Ringing in New Year
Maui-style with Bill Maher and friends
Just as Bill Maher has made it a tradition to perform on Maui every New Year’s Day for the past six years, interviewing him over the holidays has become a personal tradition and a conversation I thoroughly enjoy.
I asked him if there was anything his fans would be surprised to find out about him. Maher laughed and said he needed to retrieve an Us Weekly magazine issue and refer to their “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” feature on him.
“I’ve never missed a taping of ‘Politically Incorrect’ or ‘Real Time (with Bill Maher),’ — that’s almost 25 years. I play basketball every day,” he said. “Here’s something most people don’t know — I’m a minority owner of the New York Mets.”
Intrigued, we talked baseball for a while, and he shared his love of the Mets.
“I grew up in New Jersey, and I remember my dad telling me New York was getting a new National League team. We had lost the Giants and the Dodgers in the late ’50s. I think I was five, and I’ve always been a Mets fan. Of course, I would have rather played for the Mets, but owning a piece of the team is a childhood dream come true.”
When I last spoke with Maher, it was immediately after the 2016 election. At the time, I wondered if President Trump would be a bonanza for comedians. With 2017 nearing an end, I asked if comedy-wise it was a good year.
“I can’t deny that it has been good for comedy. We have the highest rating we’ve ever had this year,” he shared. “Last season we closed with the statement ‘We’re Still Here,’ and there is a resistance, and people are watching the news more frequently and getting involved. There is some hope — the recent liberal victories in the special elections. It proves the resistance can show up at the polls, so there is hope, but (also) a lot of nervousness.”
In May on “Real Time,” Maher bet former President Trump campaign senior adviser and White House aide Boris Epshteyn 100 rubles (approximately $2) that the President would be gone by Christmas. I asked if the bet was still on.
“I think I better exchange some currency,” he laughed. “Unfortunately, Trump isn’t going anywhere. It’s up to Congress to impeach him, which means Democrats will have to win back the House in 2018.”
I wondered if keeping up with President Trump Twitter tweets in creating material for “Real Time” was at times exhausting.
“I’d like to say that is his method to deter attention from one subject, but he’s not bright enough to have a method,” Maher said. “He certainly throws a lot out at one time, so it’s all over the map. It all bleeds into one; the public becomes exhausted and we don’t pay attention to the bigger issue.
“People have to stop following every crazy thing he says and focus on say, collusion — that’s a good one. Or, I don’t know, obstruction of justice; those two are kind of important,” added Maher.
I asked Maher if touring in red states ever presented problems for him.
“I’ve said this many times: We are not a red-state and blue-state culture — we are a city and country culture. Hillary won by three million votes in California, but you still only get 54 electoral votes,” he said. “Just look at all those blue dots when the election results roll in. Birmingham (Alabama) looks like any other city in America. When I go to Austin (Texas), I feel like I might as well be in New York.
“But you drive one hour outside those cities? Well, I’m certainly not going to show up in some honky- tonk redneck bar and expect a warm reception.”
Maher certainly has a loyal and adoring liberal base, many of whom make his Maui concert an annual pilgrimage.
“That’s good. Repeat business is what we want,” he joked.
I asked what his Maui must-dos were this year.
“I only have the one — I make the annual pilgrimage to Woody’s (Harrelson) house — ‘The road of death.’ I also call it ‘The trail of tears.’ I had a standoff with an angry bus driver a few years ago over a bridge that was too small for a troll to walk across.”
I asked why he never hires a driver.
“I like to drive. I’d rather be responsible for my own death, why let someone else kill me?”
For several years, Maher has brought friends to join him both on stage and for a Hawaiian vacation. This year those friends are Bob Saget and Reggie Brown; he shared that he was hoping to meet up with Howie Mandel, too. I reminded Maher that the first time I interviewed him he told me that he was once offered the role of Danny Tanner in 1990’s hit sitcom “Full House.”
“That’s right,” he said. “I’m not sure if Bob even knows that, but I’m going to lord that over him the entire time we are there. It’s all come full circle. Just think, I could have been best friends with Stamos (John),” he joked. “I think the twins are having menopause now.”
ProArts Playhouse in Kihei concludes “The Frog Prince,” written and directed by Derek Nakagawa. This original fractured fairy tale performed by adults for children stars Vinnie Linares, Juliet Moniz, Scott Spring, Francis Tau’a and Heidi Turner.
* Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students 16 and under. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.
Join Mandel in concert at the MACC. In addition to performing standup more than 200 nights a year, Mandel was the host of “Deal or No Deal,” and has been a judge on the hit TV series, “America’s Got Talent” for the past eight years.
* Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $39 to $129 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www .mauiarts.org. This performance contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.
VIP all-festival passes and individual tickets are now on sale for the eighth annual Maui Fringe Theater Festival, a weekend marathon of the performing arts Friday, Jan. 19 through Sunday, Jan. 21 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. This year, one-act plays from New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Maui will present 16 performances in three days.
* Individual tickets are $15 per show with $75 VIP all-festival passes available by phone only at 242-6969. For a full schedule and more information or to purchase individual tickets online, visit www.mauionstage .com. The Maui Fringe Theater Festival contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.
The daring acrobats, jugglers, balance artists and contortionists of The New Shanghai Circus are returning to Maui with four shows. Rooted in more than two thousand years of Chinese circus traditions, this fun-for-all-ages event will astound.
* Performances are at 4 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15 and at 4 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $12 to $35 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.