MGM National Harbor welcomes Bill Maher, who predicts outcome of 2024 presidential election

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Bill Maher at MGM National Harbor (Part 1)

New rule: When Bill Maher performs in your town, you have to buy a ticket.

OK, you don’t have to, but it might be a fun night out in our nation’s capital.

The political comedian performs live at MGM National Harbor in Maryland this Saturday.

“My act isn’t just all political, but I have the luxury of having a constantly changing flow of material,” Maher told WTOP. “I don’t have to be sitting in a diner looking at the ketchup bottle going, ‘What’s funny about this?’ I have the luxury of letting the players in Washington change all the time and provide new material. I think people just need a release, having somebody out there expressing what they’re thinking.”

Maher has no shortage of material, coming to the nation’s capital at one of most politically-charged times in American history. After all, Donald Trump just became the first former president of the U.S. to be indicted on criminal charges for allegedly using campaign funds for hush money payments to a porn star.

“I thought I was going to be done with Trump, but you’re never done with Trump,” Maher said. “I talk to my liberal friends and the first thing they always say is, ‘Maybe he’ll die,’ like that’s a plan! First of all, he’s a city roach, he’ll never die. The worse he treats himself, the stronger he gets, so I wouldn’t count on that. I don’t think anyone is harder on Donald Trump, he’s constantly insulting me at his rallies to this day, which I take as a badge of honor.”

However, he still thinks it was a mistake to indict Trump on these particular charges first, worrying that Americans won’t understand the nuance of campaign finance fraud and might shrug off his alleged marital digressions once again — compared to much larger, more serious charges of sedition that may be coming down the pike.

“It just makes him into a martyr,” Maher said. “It was a giant mistake to go after him for this. They could have — and they are — going after him for cases that are much more relevant. The one in Georgia where he asked somebody to find votes, the insurrection, trying to overthrow the government in a coup! They have areas to go after him, but to bring this case, the people in this country do not do nuance, they’re just going to see it like (Bill) Clinton in 1998.”

As for the current leader of the free world, Maher views President Joe Biden as a necessary tonic after the bluster of the Trump years. He insists that Biden doesn’t get enough credit after inheriting a pandemic-tanked economy.

“If you ask Democrats, ‘How has Biden done?’ ‘Great, he got us out of Afghanistan, handled Ukraine well, all that money toward climate change.’ ‘So should he run again?’ ‘Absolutely not!'” Maher said. “He’s done fine and brought us back to normality. You don’t have to be the most energetic guy … Joe’s like nondairy creamer. Nobody’s first choice, but he gets the job done. I don’t see anybody else out there who guarantees they can beat Trump.”

Indeed, Maher predicts that Trump will win the GOP nomination but lose the 2024 presidential election.

“He’s going to be the nominee for the Republican Party next time for president, I would bet my house on it,” Maher said. “Biden has beat him once, he would beat him again, then comes the fun part where Trump doesn’t concede the election and hopefully this time he won’t have more people in power. He tried it last time, he just didn’t have enough Republicans in power willing to sell their country down the river … so it should be fun in 2025.”

Maher says his show is fun for both sides of the political aisle, particularly in recent years as he rolls his eyes at shifting societal norms. If conservatives are in the audience on Saturday, which jokes might they agree with?

“People say to me all the time, ‘Why do you make fun of the left more than you used to?’ Because you’re more ridiculous than you used to be!” Maher said. “There are colleges now who put out lists of words that you can’t say like ‘master bedroom,’ ‘peanut gallery,’ ‘white paper’ and ‘insane.’ You can’t say ‘insane?’ That’s insane! There’s way too much identity politics, oversensitivity, victimization and pointless white self loathing that doesn’t help.”

Maher’s self loathing (or lack thereof) began with his birth in New York City in 1956. His mother was a nurse and his father was a network news editor and radio announcer, so he grew up with a healthy diet of comedy and news.

“Johnny Carson, when I was a kid, people my age will remember, he was like a lord of comedy and I tried to see his show every night, even if I had to sneak it because it was on late,” Maher said. “Then, as far as the kind of standup that I do, that would be Robert Klein and George Carlin. They were the guys back then. There’s different styles. On my TV show, I’m more Johnny Carson, but in my standup, I’m more like Carlin and Klein, at least I try to be.”

In 1979, Maher began emceeing at the famous Catch a Rising Star comedy club in New York.

“You wanted to be the emcee,” Maher said. “That was the guy who made the decisions about who went on stage, you got all the stage time you wanted, you went on between every act. All we were looking for back then was stage time, that’s how you got better … It was a great time when comedy clubs were in ascendance in this country and there was this new thing called the ‘urban comedy club.’ It just fostered a whole generation of different comedy.”

Not only did he meet his hero, he appeared roughly 35 times on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” which paved the way for him being cast in various film and TV roles in “D.C. Cab” (1983), “Sara” (1985), “Ratboy” (1986), “Max Headroom” (1987), “Murder, She Wrote” (1989), “Charlie Hoover” (1991) and “Pizza Man” (1991).

In 1993, Maher began hosting “Politically Incorrect” on Comedy Central, the first episode featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Quivers, Ed Rollins and Larry Miller. The talk show soon moved to ABC where it ran until 2003.

“I always knew I wanted to do something with news, so luckily Comedy Central, which was new in the early ’90s, was looking for some programming,” Maher said. “We had like 0.2 of a rating but we got a lot of press because it was new and different. Nobody had ever done a talk show where the host gave his opinion. The template for Carson, Letterman, Leno was don’t tell them your political opinions because you’ll alienate half of your audience.”

In 2003, he launched a new late-night cable program with HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” the same year as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which joined Hurricane Katrina and the Great Recession to swing voters from George W. Bush to Barack Obama in 2008. Featuring a kickass instrumental intro, recently redone by Green Day, Maher’s formula has become an institution from his opening monologue to his celebrity guests to his “New Rules” finale.

“We’re in our 21st season; how do you keep it going? You work,” Maher said. “I put in the time. That ending that you mentioned, ‘New Rules,’ just that editorial, which takes about eight to 10 minutes to deliver, I probably put in about 20 hours a week writing it and finishing it, so there’s no secret. Perspiration.”

Whether you watch his show or not, he hopes Americans can find a way to get over themselves and get along.

“What this country needs to get back to is understanding that you don’t have to agree with everybody or make them agree with you,” Maher said. “Everybody needs to shut up in this country about their political opinions 24/7 on Facebook. You’re not going to convince them anyway, and if you don’t agree on everything, so what? It’s a big country with lots of people who don’t think like you. Get over it.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Bill Maher at MGM National Harbor (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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