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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview with Seth MacFarlane; Interview with Lance Armstrong
Aired June 1, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL MAHER, GUEST HOST: Hello, America. Don't adjust your set. I'm Bill Maher, filling in for Piers Morgan.
Tonight, I'm talking to the man who created "Family Guy." Seth MacFarlane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MACFARLANE, WRITER: Damn you all, damn you vile woman, damn you to hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: No one else could make a movie about a man and his teddy bear, and get an R rating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: You're so raunchy. You're a dirty, dirty man.
MACFARLANE: Thank you. I try. We all try.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: Also tonight, cycling legend seven time Tour de France winner and a man who's battled cancer and won, Lance Armstrong. He's here to talk about his life after cycling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: Have you ever been in bad shape your whole life?
LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: Yes, I've been in bad shape. Never as unfit as some people. Just kidding.
MAHER: Oh, yes. I take that as a shot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: Plus, only in America -- an eternity with Elvis for a price.
Bill Maher tonight starts now.
(MUSIC) MAHER: Good evening. Piers Morgan is off. I'm your guest host, Bill Maher.
And tonight, I'm talking to two guys who know no boundaries. First, a unique take on family values with the man behind one of TV's raunchiest comedies, "Family Guy's" Seth MacFarlane.
Plus, Lance Armstrong, winning the Tour de France seven times, beating cancer, but he's just getting started. How he's making a comeback as an ironman. That will be coming up.
But we begin with a man who turned a foul mouthed cartoon family into a TV sensation.
Joining me now, Seth MacFarlane.
Seth, I've never met you, have I?
MAHER: Nothing up my sleeves.
MACFARLANE: Nothing at all.
MAHER: This is completely on the up and up.
MACFARLANE: This is completely natural. There's nothing artificial about it at all.
MAHER: I read in your bio that you're a TV pioneer. I've heard pioneer get all the --
MACFARLANE: This is how it's going to be. It's going to be --
MAHER: Do you feel like you've gotten a lot of arrows for your raunchiness -- so raunchy.
You're a dirty, dirty man.
MACFARLANE: Well, thank you, I try. We all try over there at "Family Guy's" cavalcade cartoon comedy.
MAHER: There are things you can get away with the cartoon, you must. I mean --
MACFARLANE: Yes. Yes, we've -- the first thing that comes to mind is you can't joke about things like domestic violence in a live action show. And we've done episodes where, you know, we have the whole family basically getting into, you know, they have an anger management seminar and they end up fist -- getting into a brawl, with Peter hitting Lois, Lois hitting Peter. And I don't think that would work --
MAHER: No. MACFARLANE: -- with like Ray and Debra.
MAHER: Yes, Ray Romano, you mean.
MACFARLANE: Yes, yes.
MAHER: But give me an example of a line from like "Family Guy" or any of your shows that would not be spoken by a live action person.
MACFARLANE: Gosh, you know, now you put me on the spot.
MAHER: OK, then forget that.
MACFARLANE: Damn you all, damn you vile woman, damn you to hell.
MAHER: Oh, that's the baby talking.
MACFARLANE: Gosh, yes, there was one this past week that --
MACFARLANE: I'll come up with something. I'll come up with --
MAHER: Believe me, I see it every week.
MAHER: Every week I watch your show, and I think, oh, my God, I can't believe he's getting away with that. And I mean, there was one where he -- where it was really about incest with the child.
MAHER: And he -- and Peter Griffin, of course, as the cartoon man, says, you know, if you don't like it, there's the remote.
MACFARLANE: Yes, yes.
MAHER: There's the cartoon man.
MACFARLANE: That's the cartoon man.
MAHER: So can we watch a clip? Would you like to see a clip of some of your --
MACFARLANE: There's nothing I'd love more than to watch something that I've seen --
MAHER: I think this is you doing a number on Jesus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FAMILY GUY")
CHARACTER: How do we know you're really Jesus? Can you perform miracles? CHARACTER: Sure. How about this?
CHARACTER: Oh, boy. Sundaes.
CHARACTER: I love you, Jesus.
CHARACTER: I love you, too, fella.
CHARACTER: Hey, Jesus, can you do something for me?
CHARACTER: Sure, Peter. What is it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: Now what kind of mail do you get after a thing that like? Do you see your mail?
