Love him or hate him, Bill Maher has a devoted following, a long-running hit TV show and regularly sold-out concert halls around the country.
Next stop for the political comedian and television host who's sweeping the U.S. by storm? Hawaii, of course.
I spoke with him by phone and asked if he was going to make Hawaii an annual tradition. His Jan. 1 show is Maher's third New Year's event on Maui.
Photo provided by The Maui Arts & Cultural Center
(President Barack Obama) certainly needs a vacation. Do they expect him to keep at it until he drops? I don’t begrudge presidents for taking time away from Washington; I never begrudged President Bush and he was away from Washington about 40 percent of his presidency.
— BILL MAHER
Host of HBO’s “Real Time,” who’s coming to Maui for a Jan. 1 show
"It's my life's dream, just try to stop me," Maher said. "It is such a wonderful way to conclude the year and ring in a new one. I have many friends in Oahu and Maui, but I'm always amazed at how welcoming the people of Hawaii are and how relaxed it is."
A great deal of Maher's latest fodder revolves around Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who he calls "a once in a generation train wreck.
"He's the comedy gift that keeps on giving, but there is no real reason for legitimate news to cover this so extensively. There is no 'crisis in Toronto.' They just did an entire one-hour special on CNN - pretty much just because he's fat, drunk, on drugs and falls down a lot."
I asked about the recent backlash regarding the president taking a two-week vacation in Hawaii.
"He certainly needs a vacation," Maher said. Do they expect him to keep at it until he drops? I don't begrudge presidents for taking time away from Washington; I never begrudged President Bush and he was away from Washington about 40 percent of his presidency."
Frequent viewers of the HBO show, "Real Time," are familiar with Maher's "new rule" segment, a comedic rant on a political issue that the host declares each episode.
He shared his musings about two that pertain to Maui and Hawaii. "Fukushima should be page one of the newspaper every day. I used to be on the fence about nuclear power. I'm not on the fence anymore." His guest, Dr. Edwin Lyman, suggested that radiation was continuously pouring into the Pacific and would be a major concern for Hawaii by 2015. "I want to swim in the water and eat fish when I'm there. So we got a year? I didn't find that assuring. It's not just Hawaii, if this is not contained it's L.A. next and the entire world eventually. There is a frightening amount of radiation spilling out every day."
We also talked about same-sex marriage legislation in Hawaii. "I was surprised Hawaii wasn't one of the first states," he said. "I'm not as familiar with the local opposition, but in general, among conservative-thinking people, I would describe it as a sense of illogical fear about something that doesn't affect them. They're reacting to a changing America. Medical marijuana is legal in a third of the states; we have a black president; there are Hindus, bisexuals and Muslims in Congress - it's an amalgam of progress, or I would describe it as that. To them, the country is turning into a '60s dorm room, a room they were probably never invited into, so that may be the root of the problem."
Maher has a recent "new rule" pertaining to same-sex marriage. "Gay marriage won't lead to dog marriage. It is not a slippery slope to rampant interspecies coupling. When women got the right to vote, it didn't lead to hamsters voting. No court has extended the equal protection clause to salmon. And for the record, all marriages are same-sex marriages. You get married, and every night, it's the same sex."
Last year, Maher talked of wanting to be booked in unlikely places. "I tell my agent to book me places people would never expect me to perform, because there is an audience out there." This year he toured Alaska, and next year he is headed to Birmingham, Ala.
I asked how Alaska went. "It was great. I get to visit Alaska and Hawaii in the same year. It's the last frontier, pristine, gorgeous. There are bears on the side of the road. I was in Fairbanks, and it is as if they froze it in 1970. You could shoot a movie set in the '70s and you wouldn't have to change anything. I wouldn't want to live there because of the winters, but if global warming makes it 130 in Phoenix, Alaska is going to start looking pretty good."
Maher will ring in the Maui New Year with his irreverent brand of comedy on Wednesday night, Jan. 1, for his third annual New Year's Day show. The performance is at 8 p.m. in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $65.50, $85.50 and $150.50 (plus applicable fees). To purchase, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order at www.mauiarts.org.
OnSTAGE, a new children's theater program, will present "The Story of Orange" by Vernise Pelzel, directed by Ricky Jones. "Orange" is the musical tale of a misunderstood, shunned orange zebra, featuring puppets, a cast of 26 children ages 9 to 13, and special guest star Dale Button. Performances are at 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 14 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. General admission tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children. For tickets, call Maui Onstage at 242-6969 or purchase reserved seats online at www.mauionstage.com.
The free ONO! theater series continues with "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)" by Michael Carlton, Jim FitzGerald and John K. Alvarez. Originally presented in 2011, "Every Christmas Story" is a ridiculously silly sendup of everything from Rudolph to the Grinch, Frosty, Heat Miser, Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Scrooge and "It's a Wonderful Life." The one-night-only show kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Historic Iao Theater. Call 244-8680 or visit www.mauionstage. com.