Date of Birth: January 20, 1956
Political comedian Bill Maher grew up in River Vale, New Jersey, where his father, William, was a news editor for NBC news and his mother, Julie, was a nurse. William was always cracking jokes in the house and passed his biting sense of humor on to his son.
While attending Cornell University, Maher became interested in stand-up comedy. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, he began performing at Catch a Rising Star comedy club in New York City. Audiences didn't respond well to his early performances, but Maher continued to hang around the club and learned how to be an effective comedian. After a few years, Maher was hired as the host of Catch a Rising Star and was able to spend time working on his act every night.
One night while hosting at the club, a talent scout from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson spotted Maher. The scout was impressed by his act, and invited the young comedian to appear on the late-night talk show. As a child Maher had idolized Carson, and quickly jumped at the chance to perform on a nationally broadcast television show.
Over the next few years, Maher made numerous appearances on the show, but felt constrained by the rules of network television.
In 1993, Maher was approached by cable network The Comedy Channel about starring in his own television show. Maher developed the show as a roundtable political discussion featuring celebrities and politicians. The show, Politically Incorrect, debuted in 1994 and was an instant success, making Maher a star.
The show ran for seven years on Comedy Central before being cancelled. The show's demise can be attributed to Maher's harsh criticism of the United States government following the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. His controversial comments directly caused many major companies to pull their advertisements from the network, ultimately sealing Politically Incorrect's fate.
"All I did was tell the truth. That's is what the whole show is about! And if 'Politically Incorrect' has to go down for it, so be it!" said Maher after the show's cancellation.
Maher has since launched Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. The show features content similar to Politically Incorrect but doesn't have to cater to advertisers' demands or the rules of network television.
Filmography:Swing Vote (2008)