MACFARLANE: You know, they shield us from a lot of it. They really -- we get shielded. And to me, the most offensive, potentially offensive thing about that clip, very subtly so, is the fact that every time Jesus does magic, it's like a Hanna-Barbera sound effect. You know, they used to use it for like, you know, that wacky genie that would -- was always causing trouble.
MAHER: And do you understand why people like you and I never win the Emmy?
MACFARLANE: Yes. Yes.
MAHER: Do you think that has something to do with it? Do you think they will not give --
MAHER: -- an Emmy to an atheist?
MACFARLANE: I mean, it's -- I don't know if it's that specific, but I think it's -- I think the Emmys do tend to make safe choices.
MAHER: Well, you campaigned for it. You want that Emmy.
MACFARLANE: We do and we don't.
MAHER: You're still in that phase.
MACFARLANE: Our campaigns over the past couple of years have been -- I kind of feel like our time to be nominated has passed. I don't think we're going to -- the mailer that we sent out this year was pretty much -- well, there it is right now.
MACFARLANE: I don't think we're going to win based on that. I don't think we're going to get nominated. We just figure, you know, if we're screwed anyway, we might as well make some noise, get some laughs, you know, make our presence known. You know, even though --
MAHER: Do you think the fact that you're politically outspoken plays a role in maybe not winning awards?
MACFARLANE: It's possible. I don't know how the Academy works. You know, I have no clue. I know they love "30 Rock."
MAHER: And you don't?
MACFARLANE: I do. I actually -- I've recently become -- it took me a while. I was late to the party, but I think it's very funny.
MAHER: It is.
MACFARLANE: I don't know. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. Audience popularity seems to play no role in the Emmys. You know, the show could be the biggest hit on -- not the "Family Guy" is -- but a show could be the biggest hit on TV and it doesn't necessarily matter. It's --
MAHER: What about longevity? I mean, this -- your "Family Guy" has been on what, 11 years?
MACFARLANE: Yes. Is it that long?
MAHER: It is by the calendar in my house. I mean -- well, yes, I think it has been 11 years. I mean --
MAHER: You took a little time off, but you came back.
MACFARLANE: Yes, yes. It's --
MAHER: You don't want to wrap it up, do you?
MACFARLANE: No, no. I mean, it's --
MAHER: You'll do it as long as they'll let you, won't you?
MACFARLANE: I think at this point, yes. There was a flap recently where I made some comment about, yes, you know, I think it might be time to wrap the show up, and I took some crap for it.
But I don't really -- you know, I was musing. I don't really think that that will be the -- as long as people want to see it, we should keep making it.
MAHER: And we do want to see it.
Let me ask you about politics, because I know you care a lot. I don't think it's any secret, you're for Obama, but most progressives are to one degree or another disappointed. That's what we hear all the time.
Are you disappointed? What are you disappointed in?
MACFARLANE: I feel like if I knew, if I was in those little rooms or those big rooms --
MAHER: If you knew what he knew.
MACFARLANE: If I knew what was going on, I would be able to more effectively answer that question. I don't know, because I -- you know, I remember talking to Al Franken at one point, who said, you know, it's a lot harder than you think to get anything done. It --
MAHER: More than ever.
MACFARLANE: -- like if I went in there, you know, and he's, in my opinion, one of the --
MAHER: Funniest senators ever.
MACFARLANE: Exactly. But he's a -- you talk to him and he's able -- he's still -- he's a human being and you don't get a sense that he's sold out to the machine. He's a good guy.
And he's very candid about it. He says it's very hard to get things done. And so I don't know. I mean, I think in the simplest --
MAHER: For gay marriage, he turned on that. I mean, that was -- that is one of your --
MACFARLANE: How much of that was our friend, Biden? I don't know.
MAHER: Right. Well, it was, a lot. But he -- at the end of the day, he did seem to do the right thing, and I know that's a big cause with you.
MACFARLANE: Yes, yes.
MAHER: Now why, of all the causes, not that we don't agree that that should have been done, but why that?
MACFARLANE: Well, Bill, good a time as any to make this announcement.
MAHER: No, I can vouch, you are not a homosexual.
MAHER: I wish, but never happen.
MAHER: But, I mean, of all -- I mean, there's diseases, there's pestilence, there's poverty. But it seems like you --
MACFARLANE: Is there still pestilence?
There's still that issue? Is there always locusts?
MAHER: Not in Beverly Hills, but I mean --
MACFARLANE: No, no
MAHER: Yes, absolutely. There are locusts.
