"It's the obvious reason," said Bill Maher when I asked if there was a special reason he returns to Maui every year. "It's a tropical paradise, I don't know if you're aware of that."
Maher will ring in the Maui New Year on Jan. 1 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. I spoke with him by phone recently, wanting to know how he developed his own niche market.
He started like every other comic hoping that club gigs and a Johnny Carson appearance would inevitably create opportunity. At the time, Carson's audience averaged about 8 million viewers a night and accounted for close to 20 percent of NBC's advertising revenue. When compared to today's numbers, that would place the old "Tonight Show" as one of the highest-rated programs on television.
STEVE JENNINGS photo
"That's what we did - develop an hour of clean material, you hoped to get on Carson and then you got a sitcom," said Maher. "I did sitcoms, and it was fun at first, but after awhile you want to blow your brains out. If I had a giant hit, things might have been different."
I asked if there was one giant hit he turned down.
"The lead on 'Full House,' can you imagine if that had happened?" he said.
Maher described his father as "an old radio news guy," to which he attributes his love of politics and current events.
"I always included politics in my act, but no one wants to hear that from a 26-year-old kid, and they're right. You need a certain gravitas and you need to be older, more seasoned. I think that is the same reason that character actors get more work as they get older."
Maher credited his launch into political comedy to good timing. Comedy Central had just started out and they needed shows. As a result, the network was more open minded to new ideas. That new idea was "Politically Incorrect."
"I didn't want to do a standard talk show. I wanted everyone to talk about what was going on in the news," Maher said.
Throughout the years, Maher has fielded his share of criticism towards his political stance.
"It comes with the territory," he said. "I'm always doing something that will piss somebody off. I mean, I don't want to read my Twitter feed right before I go to bed. I vent, so why shouldn't they. It's a good thing and I don't have to read it if I don't want to. I could say good morning and someone would be mad at me. 'Ronald Reagan said it's morning in America, how dare you say good morning!' "
I asked if he could vent about the Republican Party throwing Romney under the bus post election.
"Well, he lost. It's a different era. Dewey lost and they ran him again, Adlei Stevenson lost and he ran again. Romney will be fine. He's been running for president since they brought his egg back from the moon on Apollo 11. He is programmed to run for office. When there is nothing left on the Earth but plastic bags and cockroaches, Romney will be running in a hazmat suit."
Maher was recently picked up for another two seasons of "Real Time" on HBO, and he will also be executive producing a new HBO series "Vice TV."
"It's 60 minutes of news reporting on steroids. Some very brave reporters will deliver riveting stories from incredibly dangerous locations," he explained. "It's raw and very exciting."
Maher continues to tour, performing stand up comedy throughout the year, and he plans to make Maui an annual New Year's destination.
"I can't think of a better place to celebrate the New Year. I tell my agent to book me in unlikely places, book me in the South, places people would never expect me to perform, because there is an audience out there."
* Bill Maher returns to Maui for his third annual New Year's Day performance at 8 p.m. Jan. 1 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. Maher has set the boundaries of where funny, political talk can go on American television garnering him 29 Emmy nominations and a Maui Film Festival Maverick Award. Tickets cost $65.50 and $85.50 (plus applicable fees), available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org. A pre-show menu will be offered by Hali'imaile General Store.
A Kit Kat Club Christmas Cabaret continues at Fleetwood's on Front St. with Jolly Old St. Mick. Join Mick Fleetwood and the fun and flirty entertainers of the Kit Kat Club for "naughty or nice" holiday shenanigans with two shows tonight.
Sit back, relax and let your personal butler bring you exquisite cocktails and scrumptious food all while watching sugar plum princesses, candy cane sweethearts, North Pole cuties, and sultry Miss Santas. Enjoy a cocktail reception with passed dinner pupus to begin the evening, then theater seating for the cabaret show. Reserved seating is available for parties of six or more.
The early show begins with food and cocktails at 6 p.m.; show at 7 p.m. Late-night revelers can enjoy food and cocktails at 8:30 p.m.; show at 9:30 p.m. on Fleetwood's open-air rooftop.
Tickets are $99 per person, which includes fresh ahi sliders, shrimp lollipops, filet mignon skewers, poke on house made won tons and chocolate truffles plus one complementary glass of wine, beer or a specialty holiday cocktail. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Maui Food Bank. To purchase tickets for either show or for more information, call the Fleetwood's box office at 669-6425.
Don't miss the final weekend of ProArts' Smokey Joe's Cafe tonight through Sunday at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. The show is directed and choreographed by Aly Cardinalli and stars Felicia Chernicki, Kate Comstock, Katerina B. Dominguez, Justin House, Julie Kawamura, Trevor Natividad, Coren Paschoal-Yamauchi and Cardinalli. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Reserved seating tickets are $25 for adults; with a $22.50 kamaaina special tonight (with valid Hawaii ID). For reservations, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartspacific.com.
KMA Productions and Bud Light present A Comedy Story on Friday at the Maui Beach Hotel. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; show starts at 7:30 p.m. Ring in the holidays with some of Hawaii's top comics including Andy Bumatai, Paul Ogata and Jose Dynamite, and hosted by Maui's Chino La Forge. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, and may be purchased through the Maui Beach Hotel. For reservations, call 877-0051.
The Intergalactic Nemesis Live-Action Graphic Novel presented by the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, with support from Wailea Beach Marriott Resort and SpeediShuttle, will hit the Castle Theater on Jan. 9. This one-of-a-kind, all-ages stage show is a unique adventure story with more than 1,000 hand-drawn, full-color, comic book images that blast from the screen. The entire production is performed live, a la radio plays from the 1930s and '40s, but with 21st-century visual effects. Performance starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $12, $28 and $35 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.