Real Time with Bill Maher

Real Time with Bill Maher
Real Time with Bill Maher
Real Time with Bill Maher.jpg
Title card
Format Talk show, comedy, Political Commentary
Written by Bill Maher, Adam Felber, et al
Starring Bill Maher
Theme music composer Louis "Buster" Brown II and Scott "Shavoni" Parker[1]
Christopher "Kid" Reid
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of episodes 223 (List of episodes)
Location(s) CBS Television City
Hollywood, California
Running time 60 minutes
Original channel HBO
Original run February 21, 2003 (2003-02-21) – present
Preceded by Politically Incorrect
External links

Real Time with Bill Maher is a talk show that airs weekly on HBO, hosted by comedian and political satirist Bill Maher. Much like his previous show, Politically Incorrect on ABC (and before that, on Comedy Central), Real Time features a panel of guests that discuss current events in politics and the media. Unlike the previous show, however, guests are usually more well-versed in the subject matter: more experts such as journalists, professors and politicians participate in the panel, and there are fewer actors and celebrities included in it. Additionally, many guests appear via satellite. Also, Politically Incorrect was produced four days a week and was pre-recorded, while Real Time only produces one episode a week which is broadcast live.

It is an hour-long program with a studio audience, airing live on Friday nights at 10:00 PM (ET). It originates from Studio 33 ("The Bob Barker Studio") at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. Prior to 2009, approximately 12 new weekly episodes aired in the spring (February to early May), followed by another such set of new episodes in the fall (late August to November). In 2009, the show began airing as one continuous season. Because of the live, current-events nature of the show, HBO does not re-air old episodes between breaks, though occasionally a repeat will be shown when the program takes a week off during the season.


Show format

The format of the show usually features an opening current events or political skit, followed by the credits and a comedy monologue. Maher then interviews an important figure via satellite or in-studio before sitting down with three panel guests for an extensive debate. Halfway through the panel session, Maher will do a comedy skit that usually satirizes current news items - one example includes possible titles of Sarah Palin's autobiography as written by different ghostwriters. Following the comedy bit, Maher will interview another figure via satellite or in-studio. Recently Maher has focused more on having this interview done on-stage in order to cut down the number of satellite interviews.[2] Near the end of every episode, Maher has a segment called New Rules which serves as a humorous editorial on popular culture and American politics.[3] The final "New Rule" segues into Maher's closing editorial monologue.

Since the show airs on HBO, the participants do not have to restrict their language to conform to the broadcast standards that they did on Politically Incorrect.

In the first season, Paul F. Tompkins was featured as a correspondent. Also, every episode would end with a performance by a stand-up comedian, none of which were political satirists. The segments featuring Tompkins and comedians were dropped after the tenth episode. Viewers were also able to call into the live show in the first season and ask questions over the air, but this was also dropped.

Starting with episode 67 in February 2006, audio-only episodes have been made available as a free podcast via the iTunes Store[4] and as a raw RSS feed.[5] The podcasts also feature material cut from the show but taped during the studio rehearsal, including New Rules not aired in the final version. For two weeks in February 2008, the podcasts were presented in video format. However, this video format was dropped for some unknown reason on the next episode, released in podcast form on March 4, 2008.

During the fall of 2006, Maher began hosting a live chat (now called "Overtime") on HBO's website following each broadcast, usually including some of the show guests as well. Viewers are invited to submit questions prior to and during the original telecast, for Maher and the guests to answer and discuss afterwards.[6]

The opening sequence begins with a spoken phrase from the (now defunct) Los Angeles speaking clock, featuring an (uncredited) Joanne Daniels as the time lady saying "Good Afternoon." The theme song is composed by Christopher "Kid" Reid and his voice is heard saying "Start the clock," "Real Time" and "Bill Maher". A montage of historical events from the beginning of time to election night on November 4, 2008 accompanies the music along with a crawl at the bottom listing the guests for that night's show.[7]

Changes in 2008

The show returned on January 11, 2008 and began broadcasting in high-definition format. A slightly updated set was also introduced as well.

As a result of the writers' strike, the opening skit, the "New Rules" segment, and the closing monologue were eliminated for five episodes at the beginning of the year. The ice breaker used in the middle of the show (normally some sort of fake products dealing with a current event) was also eliminated due to the strike. The announcement about Real Time returning without writers claimed that the opening monologue would also be cut, but every episode ended up including a full monologue.

During the strike, the "Overtime" concept became part of the live show itself, through a new segment called "Blogga, Please!." Using HBO's website, viewers were able to leave comments or questions during the live show at 23:00 ET. Maher and the panel then responded to selected postings at the end of the show. The "Blogga, Please!" segment was discontinued, and New Rules brought back, on February 15 following the resolution of the strike. Additionally, during the strike, Maher aired pre-recorded interviews by himself with everyday people about the election and other issues after the opening monologue.

Established early on, the final New Rule served as a segue into the closing monologue. On the March 7 episode, the closing monologue returned to the format of the show. The opening skits, however, have not yet reappeared, except for April 4 and 11, 2008.

Instead of doing a second satellite interview near the forty-minute mark, the January 11 episode also featured the debut of the "Real Time Real Reporter", a blogger or political pundit who is brought on midway through the show as an extra panelist to offer opinions on the latest election campaign happenings. Such correspondents have included Matt Taibbi, Frank Luntz, Amy Holmes, P. J. O'Rourke, Dan Savage and others.

Changes in 2009

The 2009 premiere was on February 20 at the earlier time of 10:00 PM EST. Season seven also premiered on HBO Canada day-and-date with HBO in the U.S on February 20. The opening sequence was also slightly changed to include then President-Elect Barack Obama and his family waving to a crowd of supporters on election night in November 2008.