MACFARLANE: If we don't have to deal with any of that in a moment, let's do it. Not behind the magnificently cultured shrubbery that adorned --
MAHER: I'm getting ahead of myself, but I do at some point want to ask you, and I'm going to do it now, since you reminded me, when you -- now that's the voice of your little baby, Stewie. But you also do, on your show, you do Peter and you do Quagmire.
MAHER: How do you do it when they're all talking together in the same scene?
MACFARLANE: Well, when we do table reads for the shows, I -- it's a necessity, I have to jump around, you know, "Hey, Quagmire, how's it going?" "Oh, hey, Peter, what's happening?" "Oh, not much, doing good. What are you doing?" "Oh, you know, doing roofie and some chicks. That's about it. Same" --
MAHER: You can do it right back to back.
MACFARLANE: Yes, pretty much.
MAHER: But they can't, of course, ever talk over each other.
MACFARLANE: They can't -- no, that would be -- that's would be require --
MAHER: You'll never hear that on "Family Guy." We'll never hear --
MACFARLANE: Well, you -- we do do a lot of that. We simulate that kind of improvisational stuff. But it's done in editing.
So what do you think about the fact that this election is supposedly all about the economy? But the culture wars, sort of reared their ugly head. I mean, we have a lot of discussion about war on women, but we talked about contraception in this election, which I never thought would come up in 2012.
MACFARLANE: Yes. Do you have to view a hologram of Tupac before you can get an abortion? It's that what -- MAHER: No, no, no, you're speaking about the vaginal probe.
MACFARLANE: Ah, yes, the vaginal probe.
MAHER: But really, I mean, this is -- I mean, there are laws that have been proposed in a number of states and things like that. What is you --
MACFARLANE: That's where I feel disconnected from the rest of my species. I don't -- I can't begin to comment because I don't understand -- it's a mindset that's so foreign to me. I don't get it.
And I have to think that a lot of it is -- you know, you've talked about the outrage industry on your show. I think it's that we're just looking for things to rile people up about. I wonder how many people who are advocating those sorts of procedures truly believe that this is what we should be expending our energy on. I --
MAHER: And what should we -- I would guess you would say the environment.
MACFARLANE: The environment.
MAHER: You care a lot about that. But I've also heard you say that the government needs to force you to recycle.
MACFARLANE: Yes, I do think that. I -- there are things that -- it's the argument that -- relates to the argument that people make when you -- that conservatives make when you say, gosh, we should tax the rich and they say, well, why don't you just write a check. You know?
Well, because it's not enough. If every rich guy was going to do that, great, but it's not going to happen. Somebody -- that's the government's job, is to -- is to, like it or not, force us to do things we don't want to do that will hopefully help us all.
And I'm sure I'll be called a socialist for that last comment.
MAHER: Conservatives hear that when they hear the word government --
MACFARLANE: But that's bridges stay up.
MAHER: Right. That's exactly how bridges stay up.
Are you surprised that this race is as close as it is because people in Hollywood are accused of living in their own bubble, where they can't imagine why anyone would vote for Mitt Romney, but it didn't take him long, once the primaries in a very nasty primary season ended, before he was -- seems like he's dead even with the president.
MACFARLANE: Yes. I guess I am and I'm not. I mean, we're so divided right now. We're as polarized as we've ever been. So I'm not surprised. I'm always baffled by that assessment of Hollywood thought. I mean, to me, it's interesting, you have probably the most concentrated collection of people in the highest tax bracket who are also the most liberal. And it's the only industry where that's the case.
And I think that's -- there's two reasons for that. One is that it's a business where the money -- for a lot of us, the money is secondary and the work is first. I want to do this project, sounds fun and oh, great, it pays well.
But it's also an industry that you could make the argument more embodies the fruition of the American Dream than any other. You have people here who became millionaires overnight, the American Dream. You have more of those in this industry, I think, than any other, and they remember very recently paying -- scrambling to pay $600 a month in rent and barely making that.
MAHER: And no corporate welfare here. We make our own way. We are not socialists.
MACFARLANE: Not quite.
MAHER: When we come back, I want to talk to you about how you got your start. I think it was probably a lot earlier than most people got theirs. We'll be back with Seth MacFarlane.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MAHER: OK. So that was your tribute to -- I remember when that played, that was this whole hour episode, right, because that was, for some reason, something that was very influential in your childhood, "Star Wars," right?
MACFARLANE: Yes, you know, I mean, my generation has -- grew up with that and it's, like it or not, we all know it backwards and forwards.
