Comedian Bill Maher Plays Not My Job Maher is following up his 2005 book, New Rules, with a book called The New New Rules. We've invited him to answer three questions about old rules — arcane laws that have been on the books for a long, long time.
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Comedian Bill Maher Plays Not My Job

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Comedian Bill Maher Plays Not My Job

Comedian Bill Maher Plays Not My Job

Comedian Bill Maher Plays Not My Job

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  • Transcript
Bill Maher
Damian Dovarganes/AP

Bill Maher is following up his 2005 book, New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer, with a somewhat less diplomatically named book called The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody but Me Has Their Head Up Their A - -.

Since Maher's so interested in new rules, we've decided to quiz him on old rules — he'll answer three questions about arcane laws that have been on the books for a long, long time.


And now the game where we ask people to do something they may not like doing, but generally it's over quickly. There are a lot of people who do what we do, make jokes about the news, but only one of whom who, as far as we know, lost his job over it. Fortunately, Bill Maher got another show and every Friday on HBO, he says the same sort of things he used to say, but now he can swear.


SAGAL: He's got a new book out of his "New Rules." We're happy to have him with us. Bill Maher, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!.


BILL MAHER: Hey, thanks for having me.

SAGAL: Wow, I have to tell you, we do this thing, we make fun of the news once a week, but I feel like I'm talking to an original gangsta when I talk to you. You've been doing this for like 20 years or so, right?

MAHER: That's right, I'm the OG.

SAGAL: You are, man.


SAGAL: You do it old school style. So you started your first version of what we'll call the Bill Maher show, although it's never had that title, it was on Comedy Central, started in the early 90s, right?

MAHER: That's right, 1993 we started on Comedy Central. We were in New York. We moved in '96 to Los Angeles. We were still on Comedy Central. Then we moved it to ABC. We know what happened there.

SAGAL: Oh yeah.

MAHER: I was somehow doing a show called "Politically Incorrect" for the Walt Disney Company.

SAGAL: Yes, well.


MAHER: How anybody thought that was going to work - but it actually lasted six years somehow.


MAHER: And then when I got canned off there, we moved over to HBO. But I've had the same office in LA since '96, through three different networks. Now that's gangsta.

SAGAL: That's crazy.


SAGAL: So even before your show, I mean because I've talked to people who knew you back in the 80s and, like, you were always doing political material, right, that was your thing?

MAHER: Yeah, that was always my thing. My father was a news guy, you know, he was in radio news. And so that was sort of in my DNA. It was something we talked about at the dinner table when I was a kid, which I don't think is normal for America. Yeah, when I was 5-years-old, I knew who Khrushchev was.

SAGAL: Really?

POUNDSTONE: Wow. Was he a local news guy?

MAHER: Khrushchev?



SAGAL: Oh, yeah, I grew up in New Jersey too. He used to do the 5:00 news. He always used to bang his shoe on the desk. It was great.

MAHER: That's right, that's the guy.

POUNDSTONE: No, because local...

MAHER: You're talking about my father.


MAHER: Yeah, he was New York news.

POUNDSTONE: Oh, well that's different.

MAHER: He worked for WOR and the Mutual Broadcasting System in New York. This, of course, is the days when every radio station, no matter what the format, had news at the top of the hour, and that was what my father did.

SAGAL: So you've got a new book out of new rules. This is a segment that - you invented this for the HBO show, right?

MAHER: That's right. We've been doing it for almost ten years over there, and we put out a book of new rules in 2005 and we put out another one, and the subtitle, can you read it there? Do you have it there or should I?

SAGAL: Why don't you do it, because I think that you're...

MAHER: The subtitle is new rules, "The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody but Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass."

SAGAL: There you are.


SAGAL: I have to say that one of the things I love about the new rules and your whole approach, in fact, on your show is you're not shy about letting people know how dumb you feel they're being. And I applaud that about you.

MAHER: Well, you know, if you're going to keep it real in America, at some point you're going to have to say that people are stupid.



MAHER: I mean it is a stupid country. Not us, of course.



SAGAL: Present company exempted.

MAHER: I always say...

SAGAL: We notice that your new rules, they tend to go from very large political issues to sort of smaller observational issues.

MAHER: That's true.

SAGAL: You've got one here: you can't get mad at Applebee's for serving a toddler a margarita - that referred to something that happened in the news - unless you've tried to eat at Applebee's sober.


SAGAL: I guess the question is, I mean, does everything annoy you, Bill Maher, equally?

MAHER: Well, you know, come on, we're talking about a comedy bit that you're taking rules that we did every week, every Friday night, for the last six years, and you put them together in one compendium. Of course, I'm going to seem like a curmudgeon.

SAGAL: You do, a little bit, I got to say, in the book.

MAHER: But you spread it out in real life I'm really a very easy going young man.

SAGAL: I understand.


SAGAL: Do you ever find yourself rooting for a politician to succeed even if you may disagree with him or her, but you want them to get office because they're such great material?

MAHER: Well, I mean it is - you're talking about people like Sarah Palin?


SAGAL: I'm talking about Sarah Palin...

MAHER: Yeah, I mean, look, I'd like to think that I'm a better person than that. I'd like to think that. And, you know, as a loyal American and I think a patriotic American, no, I don't want Sarah Palin to be president. But yes, does she provide excellent material, of course she does.

SAGAL: So you often have people onto your show to argue with you and to argue well with you. Are there particular people you love to have on to disagree with?

