have to do that because it's a very bratty nation with bratty voters.

KING: What do you think of the Daniel Pearl thing, CBS showing parts of that video of his...

MAHER: That is another -- we have talked about this before. The feminization of America.

KING: Does that have to do with the...

MAHER: Well, I'll tell you. I mean, I would like to find a different word for that, first of all because women get very upset when you say feminization. I understand why because there's a lot of brilliant women in this country who are very logical and ruthlessly smart. And there's a lot of men who aren't.

But until we can find another word, there has to be some word to describe a situation like this, where a widow calls up a news station and says, this would hurt too much. I don't want to have this video shown. Now if you don't know what the video was, it was not just Daniel Pearl's execution. This was a tape -- a recruiting tape that the guys who are sworn to annihilate us made us, and it fell into the hands of a news service. It was footage of Israelis doing things to Palestinians, all stuff made to whip up the blood of terrorists intercut with the Daniel Pearl execution.

Now, I'm sorry, Mrs. Pearl. I respect you and I feel sorry for you, but this is news. This is not lurid just for lurid's sake. I do want to see. I want to know what those guys who are out for us are plotting and thinking. I think it's a good thing for us to see that. I think this whole country should be a little more savvy about what is going on in the world instead of just turning off to it. I think they turned off to it right after September 11. It was like, oh, thank God turned into a genius. I don't have to pay any attention any more, because that would cause stress. And, you know, the important thing, Larry, is to feel better.

You know, we used to win to feel better. Now, we feel better to win. And on this tape...

KING: So, it would be helpful to see what what the enemy is doing? MAHER: I think all of America should see Daniel Pearl saying, I'm a Jew. My father was a Jew and my mother was a Jew. That's what they made him say right before they killed him. That's who we're dealing with.

I mean, can you imagine if a black reporter went into an area of the world that was hostile to blacks and was forced to say, I'm a black. My mother was a black. And my father was a black. Good-bye. I think there would be a huge outcry. But when it's the Jews, it's just, well, what are you going to do? Everybody hates the Jews. You know, that's been going on forever. I mean, there is such a double standard the way people treat and uphold Israel and the Jews to standards no other country would even have to come close to.

KING: Bill Maher's our guest. Hard to draw him out, but we keep trying. Back with some more after this.

Don't forget, Altovise Davis will be with us on Monday night on the life and times of Sammy Davis with some incredible film. And Lynne Cheney tomorrow. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not even allowed to speak.

SANDRA BERNHARDT, COMEDIAN: Look, man, let me tell you something. I'm here. I'm a woman. I am speaking and you will treat me and every other woman with respect and dignity.

(APPLAUSE)

ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": Obviously, we shop at the same clothing store.

VICKI LAWRENCE, COMEDIAN: You know, it's very different in New York. You can sit on the subway and shoot people. Out here in L.A., you have to learn to drive and shoot.

PAUL RODRIGUEZ, COMEDIAN: But I will tell you this. Had O.J. been married to a Mexican woman named Lupe, we would have been mourning his loss now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "POLITICALLY INCORRECT")

MAHER: One-fourth of our young black men are in prison, on parole or in some crummy sitcom on Fox.

Have you ever experienced fear of a person of another race?

DON RICKLES, COMEDIAN: Not because they were of that race.

MAHER: Oh, please. (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever met Little Richard?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this panel. The only person here who has not been convicted or under indictment is gay.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I love G. Gordon.

MAHER: Yeah.

KING: Washington, D.C. for Bill Maher, hello?

CALLER: Yes, Bill? I wanted to ask you, what do you think of "The Osbournes," and do you think they're positively contributing to our concept of family values?

KING: Even Dan Quayle had some nice things to say about "The Osbournes."

MAHER: I've watched it three or four times. I don't find it that terribly amusing, and I read the other day some horrible things Ozzy has said and done to animals, so I don't like "The Osbournes."

KING: You don't?

MAHER: No.

KING: But what do you think of their sudden rejuvenation as the family values in America?

MAHER: Boy, if that's where the bar is set, you know, that Ozzy can get through the kitchen without stepping in the dog bowl and we all cheer. Kind of reminds me.

KING: Syracuse, New York, hello?

CALLER: Hi.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I'd like to ask, if you could have any one guest on before you go off the air, who might that be?