MACFARLANE: I was actually more of a --
MAHER: I mean, I never understood the appeal. I know that's sacrilege --
MACFARLANE: I was secretly maybe a little bit more of a "Star Trek" guy myself. I feel so traitorous saying that. But --
MAHER: You can't have both?
MACFARLANE: No. Yes, you can have both, sure. You can be space 1999 guy.
MAHER: But I mean, you "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Star Search."
MACFARLANE: You know, why aren't we talking about this -- why aren't Obama and Romney talking about this, as long as we're dealing with trivial --
MAHER: It might come up in the debate.
MACFARLANE: It might.
MAHER: But you are -- getting back to your childhood, you were only like 2 when you started drawing cartoons, right? I mean, that seems very precocious.
MACFARLANE: Yes, I was -- you know, I would watch "Woody Woodpecker" and Fred Flintstone and whatnot, and I would -- my parents saved sketches that I did that are crude but oddly recognizable. And, my God, there's one now.
MAHER: How old were you when you made that?
MACFARLANE: I was about 2 years old, I think.
MAHER: Really? You did do that at 2?
MAHER: Most kids are playing with their poop at that age, and you're --
MAHER: Did you feel like you --
MACFARLANE: Well, guess -- wait till I tell you what that was drawn with.
MAHER: And you didn't feel particularly comfortable as a child, I'm guessing, because you were so advanced. You wanted to probably get to adulthood.
MACFARLANE: That was -- that's pretty much right on the money, yes. I was -- I remember knowing exactly what I wanted to do from about the age of 5.
And it was almost a nuisance having to get through childhood and adolescence to get there. And that's where my parents were very good at kind of walking the line of support and at the same time saying, now, you're going to be -- you're going to be glad that you read "Jude the Obscure."
MAHER: But they did see a cash cow in the making.
MACFARLANE: Oh, yes.
MAHER: Because, we have one of -- we have, I think, your earliest student films, can we roll that and show the people what you were doing when you were a little older.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MAHER: Amazingly similar to what we see every week. You know, I mean, it is not that far off from what it grew up to be.
MACFARLANE: One trick pony, right there.
MAHER: That is -- how old were you when you made it?
MACFARLANE: I was, what, 20?
MAHER: Oh, 20, OK.
MAHER: What do you think of shows like "American Idol," the singing and "The Voice" and all these singing contests that are on TV?
MACFARLANE: I've maybe seen "American Idol" twice.
MAHER: You've avoided it?
MACFARLANE: I've never seen "The Voice." Yes, it just -- it's -- I saw "Star Search" a lot when I was a kid. Does that count?
MAHER: I've mentioned it before. "Star Search" was the granddaddy of those kind of shows.
MACFARLANE: But it's -- contest shows in general, well, reality shows in general don't -- I don't have the patience for them. It's like --
MAHER: What about procedural crime shows?
MACFARLANE: It's tough to get --
MAHER: I'm joking, of course.
MACFARLANE: Yes, yes, tough to get into.
MAHER: And yet, see, this is the divide between like Hollywood and the rest of America. We don't watch the shows.
MACFARLANE: "CSI" is the biggest thing in the world.
MAHER: Biggest in the world. And nobody either one of us knows has ever seen.
MACFARLANE: Yes. And it wasn't that long ago that episodic TV was the way to do it, that you would tell one independent, isolated story every week and the next -- and it didn't matter if you had missed a few, you'd plunge into the characters. And I think that's something that is part of the reason that television dramas are having a tough time.
MAHER: They want to --
MACFARLANE: You've got to get people invested in the characters before you start saying, all right, stick around every week.
MAHER: They want to tease them to what's coming up next.
MAHER: Coming up next, we're going to find out what Seth is doing in this next big movie project. You won't believe it.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MAHER: So that's from your movie, "Ted," which opens on June 29th. I think myself and all the fans you have around the world are expecting big things from that. That looked very funny. You are that bear?
MACFARLANE: Yes, yes.
MAHER: You're the bear. You're in that bear costume?
MACFARLANE: I'm -- yes, I'm in the bear costume. I have enormous amounts of surgery done to get in there and then enormous amounts of surgery to get out.
MAHER: And I -- that was Mark Wahlberg. I recognize him. So what is this movie about? You play a bear with Mark Wahlberg.
