By Vanessa Wolf
Stand-up comedian, political commentator, and television host Bill Maher performs next Tuesday, Jan. 1 at the MACC.
We discovered a slightly more lighthearted side of the acerbic host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, when we talked to him about elephants, time travel, and really bad clothes from the 1980s.
Maui Now: The election is over: what can we expect you to talk about during your upcoming show?
Bill Maher: Politics is still my main beat, but it’s never my exclusive beat. I like to talk about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I don’t talk about trivia. I like to talk about what really matters and the weighty things. I’ll leave it to Jerry Seinfeld to ponder what happens to your socks when you put them in the dryer.
MN: Do you ever incorporate local politics, and if so, what are your thoughts on cane burning or the Kihei outlet mall?
BM: (*Laughing*) What burning?
MN: Welcome to Maui politics. We get fired up about issues relating to burning sugar cane fields and whether or not there should be an outlet mall in Kihei Town. These are hotly debated matters.
BM: Wow. Those are pretty big issues you’ve got there! That’s why I like to travel. I like to come down off my little ivory tower here in Hollywood, and see what’s going on. Sometimes I get my information from cab drivers or sometimes it’s someone like you cluing me in. I can’t believe people are getting upset about this stuff. I thought Hawaii was supposed to be mellow!?
MN: I was told this is going to be an annual thing for you – Oahu on New Year’s Eve and Maui on New Year’s day. Any particular reason?
BM: Are you kidding? I made that happen.
I was there last year, and I had so much fun I said to my agent, “You have got to find a way to make this an annual thing…or I’m getting another agent. What? They don’t get comedians in Hawaii? I think they do.”
I would love to be the Don Ho of New Year’s.
MN: When you come, do you just fly in and perform or do you make a vacation of it?
BM: Oh yeah, it’s a vacation. I bring people and we stay for a week or two: the whole thing.
MN: So can we expect to see photos of you in a bear hug with Steven Tyler and other celebrities while you’re here?
BM: Absolutely! When I was on Oahu, I hung out with Sean Penn who’s a really big surfer there. He cooked us a really nice fish dinner. When I am on Maui, I see my boy Woody Harrelson. It’s all celebrities and rock stars, all the time.
MN: What would you be doing if you weren’t a comedian?
BM: That’s a good question. I think I’d like to be a psychiatrist.
I do not have the wherewithal do go to psychiatrist school. I don’t know that it’s even necessary, all that school, but I think I’d like to sit there and listen to people’s problems all day and then tell them what’s probably already obvious, “She’s USING you. Get out of this relationship.”
BM: I have to have food right after the show. I always have to perform very light. I’m one of those people who right after I eat, I get logy like a wolf.
I try to eat healthy on the road. It’s in my contract that after the show there has to be a very clean piece of white fish, steamed broccoli, and a plain baked potato. I can’t tell you how many people are like, “Just a potato? With nothing on it? He’s just going to eat a plain potato?” It’s like it’s un-American to eat a potato that isn’t covered in all kinds of sh*t.
MN: If you could meet anyone in the world – dead or alive – who would it be and what would you say to them?
BM: Did you say eat anyone or meet anyone?
MN: Either way. Take your pick.
BM: Well, I’d like to roast Newt Gingrich. I think there’s probably a lot of meat on the bone there. And I think I’d be doing the American people a service.
But if you said MEET anyone, I guess it would be Jesus. I’d like proof that he really existed.
MN: What did you buy with your first really big paycheck?
BM: Clothes. I got on a sitcom in 1984 or ‘85 called Sarah with Geena Davis, Bronson Pinchot, and Alfre Woodard. We were four lawyers in San Francisco. I’d never seen money like that – you couldn’t make that kind of money in the clubs – so I went out and bought some really expensive ridiculous ‘80s clothes, some of which I still have to this day because they make me laugh.
MN: If I gave you an elephant, where would you hide it?
BM: If you gave me an elephant? Well, I’m a PETA board member so I’d be very upset. I wouldn’t hide it. I would get it back to its natural habitat so it could have a happy life and mate with other elephants.
MN: If I had a time machine and you could change something without negative consequence (grandfather paradox and all that), what would it be?
BM: Well, Vanessa, I’d go back to 1:30 when I started this interview so we’d have more time because I have to go soon, unfortunately.
MN: No! That’s a terrible use of a time machine…and we probably wouldn’t get through these questions any faster the second time around.
BM: Fair enough. In that case, I think I’d go a few weeks forward so I could know where the stock market is going. I’d like to live a bit in the future.
My friend and futurist Ray Kurzweil says that man and machine are going to merge in 2029. We already have pacemakers and stuff like that. Eventually they’ll be able to fix anything that’s wrong with us.
I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to be the last guy to die before they come up with all this stuff that lets you live forever.
If you were lucky enough to secure tickets to the sold-out show, enjoy watching Bill perform Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in the Castle Theater. Otherwise, mark your calendar for New Year’s Day 2014, because he’ll be back.
Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story? Get in touch: we want to hear from you. -Vanessa (@mauinow.com)
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