Bill Maher Biography

Talk Show Host, Animal Rights Activist, Comedian (1956–)
Bill Maher is an American comedian, talk show host and political commentator.


American comedian and talk show host Bill Maher was born on January 20, 1956 in New York City. In 1993, he began his show, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, which allowed analysts and celebrities the chance to discuss controversial issues. The program was canceled in 2002, after Maher made controversial statements about 9/11. In 2003, he began hosting the HBO program Real Time with Bill Maher.


Early Years

William Maher, better known as Bill Maher, was born in New York City on January 20, 1956. One of two children, Maher was raised in River Vale, New Jersey.

From an early age, Maher was exposed to current events and the world of television through his father, William Maher Sr., who worked as a news editor for NBC. Dinner table talk touched on the big, important issues of the day, with Maher given the chance to voice his opinions about how he saw events developing.

After attending Pascack Hills High School in River Vale, Maher enrolled at Cornell University, where he graduated with degrees in English and History in 1978. Long before he'd even entered college, Maher harbored dreams of becoming a comedian, but it was only after he'd graduated Cornell that Maher finally confessed his dreams to his parents.

Maher's comic career started modestly, but soon gained speed with various appearances in comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles. He eventually landed small roles in a few forgettable feature films and television programs, including D.C. Cab (1983); the TV series Sara, starring Geena Davis (1985); and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989). In 1990, he hosted a short-lived CBS series, Midnight Hour, and got a solo gig on HBO's One Night Stand series in 1992. In addition, Maher made frequent stand-up appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Late Night with David Letterman.

National Prominence

Like many comics, Maher had hopes of making a name for himself on a sitcom or in movies. But the opportunities never materialized for him. In 1993, however, Maher was approached by a relatively new and struggling cable network, Comedy Central, about hosting a program. The result was Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, which brought together people from various professional spectrums—from rock stars to athletes to film actors—to talk about current events. To keep the show lively, Maher would interject the dialogue with his own opinionated, wry comments.

The show was an instant hit, and Maher won three consecutive CableACE awards for Best Entertainment Host. After three years, ABC picked up the program to air after Nightline, and to counter the second half-hour of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman.

Controversy enveloped the program shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, when Maher remarked on-air that the U.S. had been more "cowardly" than its attackers for going after its enemies with long-distance cruise missiles. ABC rebuked the host for the comment, and Maher immediately issued an apology, but the damage had been done. In June 2002, Politically Incorrect was cancelled.

Maher, however, was far from finished. In 2003, he returned to the airwaves with a new program, Real Time with Bill Maher, on HBO. In the years following, he also made a number of television comedy specials, including 2005's Bill Maher: I'm Swiss and 2007's Bill Maher: The Decider. In 2008, he hit the big screen with Religulous, which offered a satirical look at the world's religions. Larry Charles directed the film. In 2013, Maher teamed up with Shane Smith as executive producer of the HBO documentary series Vice.

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