MAHER: I've always wanted to have Larry King, but he couldn't because CNN wouldn't let him, right?

KING: Give opinions. Can't go on your show and give opinions.

MAHER: But Larry King would have been pretty high on my list, and I'm not just saying that because he's sitting right in front of me. But yeah. But oh, gosh, there's so many. I mean, it's funny, now that we're going off, people are calling. You know, they want...

KING: Really?

MAHER: Yeah. It's funny that when you are in your death throes, people somehow...

KING: Do you have at all the feeling of rejection? Or do you feel I did what I was going to do, and it didn't work, but I don't take that as no?

MAHER: Well, I do take it as no from a group of people, which I would say makes up the mainstream, that I made peace with having that no from a long time ago. I mean, that nice lady asked, why can't I run? Again, because I do not represent the thoughts of the majority. And that's OK. Because the majority to me is not always that wise. And people have this crazy idea that this country was founded by our founding fathers on the idea of -- as much input as we can get from the people.

Quite the opposite. Our founding fathers made this a republic and not a democracy because they feared the mob. So did the Greeks. They did not think that the mob -- not really the mob but the vast majority -- should be that connected to government. That is why they put Washington where it was, away from the financial centers, which is all about what's going on now with campaign finance reform. They never wanted that kind of influence. And they certainly didn't want it from the howling masses.

So, you know, when people say, you don't conform necessarily to the broad mainstream, I say, "thank you." I'll take that as a compliment.

KING: During the next six months before you do anything, are you going to do stand-up? Are you going to be around?

MAHER: Always. Never stopped doing stand-up. That is the great clarifier in my life. It's just always a pleasure, first of all, to go out there. See, when I do stand-up, I'm with that 15 percent. That's who comes to see me. So I don't have to convince anybody of anything. I have just got to go up and we have this great dialogue.

I was about to say to you before, I mean, this relationship that I have developed with my audience over these years is really the relationship of my life. I mean, I have haven't had a, you know, a steady orthodox girlfriend for the last nine years, and I think one of the reasons why is my girlfriend has been "Politically Incorrect."

KING: Really?

MAHER: Yeah. I mean, that's the relationship of my life is me with those people. It's kind of like people in the minority. We're in a minority. And so we feel this kind of special kinship, like black people feel for each other, because they know what it's like to be not in the mainstream, not in the majority. (CROSSTALK)

MAHER: They do.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER: And our minority is a little more hard to define, but the love is no less deep.

KING: How is your staff dealing with it?

MAHER: I guess they're disappointed. I mean, I have great love for them, too. I should tell them more and I don't, and that's bad. But I think I probably could have left earlier, but I stayed a little -- I mean, I'm staying the whole next month, because I wanted them to have time to find a job and get a few more paychecks, and so forth. And a lot of these people followed the show to L.A. when it was in New York years ago. A lot of them could have jumped ship anytime from September on, when the writing was on the wall. Nobody did. They all believed in the project. They all stayed with it. And in the future, I hope there's places where we can work together again.

KING: Super guy, Bill.

MAHER: Thank you, Larry. As always.

KING: Bill Maher, the host of "Politically Incorrect." It's always good having him with us, and he will always be a guest on this show, no matter where his travels take him.

By the way, among our guests next week, Anna Nicole Smith -- there's a joke in there somewhere -- and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Both next week on LARRY KING LIVE! (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MAHER: I'm sure he's going to cover her up a little bit.

KING: When we come back, we'll tell you about tomorrow night right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What if your daughter grew up, had a problem, came to you with that problem all fathers fear, how would you deal with it?

DAN QUAYLE: Well, it is a hypothetical situation and I hope I never do have to deal with it, but obviously I would counsel her and talk to her and support her on whatever decision she'd make.

KING: And if the decision was abortion, you'd support her?

QUAYLE: I'd support my daughter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Always great having Bill Maher with us. Tomorrow night, Lynne Cheney will be with us. She's got a new children's book out. Very well done, by the way. And Monday night, Altovise Davis, the widow of Sammy Davis Jr., with lots of that great entertainer in action.

Now, another great entertainer of a different sort in action, the host of "NEWSNIGHT," Aaron Brown in New York.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com





 
 
 
 


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