MACFARLANE: Yes. It's sort of what happens after the Disney fairy tale is over. It's -- it begins in a very classic fairy tale fashion, where Mark as a young boy makes a wish that his favorite teddy bear would come alive and talk to him and magically it happens.
And then the movie takes place three decades later, when he's now an adult. He's got a job. He's got a girlfriend and the bear is still with him and it gets high with him and drinks his beer and basically makes his life -- basically keeps him in adolescence.
MAHER: So if you were pitching it, and you had to do something meets something, what would it be?
MACFARLANE: I'd say, hey, it's "You, Me and Dupree" with fuzz.
MAHER: Well, we want people to see it. So let's not -- let's not use that. And Mila Kunis is in it, I see? Who does she play?
MACFARLANE: She plays --
MAHER: Of the bear?
MACFARLANE: The love interest of Mark Wahlberg.
MAHER: Oh, I see. So you don't get the girl?
MACFARLANE: No, no, I do not. I do not.
MAHER: Ted gets a girl.
MAHER: OK. Let's move on to some of your other projects you have upcoming. We keep hearing that you're going to redo "The Flintstones," because you seem a little obsessed with "The Flintstones."
MAHER: I mean, Peter Griffin is not that unlike --
MACFARLANE: That kind of went south but --
MAHER: It did?
MAHER: We're never going to see that?
MACFARLANE: Well, at some point in the future you may. At the moment, it was the -- it was the tipping point of work for me. I couldn't squeeze it in. It was a deal that was kind of begun four years ago. And it took a while to work out all the details. And by the time it was all done, my schedule just wouldn't permit it.
MAHER: But Peter Griffin on "Family Guy" is not completely unlike Fred Flintstone.
MACFARLANE: Kind of the other problem.
MAHER: Is it not?
MACFARLANE: Kind of the other problem.
MACFARLANE: That, you know, there were a number of issues with -- the predominant issue was schedule, but you know, there was -- it was a challenge to -- in a world where there are so many animated fathers on television who can trace their cartoon lineage directly back to Fred Flintstone, where does Fred Flintstone fit in himself?
MAHER: Right. And what about "Cosmos"? Now this is a -- I remember this show. This was a PBS show.
I know you're a science nut. You really do know your science. You're bringing that back on FOX?
MAHER: Right on regular TV?
MAHER: OK. So what is that -- what can people look forward to with that show?
MACFARLANE: Well, fans of the original will know more or less what to look for. If you've never seen the original, you haven't heard of it --
MAHER: A lot of them are dead, so why don't you tell them -- tell it to the --
MACFARLANE: It's -- the way Sagan described it --
MAHER: Carl Sagan. I had him as a professor at Cornell, Astronomy 101. He was almost never there, but I had him as a professor, because he --
MAHER: -- Johnny Carson.
MACFARLANE: Busy guy.
MAHER: Yes, he was a great guy.
MACFARLANE: But --
MAHER: One of your heroes, right?
MACFARLANE: Yes, absolutely, yes. One of the very influential writer -- and the last guy to really bridge the gap between science and between academia and -- is that word, academia?
MACFARLANE: Academia, Ed.
MACFARLANE: I'd only seen that word written. But between academia and the -- and popular culture. And that person has not existed for a while.
MACFARLANE: His widow and -- (CROSS TALK)
MACFARLANE: -- wrote "Cosmos" with him. She's in it. She's writing it and along with Steven Soter, who was the other astrophysicist who worked with the two of them.
MAHER: And Neil deGrasse Tyson.
MACFARLANE: And Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the successor in a lot of ways, really, to Sagan.
MACFARLANE: The popularizer of science of our time.
MAHER: And I think you, as I do, believe that you can't really reconcile, as so many people do, science and religion. It's --
MACFARLANE: It's hard.
MAHER: -- kind of really one or the other, right?
MACFARLANE: The problem is that if I tell you, hey, there's a monster living under my bed, you would say, well, that sounds ridiculous. That's -- give me proof. And I say, well, you know, you just have to take it on faith that I'm telling the truth. You would call me crazy.
With the invisible man living in the sky, we are essentially asked to do just that, take it on faith. And yet a lot of us say that it's -- we do exactly that. And --
MAHER: Do you think Mormonism, which is, of course, the religion of Mitt Romney -- do you think that's fair game in this election? I know that Mitt Romney doesn't want it out there. Obama doesn't want to be accused of bringing it up. But Americans don't know what is really in the Mormon religion.
