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Interview With Comedian Bill Maher

Aired March 3, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher. Now that John Kerry's taking on President Bush, America's most controversial comic is here to take on John Kerry and the president and Martha Stewart and Mel Gibson's new movie, you name it, shooting from the lip, all the news of the day with my man, Bill Maher, for the hour, with all your phone calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Usually, we're sitting right together, but tonight I'm in Washington, Bill Maher is in the friendly confines of our studios in Los Angeles. One program note. Katie Couric will be our special guest tomorrow night.

Bill Maher is the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher." It airs every Friday night on HBO at 8:00 o'clock and encores at 11:30. And there's also shows frequently throughout the week. His stand-up show, "Victory Begins at Home," which was taped live on Broadway and aired on HBO is now available on DVD. And he's author of "The New York Times" best-seller "When You Ride Alone" -- there you see it's cover -- "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden."

All right, what's the Bill Maher read on John Kerry winning it all?

BILL MAHER, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Well, we have an eight-month election now, Larry. That can't be good for us. It can't be good -- can't be good to...


MAHER: I mean, I don't know if we're up for that, you know, if -- I think John Kerry probably would have actually liked it better if John Edwards had been in it for a longer time because, this way, you know, it's all about him now. He's walking point, as he might say about his Vietnam service, and the Republican slime machine, of course, will be getting busy. I'm sure there'll be pictures of him tomorrow on a chopper with Peter Fonda, going to New Orleans to sell acid. So I don't know if that's a good thing for him, but you know, that's what we have.

And I thought Edwards pulled out in a very classy way. You know, he understood that when you pull out of one of these things, it's very critical, and I thought he did it right.

KING: When or what do you think will be the vice presidential thinking?

MAHER: Oh, God. That's the other thing that we're going to have to talk about for six months. The press will beat that horse until it's a belt. Trust me, Larry, you'll be sitting here with Anna Nicole Smith, saying, What do you think of Evan Bayh? I mean, it seems obvious that it should be Edwards because he obviously ran. He -- it was win, place and show, and he placed. But I don't know how they feel about each other, and I don't know if they'll make the decision based more politically.

In other words, I think Bob Graham, for example, could be an attractive candidate because he would bring Florida, perhaps. And that's a key state, obviously. And also, he could go after Bush on Saudi Arabia, 9/11. He was on the Intelligence Committee. He was the one who was screaming about the blacked-out sections of the 9/11 report. So I think that's an issue that the president is vulnerable on. I know he's been stonewalling that 9/11 commission. He keeps saying, Hey, you know, you can have one hour with me, and only the chair and the co-chair -- you know, like it's an interview with Mary Hart. I don't understand that.

KING: This going to be a very rough election, do you think, very tough? I mean, close and hard-fought and all the rest?

MAHER: I've never known one that wasn't, but especially when the Bush family is involved -- I know they're all about the honor and integrity, Larry, but somehow, when it comes down to election time, I've never known a family that got more into the gutter, whether it was what they did to John McCain in the year 2000, accusing him of everything from being pro-breast cancer to fathering a black baby, or obviously, the campaign that George Bush's father ran in '88 against Dukakis, which was all about Willie Horton and the Pledge of Allegiance. You already see some of the wedge issues that they're trying to get up on the board for their team -- gay marriage...

MAHER: How well will Kerry hold up?

MAHER: Well, I don't know. It depends on -- a lot of it depends on whether people are still scared by this word "liberal." I know that already, they're calling him the most liberal senator in the Senate. And I saw in the debate that you moderated -- and very well, I might add...

MAHER: Thank you.

MAHER: ... that John Kerry is not going to probably stand up for that word, and I think that's a shame. I think when the Democrat runs away from the word "liberal," they're in big trouble because that's not a bad word. And I think the electorate is more liberal than they would like to admit. They just don't like the word. You know, it's very often the case that the Republicans get hold of a word and they define it. People don't like the word "profiling," for example. But I've said before, if they just called it "intelligent screening," people would go, You know, it's about time we had some of that.

KING: Two of the big liberal concepts, Medicare and Social Security -- I think the public likes them. They don't like the word "liberal."

MAHER: They don't like the word "liberal," that's right.

KING: OK. What do you make of Dick Cheney out doing interviews and squelching rumors that he might be removed from the ticket?

MAHER: You know, Dick Cheney to me is a liability on that ticket, but that's not apparently the way they see it in Republican circles. Dick Cheney, obviously, is somebody who's very important to this president as a counselor and -- but I would not be surprised if -- at the last minute, if they are in a tight race and they see that, they would dump him in a heartbeat. Dick Cheney would go overboard in a second if they thought that Rudy Giuliani could win this election for them or somebody like that they needed to do put on the ticket. If they found out that these culture wars, perhaps, were backfiring on them and they wanted someone with a more moderate face, I could see the call going out to Christie Todd Whitman or Giuliani or somebody like that.

