I talked to Bill Maher about Islam, the possibility of a Republican majority in Congress and what makes stand-up still interesting for him. On a similar note, he got into a heated argument with Ben Affleck about Islam on last night's Real Time.
DG: I saw that after your Charlie Rose interview that Glenn Beck offered an open invite to come on his internet show or whatever it is now to have a civil dialogue about Islam. Is it possible for you and Glenn Beck to have a civil dialogue about Islam?
BM: Of course! We could have a civil dialogue about anything. Glenn Beck has had an open invitation to appear on my show for years. I would reiterate that invitation. Glenn Beck, come on my show and I'll come on yours.
DG: That seems like a fair trade.
BM: I've heard that a lot about Glenn Beck and I walking hand in hand about Islam. Not really. First of all, Glenn Beck is a Christian. A serious Christian, although Mormons aren't really Christians, wink, wink. Glenn Beck is more on the Ann Coulter page that what we should do is conquer the Middle East and convert them to Christianity. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying all religions are stupid. Islam just happens to be the one right now, in this century, that's most dangerous and violent. Christianity was the one that was dangerous and violent in the 14th century and the 15th century. In the 16th century, Christians were slaughtering each other by sect, Protestants and Catholics were cutting each others heads off, just the Shiites and the Sunnis are now. But we had a reformation and that's what Islam needs, a reformation. That's what I'm saying and that's different than what Glenn Beck is saying. But, hey, I get where he's coming from.
DG: How does that reformation come about? Is there a Martin Luther of Islam?
BM: Well, Martin Luther isn't what I was thinking because he came from within the religion. We need someone from outside the Islamic religion to help liberalize them. When I say liberalize, I mean move them more towards our Western, liberal precepts. Like, freedom of religion. The way it is in Islam now, if you leave the religion, you get killed for it. And that's not a fringe view. That's the view of hundreds of millions of Islamic people. They also believe that if you make fun of the prophet, you get what's coming to you, including death. These are not liberal views. The way women are treated in the Islamic world. And again, I say these things over and over and liberals get mad at me. These are facts. The World Economic Forum did a study about the treatment of women in the world. They studied at 134 different countries. 18 of the bottom 20 were Muslim countries. I'm not making this shit up. This is a culture that needs a reformation and the more we pretend that the religion is not part of the problem, the more we forestall that inevitable day, that necessary day. You know, Obama the other day said that [laughs] "ISIS is not Islamic." You know, so far, ISIS has three names. ISIS, ISIL and they now call themselves IS. What's the word all those names have in common. Islamic! It's in front of all of them. They're screaming it, we're doing this for Islam. Westerners hear it and say "I think it's due to poverty." Certainly, poverty and bad governments do their part, I don't deny that. The difference is that these other idiots deny that religion is part of it and, of course, it's a huge part of it.
DG: Is it an element that some of these governments rich with oil have the ability to write huge checks to pay for legitimacy and acceptance in the Western community, like in the example of Qatar essentially purchasing the World Cup?
BM: I think the bigger, better example is Saudi Arabia. If you're going to look at ISIS as an Islamic state that is rich and cuts off people's heads, so is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has in the last month alone beheaded 30 people, most of them for non-violent crimes, like being a homosexual. But, they have oil, so we look the other way about that.
DG: In the New York Times recently, there was an article about Kentucky...
DG: ...and the Mitch McConnell race and the lead was about a woman who has Obamacare and is super-psyched about it, but she hates Obama so she's voting for McConnell. Is this country fixable, I guess that's my question.
BM: Yeah, that's got to be the biggest frustration for someone like Obama and the Democrats, but especially with the midterms and also with elections in general, people never come out to say "thank you." They only come out to say "fuck you." And I don't know how you fix that. I don't know how you convince people to vote their own interests, because if they're not willing to do that, it's like trying to deter a suicide bomber.
DG: She actually expressed the idea "I really hope Obamacare doesn't go away, but I'm voting for this guy who actively campaigns to eradicate the plan I like so much." Do you find this sort of thing more frustrating as time goes on or is it just a steady theme.
BM: I'm frustrated, but I can only imagine how Obama feels. Presidents going back to Teddy Roosevelt tried to bring healthcare to the American people. None of them could do it, but he does and his approval rating is at an all-time low. Yeah, I tell you, the politicians are no prizes, but the people are even worse, they're so ill-informed. I never understand the pushback when I say people are stupid. Charlie Rose took great umbrage the other day..."How dare you say people are stupid?" Charlie, look at the polls. They take polls about what people know and most people in this country don't know who controls the Congress. They have no idea that Republicans control the House. They don't know where the problem is, so of course, they don't know how to fix it.
DG: There's a relatively decent chance that the Republicans are going to take the Senate...
BM: Better than a decent chance, Nate Silver says its going to happen.
DG: So, it's likely that we'll have a Republican controlled Congress as a whole? How do we survive that?
BM: You know, I had Nancy Pelosi on my show and I asked her this question and the way I phrased it was: "How is this going to be any different? Why do I even care?" Nothing gets passed now because of the quiet coup that went on a few years ago when the Senate, which was written into the Constitution as a body that only needed a simple majority of 51, has now become a body, with the automatic filibuster that you need 60 votes to pass it. We've heard about a number of legislative enterprises that went down, and it's Orwellian, they say "it lost 54 to 36." It lost with 54 votes? It lost? If you get 54, you should have won, but somehow you need to count to 60 votes. That's not the way it was written up by the Founding Fathers, but ok. If that's the deal, nothing's going to get done anyway. If we didn't have this filibuster rules, so much of Obama's agenda would have passed. He had an infrastructure bill that would have had people back to work in bigger numbers. So I understand what the big problem - well, I understand what the problem is, I just don't know how its going to get worse.
DG: So, how does standup stay sexy for you after all these years?
BM: Sexy is a strong word.
DG: Tolerable? Acceptable?
BM: Well, I'm not feeling so sexy at almost 59 years old, but it is still a great pleasure for me. It's the passion of my life, it's my mistress, if you want to continue the sexy theme. It's still what I love to do and I wouldn't drag my ass around the country every weekend, if I didn't. People sometimes say how standup is so hard, and I always tell them that it's hard at the beginning. The worst years of my life were the first two years I was doing standup. You're learning how to do, and you're going on stage in front of two drunks and people aren't laughing and you're broke. That's a really hard time in your life. Thirty years on and people get it and they know who you are, that's the great part. Sometimes I'm dragging my ass out to the airport at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and I'm wondering why I'm doing this, but once I walk on stage I know why...because I'm addicted.