MACFARLANE: I don't really -- as long as they can separate it. I mean, most politicians are -- odds are, going to be religious because most Americans are religious. I don't really care that Mitt Romney's a Mormon.
MAHER: But it -- but there was an article in "The New York Times" last Sunday, where he said that he makes decisions rationally, but then sometimes changes his mind because he feels God wants him to do something else.
MACFARLANE: Well, then that's a problem.
MACFARLANE: That's a --
MAHER: Puts a different paint job on things.
MACFARLANE: You know, Jimmy Carter, for example, born-again Christian --
MAHER: Great guy.
MACFARLANE: Great guy, who's a guy I --
MAHER: Never fired a shot.
MACFARLANE: No, no.
MAHER: As president.
MACFARLANE: Yes. And I mean, there's an example of guy who -- clearly we both have enormous respect for, very religious man. I think that there can be a coexistence in America between agnostics, atheists and religious people. It's just when it -- let's all keep it where it belongs and not bring it into -- you know, bring it into the workplace.
MAHER: Well, I thank you for coming into our workplace, Mr. Seth MacFarlane. You are always an entertaining and enlightening fellow.
MACFARLANE: Well, thanks for having me.
MAHER: Kiss you goodbye right now.
MAHER: Good luck with all your projects. "Ted" opens on the 29th of June.
Coming up, champion cyclist, Tour de France winner, cancer survivor Lance Armstrong on his latest challenge.
BILL MAHER, HOST: Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong, has a lot of big projects on his plate right now. He's in Hawaii training for the next event in the Iron Man Triathlon.
He joins me from Hawaii. Lance, tell me, first of all, what exactly is the Iron Man? I think I know, but I'm frequently wrong about these things.
ARMSTRONG: I guess the most popular, the actual Iron Man is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a marathon which there's now probably 50 of those around the world. And then there's a whole series of half Iron Mans, which is exactly half the distance.
And then the Olympic distance is about a mile swim, a 25 mile bike and a 10K run.
MAHER: And I'm assuming you do this over the course of a month?
No, I'm joking. You do this all together, back to back?
That seems like a lot of exercise. Are you an exercise nut? ARMSTRONG: I'm a -- yes. It's one of those things I sort of can't live without, I guess.
MAHER: Yes, it can be a little addictive, can't it, as to -- to get that kind of high from getting your body in peak shape. And -- have you ever been in bad shape in your whole life?
ARMSTRONG: Yes. Yes, I've been in bad shape. But I mean never as unfit as -- as some people. No, I'm just kidding.
MAHER: I take that as a shot. No, I'm certainly -- I don't think anybody is in the kind of shape you're in, but -- so let me ask you about something that I know is dear to your heart that's a little further away from your normal workout routine and the triathlon, which is your interest in Prop 29, which is anti-smoking legislation that's going to come up here in California very soon.
Tell the folks, first of all, what is Prop 29? What is it asking for?
ARMSTRONG: Well, Prop 29 is a -- is a price increase on a pack of cigarettes in the state of California. It takes it from about an 85 cent tax to $1.85. So there's a one dollar increase.
With that increase, the state raises about anywhere anyway from 750 to 900 million dollars a year for cancer research, to be spent in California.
Also, you know, alongside that, you have a tremendous benefit when it comes to people never smoking and people ultimately quitting smoking. The fact of the matter is that tobacco-related diseases in the state cost California about nine billion dollars a year.
MAHER: I think we all agree that smoking is bad. I certainly regret more than anything in my life the 20 stupid years I spent smoking. And I'm so glad I quit 16 years ago.
But I -- I just wanted to ask, do you think there is -- there's a sort of persecution that sometimes happens to smokers? I mean, yes, it's a bad habit, but so is too much drinking, so -- so is eating bad food. It seems like we are always putting it on the smoker.
ARMSTRONG: And I -- obviously, we hear that argument a lot. I think it's important to -- to understand that -- that these tobacco- related diseases, whether it's heart disease or lung cancer, in many ways, are considered orphan diseases, exactly for the reason you just stated, you know, people look at those and say well, you chose to smoke, it's your own fault, you deserve what you get.
And, you know, I look at those things differently. I realize that -- that you're dealing with an awfully addictive substance and an addicting habit. But it's our responsibility to find cures and -- and -- and -- and ways around these addictions. And whether it's people never smoking, which we obviously know that price increases do help when it comes to young people, but also funding 800 or 900 million dollars a year in the state of California for -- for potential cures long-term, and also viewing this as an investment when it comes to -- to offset the costs of tobacco-related diseases causes, I think it's a -- I think -- and many others think -- that it's a great investment over time.