MAHER: What's your take on this whole gay marriage issue and what kind of role it's going to play in the campaign?

MAHER: Well, first off, I think it's so ironic that gays have probably planned every big, elaborate wedding in history, with the flowers and the dresses. And then when you see them on television, where they get married to each other, it has all the romance of renewing your driver's license. I find that amusing.

KING: In other words, they are -- you're saying wedding planners are gay? Is that what you're saying?

MAHER: Yes. I mean, weddings are such a gay thing, but when they do it, absolutely no romance at all. They're just on the steps with a blank piece of paper and a clipboard.

KING: Do you favor their right to do it?

MAHER: Of course! Again, we've talked about this, but it wouldn't even be an issue without the religious part of it. And I also think it's silly to try to stop it. You know, the way it started in Boston and -- Massachusetts, rather, and went to San Francisco, then the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, said he'd be OK with it, New Mexico -- it kind of reminds me of when the Berlin Wall fell, when communism was falling. Remember, it started in Czechoslovakia and then it went it Hungary and then the Berlin Wall fell, and then finally, it got to the Baltic states, and then Russia. It seems like it's happening again that way.

And if the right wing would relent a little and understand that they're not threatened by gay marriage -- I don't understand what the threat is. Somebody has to tell me why their values -- what values are threatened by gay people getting married? What values? Freedom? Honesty? Integrity? Loyalty? Generosity? Kindness? All these things, to me, would be served by letting two consenting adults live happily ever after. I don't see where the threat to values comes in. I just don't.

KING: Ralph Nader was a guest on your show the other night. Is he going to hurt the Democrats, or is he going to be a nonentity?

MAHER: To me, it's a nonentity because all of the love that Democrats have for John Kerry is really hate for George Bush. I hate to put it that way, but it's true. I mean, Kerry love is Bush hate. I don't think the American public is terribly quick, but I will give them credit for this. It took them about three years to catch up to George Bush, but they finally did. About half of this country really has caught on that this is not a president who really should be defined by honor and integrity. I'm not saying he's a lot worse than other people we've had. But honor and integrity? I don't think so. Honesty? I don't think so. I think he's an extremely selfish president who's using every bit of the treasury to get reelected.

I laugh when people say he's got a $200 million war chest. Are you kidding? He's got a $2 trillion war chest. He's using every penny in the treasury to get elected, to hand out money to farm subsidies, to buy off votes with any kind of pork he can think of, the Medicare entitlement bill. That's selfish. People are kind of onto that, and I think they think he's way too bought off by corporations. And I think they realize that he tells a bigger lie than Bill Clinton did about things that were important. Iraq -- perfect example. I'm not really against the whole idea, as we have discussed, but if he had just been honest about Iraq, if he had just said, Look, it's a Texas thing.

KING: Well, but maybe he had the wrong information.

MAHER: It's a Texas thing. They tried to get my daddy, and I got to get them. Has nothing to do with 9/11.

KING: Let me get a break, and we'll come back with Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO. At the bottom of the hour, we'll be including your phone calls, as we always do. Katie Couric tomorrow night. We'll be right back.


MAHER: I don't know if you've seen how dirty this campaign has gotten already. Did you see the -- show the Kerry picture that this guy -- this is an idiot named Ted Sampley (ph) put on -- now this is the real -- right. And then they put him in with -- show the -- this is the one that appeared on the Web site. They put him in with Jane Fonda. And this is just the beginning. I have some other ones here that I wanted to show you that they have doctored up. That's going to hurt with the NASCAR dads. Look at that. Some of these are just wrong. That's going to be bad with the soccer moms.




DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Well, you heard about, I guess. Early in the week, George W. Bush, our president, is calling for a constitutional amendment to ban gay weddings. Sounds like somebody didn't get an invitation to Rosie's wedding.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Hey, have you heard this rumor that President Bush may be dumping Dick Cheney from the ticket? Did you hear about this? He doesn't want to drop Cheney, but he felt two guys running together on the same ticket might look too gay.


KING: Our guest is Bill Maher, part of the great American humor scene. He's one of the best, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher," the author of "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden."

All right, let's get into other areas. At the bottom of the hour, we'll take phone calls. What do you make of a non-United States citizen -- a constitutional amendment to make a non-United States citizen eligible to run for the presidency, which might affect the governor of your state?

MAHER: Yes, when Arnold Schwarzenegger brought that up, I had no idea why he was doing so. And then I learned he's not from America, Larry. He's actually from Australia. You would never know it if you heard him talk.