MAHER: Yeah, I mean there are - usually they wind up in the category of recently retired politicians. Because when they're in office, of course they're much more careful. When you get people who are out of office, suddenly their tongues loosen up and suddenly they say the things that you wish they'd said or did when they were in office.

I mean even somebody like Bill Clinton, who I happen to admire very much, the second he was out of office, I remember, he was interview in Rolling Stone and he said he thought we should have legalized marijuana. And I thought, gosh, if only you were in some sort of position to affect change in the last eight years where you could have done something about that.


SAGAL: Too bad. Yeah, what can a guy do?

POUNDSTONE: Hey Bill, how did you deal with the Arianna Huffington shift?

MAHER: What do you mean the shift? Her taking over AOL?

POUNDSTONE: No. That she was a Republican...

MAHER: Oh, you mean from Democrat...

SAGAL: Yeah, she was a right Republican and she became a Democrat.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah. And it wasn't just a Republican to a Democrat; it was an outspoken visual leadership Republican to an outspoken visual leadership Democrat. What did you do about that?

MAHER: Well...

SAGAL: I know she's a good friend of yours, right?

MAHER: When I got out of bed...

SAGAL: Yeah.



SAGAL: Oh, you were the reason, sir.

MAHER: No, no.

MAZ JOBRANI: Nicely done.

MAHER: Oh come on, Paula, it was the 90s.


JOBRANI: You're on HBO, you can do that.

POUNDSTONE: Bill, this is a talent that I didn't realize you had, and I think the idea that you bring these topics up that are a dangerous tightrope sometimes to walk as a comedian. You know if you say the wrong thing, people get so upset. And yet, you're trying to think of jokes and so sometimes you do misspeak or whatever. But I think you're a genius.

But if I had known you had the capacity to sleep with someone and change their point of view...


POUNDSTONE: I think you're wasting your talent.



MAHER: Well...

SAGAL: Well, Bill Maher, it's a delight to have you with us. We've asked you here to play a game we're calling?


Hey Maher it's time for some old rules.

SAGAL: Lawmakers like to make laws. Some of them are dumb. Some of them stay in the books for a long time. We're going to ask you about three real laws somewhere in the books. If you get two questions right you'll win a prize for one of our listeners. Carl, who is comedian Bill Maher playing for?

KASELL: Bill is playing for Jim Anderson of Brooklyn, New York.

SAGAL: You ready to do...

MAHER: Oh, he's good.

SAGAL: He is great. He's a great guy.


SAGAL: He deserves your best effort.

MAHER: I love Jim Anderson.

SAGAL: You ready? You ready to do this?

MAHER: Yes, I am ready.

SAGAL: First up, until 2010 when the law was repealed, in West Virginia, you could go to jail if you did something to someone, what was it? A: pantsed them? B: made fun of them for not agreeing to a duel? Or C: fed them snake meat without telling them what it was?

MAHER: I'm going to go with C, the snake meat.

SAGAL: The snake meat. Like oh no, that's fine, you'll enjoy that. That's good. Don't ask. No, actually it was made fun of them for not agreeing to a duel. Dueling...

MAHER: That was my second guess.

SAGAL: I bet.


SAGAL: Dueling for many years was legal, but if you were challenged to a duel and you turned it down, nobody could make fun of you, under threat of imprisonment.

MAHER: Let's get to the questions about sodomy.

SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: The next question, this is South Carolina. As far as we know it is still illegal there to do what to a woman? Don't guess, I will tell you.


SAGAL: A: it is illegal to propose marriage to her if you don't actually mean it? B: say "damn" or eight other listed words within her hearing? Or C: touch her anywhere on the front of her body while dancing?

MAHER: I really think this is going to be B: say damn, because propose marriage if you don't mean it, I mean you can't start throwing people in jail for that.

JESSI KLEIN: I wish you could.

SAGAL: Really? Well I mean propose marriage, I mean if it was like, you know, I want to marry you and they said yes and you're saying ha, ha, ha I wouldn't marry you if you were the last women in South Carolina.


KLEIN: It's happened to me so many times.

SAGAL: Really? So you're turning that one down, huh?

MAHER: Yeah. Well I'm going to go with say "damn."

SAGAL: You're going to go with say "damn." I'm sorry, it was, in fact, propose marriage.


SAGAL: Yeah, that was illegal in South Carolina. It was ungentlemanly, apparently.

JOBRANI: Even on April 1st, you couldn't do that?

SAGAL: Couldn't do it.


SAGAL: Okay, let's see if you can get this last one. This one's from overseas. In France, it is against the law to do what with a pig? A: feed it red wine, because everybody knows pork goes better with white?


SAGAL: B: teach it English? Or C: name it Napoleon?

MAHER: Okay, I really think, I have a very good feeling, finally, about this one.


MAHER: I know I said that before.

SAGAL: All right.

MAHER: But I really have a good feeling this time.

SAGAL: Go for it.

MAHER: That it's C, name it Napoleon.

SAGAL: And it is, well done.




SAGAL: Here's an example, in the French translation of George Orwell's "1984," the pig named Napoleon, of course, is renamed Caesar for that book. Carl, how did Bill Maher do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well, Bill needed at least two correct answers to win for Jim Anderson, but Bill had just one correct answer.

MAHER: Sorry, I let you down, buddy.

SAGAL: Yeah. Turns out it's another Jim Anderson. He's not that great a guy. Don't worry about it.

MAHER: Oh, great.


SAGAL: Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." His new book is "The New New Rules." It's funny; go get it. Bill Maher, thank you so much for being with us. Great to talk to you.

POUNDSTONE: Bill, thanks.



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