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September 27, 2002 - Image 79

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-27

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when it hits the building, say what
you want about it, it's not cowardly,"
he said on the air.
In the storm of controversy that
followed, he explained he believed
that politicians, not servicemen, were
cowardly, but he defended his right
to offer dissent.
Two of the show's sponsors, Sears
and Federal Express, pulled advertis-
ing; other sponsors threatened the
same, and ABC canceled the show. A
pro-Maher petition campaign,
including about 10,000 e-mail mes-
sages of support, failed to save him.
ABC later claimed Maher's corn-
ments had nothing to do with the
cancellation, saying the decision was
made to go with straight entertain-
ment programming in its late-night
time slots. Politically Incorrect's rat-
ings had steadily declined, averaging
2.5 million viewers last season, down
from 2.8 million the previous year.


Detroit Viewpoint

"He should have said specifically that
Bill Clinton was cowardly in lobbing
cruise missiles at the enemy, and he
probably wouldn't have gotten into
trouble," said Debbie Schlussel of West
Bloomfield, a staunch Republican who
appeared on Politically Incorrect 12
times over its run.
Invited on the show to present the
conservative point of view, Schlussel, a
Southfield attorney, writes a political col-
umn for several Web sites and defends
Maher's right to express his opinions.
"We disagreed on a lot of issues, but
we agreed on the important things,
such as being pro-Israel," she said. "His
mother is Jewish and he's 100 percent
one of us — a strong advocate of Israel.
"I'm grateful to him for the expo-
sure he gave me on his show, and I
feel bad that it was canceled. But he
had a long run on TV. Nine years is a
long time to have a national TV pro-
Maher always has demonstrated lib-
eral leanings, but he usually describes
himself as a libertarian. "He's very lib-
eral; there's no doubt about that,"
Schlussel asserted. Her fondest memo-
ry of Politically Incorrect was the night
she feels she bested liberal attorney
Alan Dershowitz in a debate.
Maher also has taken the
Republican side on certain issues, and,
in his comedy act, he pokes fun at Bill
Clinton as well as George W. Bush.

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Born in New York and raised in New

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Jersey, Maher, in his 40s and single,
now lives in Los Angeles. His late
Irish-Catholic father, Bill Maher, was
an NBC newsman. His mother, Julie,
is a retired nurse who still lives in
New Jersey.
The Maher family is typical of the
"half-Jewish" population that contin-
ues to increase in America, the result
of an intermarriage rate that now
makes up about half of all nuptials
featuring a Jewish bride or groom.
Quips Maher: "I was raised
Catholic ... but when I went to con-
fession, I would bring a lawyer with
He adds: "Luckily, the Jews and the
Catholics always make the holidays
come at the same time. You have
Christmas and Chanukah together,
Passover and Easter, and Yom Kippur
and the World Series [but not this
In his standup act, Maher does a
whole routine about his childhood.
"Both sides of the family had great
senses of humor," he recalls.
A graduate of Cornell University
with a degree in English, Maher got
interested in comedy and began put-
ting his language prowess to work at
New York's comedy clubs in the
1980s. He also hit the nation's come-
dy-club circuit, and has made many
appearances on late-night TV with
both David Letterman and Jay Leno.
His TV credits include five HBO
specials, the most memorable being

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Bill Maher: Be More Cynical.
During the heyday of Politically
Incorrect, Maher put together the top
highlights of the program into a book
called Does Anybody Have a Problem
With That? Politically Incorrect's
Greatest Hits.
In a Jewish News interview during
that period, the confident and sardon-
ic Maher, with his show an artistic
and critical success, was brimming
with confidence, but admitted he
always had a fear of bombing, and,
more particularly, Of his show getting
That fear has been realized, but
those hungry for Maher's brand of
humor can catch him in Clinton
Township next Friday. 111

Comedian Bill Maher brings his
politically incorrect viewpoints to
Macomb Center for the Performing
Arts 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4. $37-
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