MAHER: OK. I know there's a -- a parity ad that was made in support of getting this passed. I think it's going to be controversial.
Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This June, California supports big tobacco.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I support big tobacco because I love their ads and so do my kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support big tobacco because they killed my wife. And that's one less mouth to feed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: That's -- that's pretty strong stuff. It kind of reminds me of some of the pictures that they put, the grizzly pictures, on cigarette packs, to get people to stop smoking.
I -- I think some people would say it's ends justify means. Do you agree with that?
ARMSTRONG: Well, it's certainly safe to say that the gloves are off here. I mean we -- we are a small -- a relatively small coalition of -- of partners, not just my foundation, but the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association.
Listen, we don't have the -- the budget or the means to fight big tobacco. They're going to spend 40, 50, perhaps 60 million dollars to defeat this measure. All the while, they're going to lace it in with -- with ads that -- that are hardly even recognizable that it's a big tobacco ad.
And obviously they're out to protect their business. I mean it's -- when you consider the reality of what this will do to tobacco sales in California, it's a fight.
MAHER: And what about the government? I mean they have sued the tobacco industry before and gotten hundreds of millions of dollars. But they've taken a lot of money from the tobacco industry over the years in campaign contributions and what not.
If tobacco, if cigarettes had -- are really so bad -- and they are, of course -- why don't they just outlaw them? I mean if -- if ketchup had half the carcinogens in a cigarette, they'd rip it off the shelf tomorrow. ARMSTRONG: Right. Right. Well, that's -- you know, I don't know the exact ins and outs of -- of DC like -- like people such as yourself do. But obviously you have a group of companies -- let's just call it big tobacco in general. They have tremendous power. They have tremendous money. They have a huge budget to -- to do a lot of things. And -- and that's just the way that -- that it's evolved and business is done.
It's unfortunate, but I tell you, being involved in this fight, just from my perspective and my foundation's perspective, this is a -- this is as political as I've ever seen it. I mean I -- I came into this as a -- as a cancer survivor and saying -- thinking to myself, you know what, we've got to do something to -- to alleviate people suffering from this disease. And the next thing you know, you're involved in -- in something that's turned quite nasty.
MAHER: OK. Well, I want to talk about that connection between your own struggle with cancer and this and obesity and your friendship with George W. Bush and a couple of other things when we come back, with Lance Armstrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I decided to quit.
ARMSTRONG: Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you've got a good reason to quit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: Well, that was from 2004's "Dodge Ball." That is a funny movie. And I guess it's a little dated there, Lance, because at that point, you'd only won the Tour de France five times and you've actually won it seven, didn't you?
ARMSTRONG: Yes, at the time, only five of them. But it's man -- your -- your -- today your show is stacked with Hollywood stars and actors. It's amazing.
MAHER: Well, I've got one here right now.
So, let's talk a little bit about how you beat cancer. And -- and, actually, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the phrase "beat cancer," because when someone does not survive cancer, it makes them sound like they, what, lost?
What -- what do you think is it that -- that allowed you to prevail in this obviously existential struggle and where maybe somebody else does not?
Is it a mental thing? ARMSTRONG: No, I mean I think there's certainly a mental part of this. Everybody approaches it a different way and -- and they, you know, obviously the mind and -- and the spirit is very important for most people.
But, listen, I mean these diseases are all so different. I mean we're talking about -- if you talk about cancer, you talk about the umbrella of this disease, you're really talking about hundreds and hundreds of types of different malignancies.
And, you know, my situation, my illness is completely different than a lady down the street who dies of breast cancer, an older man who dies down the street of prostate cancer or, you know, Senator Kennedy, who dies of a brain tumor.
These are all so completely different. They'll be treated differently. They'll be researched different. And ultimately, they'll be cured differently.
But I -- but I agree with you. I mean I don't -- I don't think any ever -- anybody ever views this as beating can -- I mean, obviously, we want to beat cancer in general and a lot of people, you know, say that I beat cancer.
But listen, I mean, I'm 15 years into this thing. There's -- there's nothing that says that in your 16th, it doesn't come back or I get another type of cancer.
So it's -- look, I never live in fear, but I always live with respect of this disease and -- and I think most people treat it that way, too.