KING: Austria. Austria.

MAHER: Austria. Right. Sorry. You'd never know it, as I say, by hearing him talk, but then, he is a very highly skilled actor.

KING: What do you think of the idea, though? Why can't non- citizens be...

MAHER: I agree. It's about time. Certainly, people who have been here, a lot of them came over when they were children. This is a country of immigrants. And I personally happen to think foreigners are usually a lot more sensible about -- especially social issues. We were talking about gay marriage a minute ago. Do you think that would be an issue to a foreigner? I don't think so. In Europe, they're over marriage as a concept altogether.

KING: In fact, Schwarzenegger even said the other night that if they want gay marriage, he wouldn't be opposed to that.

MAHER: Right.

KING: And he doesn't favor a constitutional amendment to make gay marriage (UNINTELLIGIBLE) All right, let's -- what about these indecency hearings? In the wake of the Super Bowl breast-gate, Congress is now holding hearings, and the -- Howard Stern is suspended by radio stations and people are in an uproar. What do you make of the whole mishegoss?

MAHER: Again, if he we had a foreigner as president, I think things would change. You know, that whole Super Bowl incident to me was an O.J. moment. And when I say an O.J. moment, we all recall how, at the end -- when the verdict came in in the O.J. trial, we were shocked to find that, Wow, this is really where America is, completely divided. White people and black people don't see things at all the same way. And this was sort of an O.J. moment culturally, for me, anyway. I was shocked that America was shocked. It was, after all, one blurry second of a woman's breast. They made it sound like, you know, a porn move had been shown in the middle of the Super Bowl. I just don't understand that.

And you mention Howard Stern. Same thing. You know, I'm not a fan, really, but what happened to him was the same thing that happened to me. You get yanked off the air by people who weren't watching your show to begin with. That doesn't seem really fair. It just seems like Howard Stern got swept up, the way politicians once a year -- you know, they have to sweep all the prostitutes off the street and make it look good. And of course, we're talking about the FCC, which is one of the most corrupt bodies in Washington, D.C.

MAHER: Corrupt How?

MAHER: Corrupt how? I was talking about this with a congresswoman on my show recently. In the last eight years, the regulators at the FCC have accepted 2,500 trips abroad, or in America, but to vacation-type places, from the people who they are supposed to be regulating, from broadcast companies -- 2,500 trips. And you know, when people go on trips, Larry, they have a good time. Trips are good. You get away from the house. You get away from the kids.

KING: Trips are good.

MAHER: Trips are good. You remember the person who gave you that trip, and you have a kind of an inclination to be nice to them when you get back to the office. So yes, they are a corrupt body. And when they say the people own the airwaves -- can we put that old conundrum aside? The people don't own the airwaves. Rupert Murdoch owns the airwaves. The people own a Magnavox.

KING: Are you concerned that this -- decency hearings could carry on into censorship?

MAHER: I think it already has. It's had a very chilling effect. Anytime you call those heads of the broadcast networks in on the carpet and give them a scolding -- they pretend that they're on some sort of fact-finding mission, We have to find out what's going on at the networks. They know what's going on at the networks, they just don't like it. God forbid that these senators and congressmen who got so upset about the one second of Janet Jackson would ever turn on MTV. Why don't you look at what your children are watching 24/7? I promise you, you would be shocked. You would be appalled to know that your kids are basically watching what people see when they go to a strip club. That's what MTV is, it's a strip club with better music.

KING: Our guest is Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher." Your calls at the bottom of the hour. Back with more right after this. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LENO: See, I'm on that new Ralph Nader exercise program. See the difference? Anybody on this Ralph Nader exercise? It's not very strenuous. You only run for a couple of months every four years. That's it. Then you're fine. You don't have to do anything else. Just sit back.

LETTERMAN: I thought this was fascinating. According to a new poll, if the presidential election were held tomorrow, a lot of folks would be taken by surprise because you can't just have an election tomorrow. It'll be in November! People wouldn't know where to go! Oh, come on!




MAHER: And for the record, all marriages are same-sex marriages. You get married, and every night, it's the same sex.


KING: One of the great lines in recent television history -- Bill Maher.

By the way, congratulations. Today's your mom's birthday. My (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tells me.

MAHER: And Larry King sent flowers to my mother. How about that? He remembered. Larry, you did, from the last time I was on. You said, You're going to be back March 3. I said, My mother's birthday. Somehow, you remember that, and I can't tell you how touched she was. So thank you so much.

KING: I know how close you are to your mom. How old is she?

MAHER: Well, she probably doesn't want me to say, but you know...

