Bill Maher has received more Primetime Emmy Award nominations without earning a single win than anyone else past or present in the TV industry. Still, his record losing streak reached a frustrating 26 last year and eclipsed even Susan Lucci who was 0-for-19 before she won, and Angela Lansbury who is still 0-for-18. But the stand-up comedian-turned-late night talk host of Politically Incorrect (1993-2002, first on Comedy Central and then ABC), and now HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (since 2003) retains a sense of humor about it all as he talks to Deadline TV Contributor Ray Richmond:
DEADLINE: So at this point it’s safe to assume that the TV Academy thinks you’re worthy of nominations but not of wins….
BILL MAHER: Yes, I think I get it now. And I’m really OK with it. In fact, clearly at this point, winning would only fuck things up. I’d lose all of my street cred.
DEADLINE: Seriously, why do you think the Emmy eludes you?
MAHER: There are two things at play. One is that you can’t be as outspoken as I am on a number of issues and earn awards from a mainstream body in Hollywood. For example, my stance on religion. Right there, you probably lose the Emmy. I’ll give you an example: a month ago, I’m doing a standup show in Dallas and my religious stuff went over huge. Absolute gangbusters. But the review of the show under a headline that says something like ‘Dallas Loves Maher,’ claims the religious material bombed. This simply wasn’t true. We’re talking 10 to 15 minutes of huge belly laughs and applause. I know the difference between killing and bombing, trust me. But I obviously offended this reviewer personally. Now take that response and extrapolate it to the people involved in the Emmy show who judge Real Time vs. the other contenders. The other thing is that different sets of people nominate you vs. vote for the winner. The nomination is open to the entire Academy, which consists of thousands and thousands of your peers. A much smaller microcosm decides the trophy itself, like 10 people comparatively. It isn’t exactly a broad consensus.
DEADLINE: But at least you haven’t been snubbed, either.
MAHER: Hardly. I’ve been nominated for my shows every year they’ve been eligible since 1995. That’s like 15 straight times Real Time and, before that, Politically Incorrect beat out dozens and dozens of other shows for that recognition. So that in itself is an annual victory.
DEADLINE: But Jon Stewart has won 8 times in a row….
MAHER: Listen, I’m not complaining about it. This does not keep me up nights. I don’t sense a conspiracy afoot. It comes down to people voting their taste, and I’m not the taste preference of a majority. Maybe that’s a good thing.
DEADLINE: Has losing all 26 of your Emmy nominations impacted you?
MAHER: I have to say the impact has been essentially zero. I still attend the ceremony muchof the time, though not every year. But honestly, I’ve done all right without it. I’m happy with the people who follow what we do at HBO and tell me how much they enjoy it. That means much more to me than an Emmy. I’d never trade what people say to me on the street for one.
DEADLINE: At this point, do you think you’ll ever win?
MAHER: Only if there’s maybe a clerical error somewhere down the line. If I did win, I’m sure it would spur a huge investigation.
DEADLINE: So what TV do you watch, and who gets your attention on the tube?
MAHER: I don’t know Charlie Sheen well, but I spent a little time with him in 2009 and that guy is completely different than the one I’ve seen now. The fact is I’m a Libertarian who believes you should be able to do any drug you want. But don’t get all obnoxious and brag about it. That bothers me, the rubbing your fame and money in people’s faces — especially Charlie who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. I put Donald Trump in that same league of rubbing people’s noses in it. Trump and Charlie spend far too much time talking about how fucking fabulous they are. I’m thinking, ‘Dude, if you were a rock star, you’d have cuter girls and wouldn’t have to pay for them.’ My TV taste runs more to The Office and 30 Rock. I love both of those shows. Tina Fey is a rather amazing personality, in many ways unprecedented. Also, it’s part of my job to watch Fox News. They’re very good at confirming what the ill-informed believe.