MAHER: I mean one reason I brought it up is because I just know that athletes, especially at your level, that kind of elite level, prevail because of a mental edge. I know tennis players, professional tennis players, who have told me that if you watch any one of the top 200 tennis players in the world in practice, you could never tell which ones were the real champions. Maybe probably -- and the same thing in basketball.
Michael Jordan -- did he have greater physical skills than every other basketball player? No. I think most people would say it was a mental edge. And then I think about somebody like Magic Johnson --
MAHER: -- who obviously has prevailed in his fight against AIDS.
And maybe there is something to that mind set of an athlete when you're fighting a disease.
ARMSTRONG: Well, I -- I -- as I said, I mean I don't think that there is a part of that -- of course, trying to beat metastatic cancer in any situation is -- is much more difficult than trying to beat Roger Federer or -- or play against Lebron James or -- or do anything sports-related. But look, I mean the therapy is hard. The surgeries are hard. The radiation is hard. All these things are hard.
So when you're dealing with this, you've got to just get in this position where you're -- you're just moving along. And not just yourself, but your friends and your family, and recruit your doctors and nurses. And all these people around you create this positive environment. I mean that's -- that's exactly what -- what I did throughout that time.
MAHER: Right. And -- and as an athlete who beat the competition year after year after year, would you say that was because you were in better physical shape or do you think they were all in great shape and you just wanted it more?
I would imagine that when you're cycling for as long as you guys do it, it's -- it's -- a lot of it is just simply a matter of getting through pain. Is it not very just painful at a certain point?
ARMSTRONG: It depends how you describe pain. But our sport can have a lot of different types of pain. But the fact that I'm still -- look, I'm 41 years old. I've -- yes, I've even though the -- the -- the clip and dodge ball is a little outdated, I have won the Tour de France seven times. But now I've decided to come out here to the Big Island of Hawaii and try to ultimately be competitive in the Iron Man.
MAHER: And do you still go out cycling with your friend, George W. Bush? Do you see him when you're in Texas?
ARMSTRONG: You know, I -- I -- I saw the former president about a year ago. He asked me to -- to go riding with him at a -- on a -- on a Wounded Warriors ride down the Big Bend in Texas. And so I went down there. And -- and I -- I knew -- I had heard your tease a second ago. I knew I was going to get a little grief about that.
But, you know, I went up to his ranch in -- in -- where is it, Crawford. And it was about 200 million degrees outside. We go for a bike ride. He had a kick -- he got a kick out of it.
But afterward, I -- I said, listen, I need another billion dollars for the National Cancer Institute. And that's -- that's the way it goes.
And so it's my responsibility as a cancer survivor to show up to those things and regardless of where we all fall -- and you and I have had this discussion other times, too. I was there as a survivor and -- and trying to get more money for the organization that's out fighting this disease.
MAHER: Absolutely. And no apologies necessary. Lance, I'm here on CNN. I am completely neutral about all politicians and all presidents. I don't even know who George W. Bush was.
Anyway, I thank you for doing this and great good luck there in the triathlon.
ARMSTRONG: Thank you .
Coming up next, a little something Piers likes to call Only in America. Tonight, a special opportunity for the ultimate Elvis fan.
MAHER: Every night, Piers ends with a segment called Only in America. It's his British perspective on life in the U.S. But I'm not British. Although I did see "The Kings Speech." So I'll give this Only in America thing a try.
Tonight, it's all about another king, the King, Elvis. There is some people out there, bless them, who genuinely believe that the King is up there right now in his Blue Suede Shoes and white suit looking down on us while doing round house kicks with big foot.
Thirty five years a his death, his legions of fans are still mourning the loss. For those worshippers who have money to burn, there's a very special piece of Elvis memorabilia that they can call their own: his crypt.
Yes, an auction house is putting the icon's original resting place for sale next month. He spent two months in this subtle, tasteful tomb before being shipped -- shipped into Graceland for I guess more dignity.
The bidding starts at 100,000 dollars. The auction house calls the crypt a highly sought after item and investment in the future. And that's exactly what it is, like a mutual bond, only crazy. To the person who has the money to move into Elvis' crypt, take this cash and put it to better use. See a shrink today.
OK. I want to thank Piers for giving me the chance to sit in tonight. You can see me on "Real Time with Bill Maher" every Friday night at 10:00 on HBO. And I'll be at the Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio, on June 16th, and the Wharton Center in East Lansing, Michigan, on June 17th.
That's all for us. "AC 360" starts right now.