KING: OK. We won't say.

MAHER: You know what? She's 85. I know what she...

KING: When you're 85, you boast.

MAHER: Right. And she hates that. She hates that people are applauding, going, Oh, she's 85, because she hates that whole idea of, Well, you're doing well for 85. You know what? She's doing well for any age. I don't know anybody who's as sharp as she is. So happy birthday, Mom.

KING: Your dad, by the way, was a broadcaster for the Mutual Network, right?

MAHER: Absolutely. KING: OK, other things. We were both at the same party, we missed each other, though, Sunday night at the "Vanity Fair" party following the Oscars.;

MAHER: Right.

KING: What did you think of this year's Oscars?

MAHER: The same as every year's Oscars. And every year, they complain that it's too long, and they never do anything to change it. I don't understand that. If I was running the Oscars, I would make a lot of changes. I would cut out that dead people montage. It's depressing. And when people start applauding, it sounds like they're applauding the fact that they died. It's awful.

I would also change the seating. You know, I would move the people who we don't care about to the front because it takes such a long time for the guy who won Best Short Animation to get to the front. We don't want to see that. We want to see Charlize Theron take a half hour to get to the stage in a low-cut dress...


MAHER: ... preferably over rough terrain.

KING: Do you like Billy Crystal's work?

MAHER: I love Billy Crystal. I mean, I think -- they've had some good hosts. I thought Steve Martin did great last year. But he is Oscar. You know, he straddles the line between hip and old-school show business.

KING: Yes, he does.

MAHER: And there's really -- there's nobody else who knows how to do that.

KING: OK, the Gibson movie. I saw you last week say you liked it.

MAHER: I did. I think it's a serious movie by a serious filmmaker. And it's funny, I'm the last guy in the world that should be defending this movie because as you know, I think religion is a neurological disorder. And so I think anyone who believes in this stuff is -- you know, it's like -- when you're a kid, anything they drill into your brain. The analogy I make is when I was a kid, they drilled religion into my brain. They also put mercury into my teeth. When I got to be an adult, I found out mercury was bad. I had it drilled out. I would do the same with religion.

But having said that, I can understand how infuriating it is to Mel Gibson to read these reviews and the critics who keep saying things like, Well, the movie is very negative. It's all about the last 12 hours. Yes, that's the movie he was making! They reviewed -- they review it like they're reviewing their Jesus move, except they didn't make a Jesus movie because they don't have the talent or the drive or the passion to make a movie. So yes, it's negative. Well, thank you for identifying the elephant in the room and then reviewing the fly that's on its rear end.

You know, the other thing I would like to say about is the anti- Semitism angle. People talk about this. OK, I didn't find it especially anti-Semitic. Yes, they portrayed the Romans probably nicer than the Romans should have been portrayed, at least Pontius Pilate, and the Jews not so good. But you know what? I don't know if that's purposeful anti-Semitism.

I think what you have is a situation where there was a priesthood, and priesthoods protect their power. Look at what we've seen in recent years with the Catholic priesthood around the world, and especially in this country. They close ranks and they protect their power. So I don't think it is anti-Semitic to say that the Jewish elite in the 1st century AD, under Roman occupation, collaborated in the extirpation of a troublemaker. That's what priesthoods do. They collaborate in getting rid of the guy who's a threat. And a guy who's going around saying "The meek shall inherit the earth," that was a big threat.

KING: How about the people who are saying, though, that he was not beaten on way to the cross, that there were no whippings, that he was convicted by Pontius Pilate and sent to the cross, where he was crucified, but all those beatings, they say, it's not in the Scripture.

MAHER: Well, first of all, the Scripture is not gospel. People think Gospel means the truth because they use it in a phrase. It's the gospel. Gospel means "good news." The Gospels, as scholars will tell you, were written from 40 to 70 years after Jesus died. So nobody really knows what happened.

KING: So Gibson has the right...

MAHER: They were not meant...

KING: ... to interpret is as he wishes.

MAHER: You know, the Bible...

KING: It's his movie.

MAHER: Yes. Not that I believe in the Bible, but it was not meant to be taken literally. They're literally daring you not to take it literally. For example, there are two Creation stories. There are several versions of what happens to Jesus in the four Gospels, and you can see that in the movie. He's up on the cross, and he says, "Why has thou forsaken me, Father." That's in only one of the Gospels. There is nothing like that, nothing like that tone, because that line comes from a Gospel that was written right after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and the writer wanted the audience who was reading it to feel the pain as -- of Jesus as Jesus was feeling their pain at the time of their trouble. So these writers all had a different agenda, and it was not the absolute truth.

KING: So it's historic. Bill Maher gives a thumb's-up to "The Passion of the Christ."

