The host of HBO’s controversial political debate show “Real Time With Bill Maher” was born into a family of mixed religious affiliation. His father, a news editor and radio announcer, was Catholic, and his mother was Jewish. His father’s disagreement with Catholic policies led the family to stop attending church services when Maher was a teenager. This split was influential in sparking Maher’s eventual outspoken anti-religious stance.
After attending college at Cornell University, Maher got his start as a stand-up comedian in New York City. Following a few years of appearing at Catch a Rising Star in Manhattan, Maher got his break when he started appearing on “Late Night With David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show” in 1982.
After an undistinguished attempt to launch an acting career – “Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death” is a highlight – Maher hit his professional stride when he became the host of the Comedy Central topical debate show “Politically Incorrect” in 1993. The show moved to ABC in 1997 and was successful, winning one Emmy and earning several more nominations.
During a show shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Maher made a comment about the terrorists in the airplanes that hit the World Trade Center towers, stating, “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."
Maher’s comments enraged sponsors and network affiliates and drew a scolding from President George W. Bush’s press secretary. After losing most of its advertisers, the show was canceled the following summer.
In 2003, Maher launched “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO, which retained much of the panel discussion format of “Politically Incorrect.”
In 2008, Maher produced, wrote and starred in the controversial documentary “Religulous” that took a dim view of organized religion. Maher frequently speaks out against organized religion on his show.
An affirmed bachelor, Maher is regularly photographed at the Playboy Mansion and makes no secret of his love of the single guy lifestyle and frequent marijuana use. He has no children, but is an animal lover and an active member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.