One of the most incendiary political comedy shows in television history is finally coming to New Zealand. Now in its 15th season, America's
will begin screening on SoHo this Monday.
Speaking to TimeOut ahead of Real Time's New Zealand premiere, Maher (pronounced "Marr") seems genuinely excited that his show is finally reaching our fair shores.
"I love it!" he says. "I want it to be everywhere and certainly it should be in a sophisticated English-speaking place like New Zealand. I'm glad that we're reaching places that we've never reached before. And also I've been reading a lot about New Zealand everywhere."
Oh yes, thanks to a certain controversial tech billionaire's successful bid for citizenship, Maher has had New Zealand on his mind of late.
"Apparently it's the new go-to-place for anybody who's anybody. If you're not buying up beachfront property in New Zealand, you are just missing the boat completely. I guess Peter Thiel is the one who started this but and then I read other people are doing it. Once something becomes hot like this with that crowd, boy, watch your property values! And yeah, when Trump starts nuking countries because he doesn't like what they're tweeting, I guess we are gonna have to find some place that's relatively safe and apparently the bottom of the world is it."
Featuring an opening monologue, panel discussions, guest interviews, and the popular "New Rules" segment which closes out every episode, Real Time with Bill Maher is a spiritual extension of his previous show, Politically Incorrect, which ran from 1993 until it was famously cancelled in 2002 after Maher lived up to its title by observing that the 9/11 terrorists weren't cowards.
He subsequently created Real Time, which airs on premium cable network HBO in the US, so there are no advertisers for Maher to upset with his unrestrained, often controversial - but always intelligent - views.
"I always say, you're not really being honest unless occasionally you're getting booed by your own people. Because they're not perfect either."
Across both shows, Maher helped to establish the style of political comedy that defines modern late-night television.
"When we started in 1993, everyone said 'Bill, we think you should have a show, but why do a show about politics? That is the most toxic subject there is'. Nobody believed a show talking about politics could work. The reputation of politics as far as entertainment goes, could not have been lower then. People were cynical, they didn't want to hear about it, and I said 'Well let's see ... '"
Maher sets himself apart from many of his liberal peers in his willingness to engage the other side - you'll often find articulate conservative guests on his show. He says the left and right divide is wider than ever.
"Political polarisation has only got worse, to the point now of course where we see the Republican Party, which for my entire lifetime lived by two basic principles: one, no taxes for anybody, and two, we hate Russia. And now that we have a president who has a bromance with Vladimir Putin, somehow even the Republican Party is okay with Russia. You could never hate Russia enough for these people, and now Donald Trump has topless pictures of Putin as his screensaver and they're all okay with it. They have no principles."
Something that may endear Maher to New Zealand viewers is his consistent willingness to bang the drum for climate change, which he worries is an issue that is being forgotten.
"It certainly gets lost in the muddle with so many other things that go on. Trump creates so many distractions it's hard to keep your eye on any ball."
Action is the only response according to Maher.
"It's the younger people who are going to have to make this case because they're going to have to live on this planet for the next 40 or 50 years. They should care about this more than I should. I've had my fun with the Earth, I'm 61, the Earth is going be here when my natural lifespan ends. But if you're 20, I don't know if you can say the same thing. Do you want to live out your full life? The alloted time you're supposed to get? Then get off your f***ing ass and do something about it."
Who: Bill Maher
What: Real Time with Bill Maher
When: From Monday, 11pm