MAHER: Yes. I think for what it is, this man deserves a lot of credit. We always talk about how the fact that we want passion and sincerity and honesty in a movie. Well, from this artist, that is what you get in this movie. And anyone who says he did it for money is crazy. Nobody would even believe this movie was going to get distributed six months ago. Nobody wanted to touch it. It was anti- Semitic. Imagine doing an anti-Semitic movie in Jewish-run Hollywood? Everything was against him, as far as making money or doing it for commercial reasons.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thought about it. And let's do it in Aramaic and Latin.

MAHER: Aramaic. Again, you know, we made -- I made jokes about that. When you go to see this movie, you understand that is the exact right choice, was to do it in Aramaic or whatever the language was at the time, and use subtitles. It gives it a gravitas it never would have if he was speaking Americanese. It was the smart choice by a smart filmmaker.

KING: He's a great filmmaker.

MAHER: He is. I loved "Braveheart."

KING: Yes, me, too. We'll take a break and come back and go to your phone calls -- We'll ask about Martha Stewart, too -- for Bill Maher, the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO. Katie Couric tomorrow night. Don't go away.


LENO: I guess you know Mel Gibson's new movie, "The Passion of the Christ," generating a lot of controversy, opened today. It's about the death of Christ and who's responsible. And today, Pontius Pilate's attorney, Mark Geragos, complained. He said, My client is innocent.




JON STEWART, HOST "DAILY SHOW": Fortunately Haitians have a time honored system of choosing new leaders by whoever has the roundest head.

So who's in charge now?

Let's meet the new guys. He's a handsome insurgent with many moves on the killing field as on the dance floor. Please welcome into power Guy Phillipe. And he's a convicted assassin and army death squad leader whose hobbies include butchering enemy as and changing his mind about America, give up your civil liberties for Louis-Jodel Chamblain. KING: Funny stuff. John Stewart there.

Working his magic with us is Bill Maher, the host of "Realtime with Bill Maher" on HBO.

That was pretty funny stuff on Haiti.

MAHER: Very funny .

KING: Before we take our calls, your take on Martha Stewart. The jury is out.

MAHER: Yes. Well I was amused at the defense's proposition that Martha Stewart and her broker could not be guilty, because it was done in a sloppy, dumb way and smart people just never commit sloppy, dumb crimes. Really, does the name Richard Nixon mean anything to you?

Half the crimes in history are by people who were smart people but arrogance, as we learn through literature, is usually an overriding factor for smart people.

KING: That argument didn't sway you?

MAHER: No. That argument doesn't sway me. Dumb, clumsy things are done by a lot of smart people. But I also have to say, Martha Stewart, again, when you look at some of the financial shenanigans that have gone on, she doesn't really stack up. I mean, Halliburton, we found out a couple of weeks ago, so much of their money in offshore companies, a virtual litany of places to hide your money is where they have their money in Liechtenstein, and Panama and the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas and a place called Vanuatu which I have never even heard of. I thought it was a Star Trek country. So, you know, once again, here's Martha Stewart shoplifting pantyhose at the front of the store. Meanwhile, Halliburton taking large screen TVs out the back door into a truck, and they go after Martha with her shoplifting. But you know, that's OK.

KING: Life ain't fair.

Clayton, Missouri, as we go to calls for Bill Maher.

CALLER: If you could choose anyone at all, who would you pick to be the president of the United States?

KING: Any person, OK, Bill. Good question.

MAHER: That's a good one. I think I would probably go with somebody like Colin Powell. I think if he was actually running the show, I think he'd be a great president. I think he really has the right instincts. I feel for him when I see him having to carry the administration's water. I noticed in Haiti about a week ago, he was supporting Aristide. And once again, nobody listens to him and he winds up having to reverse himself. No, what I meant to say is he sucks.

KING: New Orleans, for Bill Maher, hello. CALLER: Good evening. My question is, Bill, what do you think about our jobs being farmed off to India and how do you think it might affect the election coming up?

KING: Jobs going overseas. Kerry said you can't really stop a lot of it.

MAHER: Right, outsourcing. Well, that's -- there's been some pandering on his part also, as well as from Mr. Edwards. And I understand it's a political season. It's hard to win an election by telling people, well, your job's going overseas, too bad, buck up. But that's really the truth. Jobs are going to go overseas. We are living in the age of globalization. Clinton had it right on this policy. He told the people, look, I can't stop your jobs from going overseas, that's the world we live in. What I will do is I'll put money into retraining you for a better job. But to pretend that we can't stop somebody who is going to do the same job for 25 cents an hour when here it's $9.50 an hour, I mean, come on. You don't have to be an economics major to see that one coming.

