Red states in on the joke, says Maher

Bill Maher: 10 Years of 'Real Time'

How does a brainy, razor-tongued Hollywood comic who famously skewered devout believers in the documentary “Religulous” play in Savannah, Ga., Oklahoma City or Norfolk, Va.? How does Bill Maher’s searing wit go over in areas of the country where the Belt is more Bible than Borscht?

“The audiences are better, if anything, because the people in red states who are the progressive thinkers … they are thrilled that somebody who thinks like them came to their town where they are normally mostly surrounded by rednecks.”

Maher recently played Tulsa, Okla., and used that city as an example of the reception he often gets from enthusiastic fans who might be blue over the preponderance of red.

“I remember being there the last time and getting a five-minute ovation just for walking out,” he says. “That doesn’t happen in San Francisco. Not that San Francisco isn’t a great crowd, too, but there it’s a little more predictable — what they’re going to be, what I’m going to be.

“In Tulsa and places like that,” he adds, “it’s just more of a rarity that I would come and I think they’re very appreciative that I didn’t write off the whole region and say, ‘You know what? Those are a bunch of hillbillies there. I’m not going there.’ Because I’ve discovered that wherever you go in America, no matter how red the state is, there are a lot of liberal people marbled into the population.”

Although much of his act may remain the same from city to city, Maher says he strives to tailor a portion of it to the local market. He might wind up doing 15 new minutes based on breaking news or developments in that specific area.

“One reason I do like to travel is because I like to get the local feel and get a little bit of a thumb on the pulse of real America as opposed to just sitting here in my ivory tower in Hollywood. So I always ask when I get on the ground — the cab or limo driver, or the people in the airport or bars — I do try to find out what’s the local story and what are the issues people care about.

“People are thrilled in any local market, even if it’s just a couple of minutes of the show if you say, ‘I was in Hawaii on New Year’s Eve and was talking about Gov. (Neil) Abercrombie and Sen. Brian Schatz.’ They just love that stuff because it’s what’s in their paper and on their news everyday,” Maher says.

Bill Maher: 10 Years of ‘Real Time’
Eclectic guest list often put guard down | Red states in on the joke, says Maher | Maher’s recalls his favorite moments

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: 'American Horror Story' Makes 'Suddenly Last Summer' Sizzle Again

    FX Network’s “American Horror Story” returns for a ninth season next month, and promos for the next chapter of the anticipated series, dubbed ‘AHS 1984,’ have been airing frequently across cable television throughout August. In the short yet effective spot (see below), the Motels’ melancholic, moody “Suddenly Last Summer” plays as aerial footage of an [...]

  • Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star

    Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star in Multi-Camera Comedy Series for Netflix

    Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps are headed to Netflix. The streamer has ordered a multi-camera comedy series starring the two comedians titled “The Upshaws.” The series centers on a working-class Africian American family in Indiana struggling to make it work and make it right without the blueprints to do it. Sykes will executive produce and [...]

  • Vader Streams Shuts Down

    Vader Streams Shut Down by Hollywood Studios

    A coalition of Hollywood studios and streaming companies announced on Tuesday that they have shut down Vader Streams, which was once a popular source of pirated TV content. The service went offline in early May under mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation that the operator had either absconded or been forced out of business. The Alliance [...]

  • Søren-Sveistrup

    Netflix Teams With 'The Killing' Creator for Crime Thriller 'The Chestnut Man'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Further expanding its Scandinavian footprint, Netflix has announced its second Danish original series, “The Chestnut Man,” a police thriller based on “The Killing” creator Søren Sveistrup’s popular novel. The streaming giant will team with Sveistrup’s SAM Productions, minority owned by Studiocanal, part of Vivendi Canal Plus Group, to deliver this noir-influenced literary [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    ICM Blasts Writers Guild Over Withdrawal of State Lawsuit

    ICM Partners has slammed the leaders of the Writers Guild of America over its decision to withdraw from its state court lawsuit in favor of refiling the action in federal court. The agency, which was sued in April by the guild and eight WGA members over charging allegedly illegal packaging fees, issued a statement Tuesday [...]

  • succession

    'Succession' Renewed for Season 3 at HBO

    “Succession” has scored an early Season 3 renewal at HBO. The news comes as the critically-acclaimed drama series is just two episodes into its second season. Season 1 of the series was recently nominated for five Emmy Awards, including for best drama series. “We are elated that ‘Succession’ and its exploration of wealth, power and [...]

  • Kaley CuocoHilarity for Charity Sixth Annual

    Kaley Cuoco HBO Max Series 'The Flight Attendant' Sets Creative Team

    The creative team set to bring Kaley Cuoco’s dark comedy series “The Flight Attendant” to HBO Max has taken shape. The series, which tells the terrifying story of a flight attendant (Cuoco) who wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man and no idea what happened, has tapped Susanna [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content