Bill Maher

Maybe the best thing about Maher is his refusal to be pigeonholed, his keen negotiation of the difference between unorthodoxy and hypocrisy. He’s variously proclaimed himself a libertarian and voted for Ralph Nader for President (after supporting Bob Dole in 1996), aligned himself with PETA and NORML, and was the first to bring Ann Coulter into the limelight via his Politically Incorrect show—which became a victim of our post 9/11 hysteria when Maher was vilified and PI cancelled when he said lobbing cruise missiles from 2000 miles away was more cowardly than flying airplanes into the World Trade Center. That’s Maher, for better and (occasionally) for worse a fearless slayer of shibboleths of all persuasions, at once a notorious skirt-chaser who was a regular at the Playboy Mansion, a staunch supporter of gay marriage and an unremitting critic of the Catholic Church for looking the other way while pedophilia was taking place within the clergy. Along with Jon Stewart and a few others, he’s in the vanguard of a current wave of social commentary that is simultaneously hilarious and astute, as anyone who checks out Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO already knows. He’s also extremely topical, so expect a few zingers on the stories in this week’s newspapers—and perhaps a few words about his friend and mentor, the late George Carlin.