KING: Hammond, Indiana. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. This is for Bill. Bill, I'd like to know what you think the Democrats' chances are with a John Kerry and Evan Bayh ticket.

MAHER: I said Evan Bayh as a joke. I don't even know who that is. He's a senator from Indiana.

KING: Yes.

And why would he be good?

KING: Former senator from Indiana and the Midwest. And he might bring some border states.

MAHER: He's got the advantage of nobody knowing who he is. That's always good in politics.

KING: He's like Dan Quayle.

MAHER: Dan Quayle was also a senator from Indiana

KING: Who also won.

MAHER: Talk about honor integrity, you're supposed to pick a running mate who could take over the job should you die. That is the most important part about the vice presidency. I mean, has there ever been a more cynical choice than Dan Quayle?

KING: West Palm, Beach Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry.

How you doing, Bill?

MAHER: I'm good how are you?

CALLER: All right. From the home of butterfly ballot, had a question about something I heard on your show week before last. You made a comment about Senator Edwards and his similarities to Bill Clinton. I was wondering if you meant that as far as his communication skills or do you mean like word for word some of the things he's said in some of his speeches. I found myself, when I closed my eyes and heard some of the things he said in speeches, I almost think it sounds like Bill Clinton himself speaking.

KING: Bill.

MAHER: Well, it does. He has that southern charm thing going on for him. And when he do polls of people coming out of the voting booth or before the election, people always say, he seems to care more about me. That's what Clinton had going for him too. He was the lip biting and, by the way, politicians have to stop doing this. I don't know what this means. I don't see anybody except a politician ever making this gesture. It's starting to scare me.

What does that mean?

KING: What does it mean?

MAHER: I don't know. It means my finger is going to be on the button. I don't know what it means, but they have to stop it. People think that John Edwards cares more about them. He's now using the slogan "John Edwards: he'll spoon with you."

KING: Eaganville, Ontario.

CALLER: Hello, Bill. I was wondering if you believe bush's ultimate plan is to capture or kill bin Laden and then because of that, we'll he'll win the election.

KING: Is that coming?

MAHER: Wow, that's what they call a no-brainer. Yes.

KING: That would work.

MAHER: I think he's trying to capture bin Laden very badly.

KING: why do you think he's so hard to get?

He's 6'6" in an area where everybody is 5'7".

MAHER: So was George Washington extremely tall. They never got him.

KING: But people saw him.

MAHER: yes. But -- and he also fought a successful guerrilla war. Please don't write me and say I'm comparing the father of our country to Osama bin Laden. I don't want to go through that again. Just in tactics. I actually like George Washington a lot better, OK? Let me make that clear. But I don't understand -- well to answer that question, first, I think the reason they haven't gotten him is because he's hiding out among his loyal countrymen, among the people who are true believes. And I think it just shows how much our president and its administration sometimes doesn't understand other people around the world, because they offer a $25 million reward in an area of the world where you probably can get somebody to do it for $25 is a lifetime supply of money.

What they don't understand is there are some places in the world where it's not about money. That to me is so indicative of that administration and the way they think. That greed is good. You can buy everybody. Well, I think this shows that you can't buy everybody. They don't care about the money. They care about keeping their sister in the beekeeper suit. OK, what I really don't understand is if they get Osama bin Laden, whey does that reflect well on the president? Why should he get reelected for that? It's the military's victory. I mean, if Al Gore were president, the military wouldn't be trying to get Osama bin Laden, of course they would. It has nothing to do with who's president

KING: Bill Maher who always makes you think. The host of "Realtime with Bill Maher." The other of "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden."

We'll come back with more phone calls for Bill Maher right after this.


MAHER: Gary Bower, who was on your side -- you know Gary Bower he ran for president last time. He says homosexual sex is three times more dangerous than smoking, and the government comes out against smoking. So why not come out against gay sex? I assume you agree with that. But you know, lesbian sex is actually safer and, I might add, hotter.

SANDY RIOS, PRESIDENT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: I might ask you, Bill, how you know that.

MAHER: And I might tell you if you were a different chick. I'm kidding.




JAY LENO, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW: How do you rate Arnold's performance so far?

MAHER: I think Arnold's off to a good start. He's certainly doing a better job than he did in Hercules in New York.

LENO: It's the second time that's come up. GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Very nice, huh? Good compliments, huh? I got that. This was worked out. Let's put Arnold in the middle.

LENO: I think we have a clip.


KING: Bill, how do you think Arnold's doing?