Also, the show aired one continuous season as opposed to airing episodes in the spring and fall with a summer break in between.

For a short time the Real Time panel was reduced from three panelists to two for the new season. Maher jokingly attributed the new panel line-up to the current economic crisis, stating that it was a means of reining in spending for the HBO show; however, Maher later stated that there is no connection between the failing economy and the producers' decision to remove the third guest. During his show on March 13, 2009, Maher reacted to the confusion sparked by his remarks from his previous show regarding the panel stating, "I said as a joke that we had cut down the panel to two people because of economic times, and people took me seriously. No. It's just because I'm tired of talking to three people sometimes." However, the panel was once again at three panelists for the show one week later, on March 20. In addition to the panel reconfiguration, Maher has instituted a one-on-one in-studio interview segment in lieu of the past seasons' satellite interviews. The interview with James Carville on the May 8th show, however, was conducted via satellite.

On April 10, instead of doing the monologue and panel discussion segments, Bill did two extended one on one interviews with Ron Howard and Gore Vidal. Additionally, on June 26 Bill brought back the one on one format to interview Cameron Diaz, Billy Bob Thornton and Oliver Stone.

On August 28, a special show aired with two one-on-one interviews with hip-hop artist and mogul Jay-Z and longtime journalist Bill Moyers and there was no Overtime segment.

Changes in 2010

HBO renewed Real Time for an eighth season, which began Friday, February 19 at 10:00 PM Eastern Time with an encore at 11:00.[8]

On April 9, Maher skipped a monologue and, instead, had three one-on-one interviews. Chris Rock, Alice Waters, and Billie Joe Armstrong.

The show went back to going on a summer hiatus beginning on June 11. The final half of the season ran from September 17 to November 12. The 2011 season began on January 14.

Christine O'Donnell

On September 17, 2010, Maher aired a clip of Delaware Republican Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell from the October 29, 1999 episode of his old show Politically Incorrect,[9] where she discussed that she had "dabbled in witchcraft." This was perhaps the most notable of numerous controversial statements by O'Donnell that made her the most covered candidate in the 2010 mid-term election cycle.[10] O'Donnell went on to film a rebuttal commercial claiming "I'm not a witch, I'm you."



Bill Maher in 2007

Maher was a critic of the Bush administration; however, his panel attempts to present a more diverse set of views. Frequently, it consists of a liberal commentator or political figure, a conservative commentator or political figure, and a third individual who does not have as clear an ideological label, or someone with moderate beliefs. This third individual is often an actor, comedian, musician or other entertainment figure, though many times the role is filled by someone unaffiliated with American politics such as a foreign commentator or diplomat.

Maher's personal views have evolved over the course of his career. On his old show, Politically Incorrect, he used the word "libertarian" to describe his personal leanings, and on one episode said he believed in God but had little respect for organized religion. He now describes himself as a "rationalist", as someone "preaching the gospel of 'I don't know'".[11] Maher identifies himself as politically unaffiliated and disagrees with the Republican party on most issues, and with the Democratic Party on many of their party platform's planks. He endorsed the candidacy of Ralph Nader of the Green Party in the U.S. presidential campaign of 2000. After the 2000 election, Maher was among those who felt that votes cast by progressives for Nader possibly cost Democratic candidate Al Gore the election, and put George W. Bush in the White House. During an episode on which Nader and Michael Moore were guests, both Maher and Moore begged Nader not to run again in 2004 (season 2, episode 11).[12] He endorsed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry leading up to the 2004 presidential election. In 2008, he endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and harshly criticized Republican candidate John McCain's policies. He also heavily criticized McCain's Vice Presidential pick, Sarah Palin's intelligence and qualifications. While critical of many Republicans, Maher interviewed then-presidential-candidate, Republican Ron Paul, giving him some positive air time. He often cites Paul's views in order to demonstrate the diversity of views on the right.

Maher has strong opinions on U.S. drug policy, advocating for the legalization of marijuana. He is against censorship, often citing his own dismissal from ABC and the backlash against the Dixie Chicks. He is also against conservative attitudes towards sex and sexuality, mocking outrages over Bill Clinton's infidelity and Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction". He is also not shy about his anti-religious views and frequently reiterates his belief that religion is detrimental to society. He is widely known for his support of animal rights groups, such as PETA. Hot-button political issues such as health care, the unhealthy American diet, corporate influence in government, migrant farm workers, the environment, food safety and public health are mentioned frequently on his show.

Real Time With Bill Maher is often rated TV-MA for pervasive strong coarse language, crude sexual humor and adult themes.


Larry King calls Real Time one of the best shows on television,[13] and Maher was a regular guest on Larry King Live.


A book based on the show, New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer, was published by Rodale Books in 2005.

Award nominations

The show has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series from 2005 through 2011.


  1. ^ "Buster & Shavoni Discography". Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  2. ^ Sharon Waxman (2009-10-08). "Bill Maher: Grilled". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  3. ^ "Real Time with Bill Maher: Seasons: Episodes". HBO. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  4. ^ "Real Time with Bill Maher - Download free podcast episodes by HBO Podcasts on iTunes". Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  5. ^ "Real Time with Bill Maher". Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  6. ^ HBO: Talk: Home
  7. ^ "Broadcast Yourself". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  8. ^ "Real Time with Bill Maher season eight". TV Series Finale. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  9. ^ McGreal, Chris (2010-09-20). "Christine O'Donnell: I dabbled in witchcraft". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  10. ^ "The Midterms’ Media Mainstays". Project for Excellence in Journalism.’_media_mainstays. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Religulous
  12. ^ "Maher and Moore beg Nader not to run in '04". YouTube. 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  13. ^ " - Transcripts". 2004-11-23. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 

External links

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