MAHER: I'm impressed. But I thought he would do pretty well, because I think unlike the last few governors who were there, that weren't celebrities, in California you have to have a celebrity governor. Reagan did well. It's that kind of a state. I think when the legislators get home to the wife they want to be able to say, you know what? I worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger today. Yes, we're very close. We work together on this bill. You know, he likes me. You know, you just don't get that when it's Gray Davis, you don't get that from the legislators.

KING: Bakersfield, California. Hello.

CALLER: Thank you, Larry. Bill, I was wondering if you could tell me why President Bush is billed as good for our national defense, when this is a president who pushed America into war, who has been on watch when the worst act of terrorism ever occurred on our soil, and who has driven away all our allies.

MAHER: That's a very good question, and you might consider speech writing for John Kerry. Because that's exactly the points he'll be making. You left out the AWOL part of it which, you know, I don't blame him for that. I don't care if he ever showed up for his jumping jacks in Alabama, but I do resent when he tries to morph. And he is the morph-master, you know. He morphed honor and integrity from monogamy. He morphed bin Laden from Hussein and he morphed the National Guard service that went on when he was in the National Guard, which, let's get real, was a way to escape going to war with the kind of national guard service that goes on today.

And when Tim Russert asked him about his National Guard service he said a couple of things that I thought Mr. Russert, who is great, but I thought he should have followed up. One thing that President Bush said was yes, he quit eight months early. He said we arranged it with the military. What? You mean you can just do that? You mean everybody can do that? I'm going to blow off the last eight months. I've got to go to business school. We just arranged that with the military. When you're George Bush, good things just happen to you.

The other thing that I think Mr. Russert should have followed up more on was George Bush said if my unit had been called up, I'd have gone. Which is really not that brave, considering that of the two and a half million men and women who went to Vietnam, only 8,700 Guardsmen were ever called up. .03 percent. So to say, you know, if my unit had been called up, I'd have gone, how brave, Mr. President.

KING: Syracuse, New York, for Bill Maher. Hello. CALLER: I've got a question for Bill. Bill, I wanted if you'd heard the...

KING: Turn your TV down, ma'am, we got feedback.

MAHER: Yes, especially since you're not even watching this show.

KING: No, she's watching.

MAHER: I know, I know.

CALLER: Bill, I have a question for you.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: All right. I wondered if you'd heard the rumor that I heard before that they had already caught bin Laden, and hadn't come out with the information yet and that maybe they were just waiting till closer to election time to come out with this information so maybe it would help Bush a little bit...

KING: Where did you hear that? Where was that heard, ma'am?

CALLER: I think I read it in the paper somewhere.

MAHER: It's out there. I mean, we've all heard that rumor. You know, we...

KING: They're hiding him?

MAHER: It's a rumor, it's a wag-the-dog kind of a situation. It's an October surprise. I personally do not believe that. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, because when you're a conspiracy theorist you have to believe that people are smart. I believe people are mostly dumb. You have to believe that people can hold a secret, keep a secret. I don't think people can keep a secret. I think when something goes terribly wrong like the assassination of President Kennedy, it's not really because there was a lot of people who were so good they could pull it off. It's because some things went wrong, because people were dumb and lazy. So I don't think they could pull that off. I just don't.

KING: Austin, Texas. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, I'm inquiring about George Bush. Why he continues to bring up religion when we're supposed to have a separation of religion and government.

MAHER: Especially as pertains to the gay situation. Because you'd think these people would notice that Jesus Christ never said one word about homosexuality. He speaks out against divorce. I notice they're not against that because so many Republicans are divorced. But he never said anything about homosexuality. If it was so important, it doesn't even make the top ten of the commandments. They have to go to the book of Leviticus, and if you go to the book of Leviticus, it is also a law that you can have slaves. It's also a law that people who work on Sunday would be stoned to death. So they're kind of inconsistent about what laws they choose to follow and make headlines out of.

KING: Do you think, Bill, that religion did more harm than good? Is that your thought? That organized religion is worse than good?

MAHER: Absolutely. I think organized religion has done horrible things. You can just see how awful the bureaucracy that is religion becomes because after all we do have in Jesus Christ the best role model you could ever have a for a God. I really couldn't say that about the Islamic religion. I mean, Muhammad is a warrior god. I know they don't like to have that brought up but it's true.

Whereas this truly is Jesus Christ the prince of peace. I can't think of a greater role model. Everything he preaches is what I would like to preach to young people today because his words get twisted. Because the role of religious leader on earth is inherently corrupt. And that's why, as I say, I don't have trouble believing that the Jewish priests in the first century would collaborate on putting him to death.

KING: Our guest is Bill Maher. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Bill right after these words. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": This week, Georgia's board of education approved a plan that allows teachers to keep using the word evolution when teaching biology. Though as a compromise, dinosaurs are now called Jesus horses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": On Friday, the White House released 400 pages of President Bush's military records. Yet it's still not clear whether Bush was AWOL for almost a year from the Texas National Guard. Nor does it explain the president's eight-month tour of duty in the KISS army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": An Internet rumor claims that John Kerry had an affair with a young woman. When asked if this is similar to Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, a source said close but no cigar.




MAHER: By the way if you go see "The Passion of the Christ," do not leave during the end credits you'll miss the hilarious bloopers.


KING: The very funny Bill Maher, our special guest. We love having him on frequently. Temecula, California, hello. CALLER: Hi. I wanted to ask Bill Maher if he really believes Social Security is in jeopardy and, also will he vote for Ralph Nader again this year?

KING: That's right, you voted for Ralph four years ago.

MAHER: I will not vote for Ralph. I told it to Ralph's face when I had him on last week. And I felt, in looking back at what's gone on and how much we thought, boy, the two candidates are so much alike, well, you know what? The two candidates are never that much alike. The thing about the lesser of the 2 evils, it's not as bad as the greater of two evils. I learned that the hard way. I won't be.

As far as the Social Security issue, that's a great question because you read one thing and it says we're going broke by extraordinary numbers. And then you talk to someone like Ralph Nader or read Paul Krugman, who says just the opposite. I don't know why I can't even get one tally, except I guess that these people are basing this on projections into the future.

But my common sense tells me, yes, as so many more baby boomers retire, as so many more people live older than they used to, the system that was organized by Franklin Deleno Roosevelt can't be sustained as it is. It's just like our government to shut their eyes and sail blithely towards the ice berg.

KING: That was Alan Greenspan's point.

MAHER: It was. Not that I trust him either

KING: Who do I trust?

MAHER: I trust you, Larry, because I sent my mother flowers on her birthday, Larry. You're the best

KING: I'm going to name all the people Bill Maher trusts. We give him ten seconds. Ruidoso, New Mexico, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. You seem to know quite a bit about the Bible and I was just wondering if you could reconsider your faith. Thank you.

MAHER: I do have faith. I believe there is a god. I just don't believe he's a god who needs all the bells and whistles that religious people think he seems to need to get attention. And I do have faith. I have faith in the very good -- I have faith in the very good brain that whatever god there is gave me.

And that brain, unfortunately, is unable, like any human's brain, to ascertain the answers to certain cosmic questions, like how we got here and what happens when we die. I admit those questions are scary, but the answer is to not make up stories about it.

KING: Alexville, Indiana, last call for Bill Maher. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, bill. Oh, my. I so resonate with your real -- with you. I love "Realtime."

MAHER: Ooh, baby, thank you.

KING: What's your question?

CALLER: Is there any chance of the nightly "Politically Incorrect" coming back?

KING: Good question.

MAHER: Maybe if they get rid of Eisner today. I'm joking, of course. No, we're much happier here doing it once a week on HBO, but I thank you for the nostalgia.

KING: What do you think of making Eisner, Michael, CEO and George Mitchell Chairman of the Board of Disney?

MAHER: You know, Larry, I'm always rooting for Disney. I just hope for the best.

KING: No, I mean do you have any thoughts on that move?

MAHER: You know, I don't even understand what motivates these corporate people. I mean, if I had a billion dollars, would I be fighting for my job? I'd be fighting to get away from my job. I wouldn't be fighting. I'd already be on an island.

KING: Why do you think...

MAHER: And it wouldn't be Haiti.

KING: We have less than a minute. Why do very rich people want to be richer?

MAHER: That is a great question. I have no clue. Because if I had that kind of money, I would stop. You know, I would just stop. I would say -- I would have enough. But I guess power, I guess power is important.

I also think it has a lot to do with sex. I think when people do not have an adequate sex, they sublimate it with anything else that gives them a kind of a jolt. And I think people in America don't have good sex lives and so they need to get their jolt some other way.

KING: Thank you, Bill. Next time, don't be so wishy-washy. Always good having you with us. Bill Maher, you'll watch him again Friday night at 8:00, repeated at 11:30, "Realtime With Bill Maher" on HBO. His book is "When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin laden." And we'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: Hope you enjoyed Bill Maher. Tomorrow night, Katie Couric will be our special guest. Friday night, Andrew Morton with very revealing tapes about Princess Di. Aaron Brown is away and in his place, my man, Anderson Cooper, will host "NEWSNIGHT." The best pinch-hitter in the game, now batting for Brown, Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, thank you very much.

KING: You like that?

COOPER: I do. I do.

KING: You got a baseball introduction.

COOPER: I'll try to hit this one out of the park. Thanks, Larry.


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