Politically Incorrect

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Politically Incorrect
Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher title card.jpg
Title card used during the ABC Run
GenreTalk show
StarringBill Maher
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons8
Running time30 minutes
Production companiesHBO Downtown Productions
Comedy Central Productions (1993–1997)
Brillstein-Grey Entertainment (1997–1999)
Brad Grey Television (1999–2002)
Original networkComedy Central (1993–1997)
ABC (1997–2002)
Original releaseJuly 25, 1993 (1993-07-25) –
July 5, 2002 (2002-07-05)
Followed byThe Daily Show (Comedy Central),
Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)
RelatedReal Time with Bill Maher

Politically Incorrect was an American late-night, half-hour political talk show hosted by Bill Maher that aired from July 25, 1993, to July 5, 2002. It premiered on Comedy Central in July 1993 and aired for three seasons until November 5, 1996; amid its success on Comedy Central, ABC expressed interest in bringing the show to the network to shore up its late-night lineup, moving there on January 5, 1997.

On September 17, 2001, Maher criticized United States foreign policy on the show and argued that the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks, although terrible people, were not cowards. What was cowardly, he argued, was America's relationship with the rest of the world. The comments were widely condemned,[1] and while Maher later apologized and clarified the meaning behind his comments, major advertisers stopped advertising with the show. As a result, the show was canceled in 2002.[2]

The show first originated from New York City, but soon moved to Los Angeles. The New York episodes were shot at the CBS Broadcast Center and the Los Angeles episodes at CBS Television City, where it remained even after its move to ABC.

The first episode featured comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern co-host Robin Quivers, Republican Party strategist Ed Rollins, and comedian Larry Miller. Frequent guests included Dave Matthews, Arianna Huffington, Michael McKean, Ann Coulter, Carrot Top, and Christine O'Donnell.[3]


Bill Maher in 2007

The show began with a brief topical monologue from Maher. Then Maher introduces the guests individually, promoting their current projects. Four guests appear, usually a mix of individuals from show business, popular culture, pundits, political consultants, and occasionally regular people in the news, discussing topics in the news selected by Maher. Maher described the program as "The McLaughlin Group on acid."[4]

On rare occasions, Maher would interview a single guest. The show was pioneering in mixing political figures and entertainers. Maher tried to air all points of view, especially controversial ones. Guests could be both aggravating and insightful, with the conversation similar to a cocktail party with quick-witted guests.[4]


The show's writers included Al Franken, Arianna Huffington, Kevin Bleyer, Scott Carter, and Chris Kelly.

9/11 controversy and cancellation[edit]

On September 11, 2001, conservative political commentator Barbara Olson was on her way to Los Angeles to appear as a guest on Politically Incorrect, when the airplane she was on was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon during the September 11 attacks.

In the aftermath of the attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush said that the terrorists responsible were cowards. During the September 17, 2001 episode, one of Maher's guests, Dinesh D'Souza, said “These are warriors. And we have to realize that the principles of our way of life are in conflict with people in the world. And so—I mean, I’m all for understanding the sociological causes of this, but we should not blame the victim. Americans shouldn’t blame themselves because other people want to bomb them.” [1] Maher agreed, and replied: "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."[1] Similar comments were made by others in other media.[1]

Advertisers withdrew their support, and some ABC affiliates stopped airing the show temporarily.[1] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer denounced Maher, warning that "people have to watch what they say and watch what they do."[5] Maher apologized, and explained that he had been criticizing U.S. military policy, not American soldiers.[6]

The show was canceled the following June, which Maher and many others saw as a result of the controversy, although ABC denied that the controversy was a factor and said the program was canceled due to declining ratings.[7][8][9] Maher said that the show struggled for advertisers in its final months.[10] There were subsequently comments in various media on the irony that a show called Politically Incorrect was canceled because its host had made a supposedly politically incorrect comment.[11][12]

The show was replaced on ABC by Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2003.

Maher rebounded with an hour-long weekly program on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher premiering on February 21, 2003, which follows a similar format.

Awards and recognition[edit]

The show won a 2000 Emmy Award for "Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video for a Series." In addition, it was nominated for seventeen other awards, including: "Outstanding Variety"; "Outstanding Music or Comedy Series" (every year from 1995 to 2002); and "Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program" in 1997. The show also won two CableACE Awards in 1995 and 1996 for Talk Show Series and was nominated for a third in 1997. It was also nominated for two Writers Guild of America awards for best Comedy/Variety series in 2001 and 2002.[13]

Related media[edit]

Maher released a book in 1997, Does Anybody Have a Problem with That? The Best of Politically Incorrect, which featured questions asked on the show, comments Maher made and guest answers. In 2003 an audiobook POLITICAL INCORRECTIONS: The Best Opening Monologues from Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher was released, which featured opening monologues from the show accompanied by explanations of the current affairs that were being discussed in the media at that time.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Bohlen, Celestine. (2001-09-21.) "Think tank; In new war on terrorism, words are weapons, too". The New York Times online archive. Retrieved on 2007-10-09.
  2. ^ "'Politically Incorrect' Canceled; ABC Goes With Jimmy Kimmel". Los Angeles Times. May 15, 2002.
  3. ^ "Christine O'Donnell: 'I Dabbled in Witchcraft'". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-09-29.
  4. ^ a b Carter, Bill (1994-02-27). "TELEVISION; Lots of Political Humor, and No Morton Kondracke". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  5. ^ Carter, Bill; Barringer, Felicity (2001-09-28) "A nation challenged: Speech and expression; in patriotic time, dissent is muted". The New York Times online archive. Retrieved on 2007-10-09.
  6. ^ Harrington, Matt (2001-09-24). "'Politically Incorrect' suspended by local ABC affiliate". Triad Business Journal. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  7. ^ (2003-05-05.) "Maher: Politically incorrect on broadway". CBS News website. Retrieved on 2007-10-09.
  8. ^ Kirn, Walter. (2002-05-26.) "The way we live now: 5-26-02; The end of the affair". The New York Times online archive. Retrieved on 2007-10-09.
  9. ^ "Maher tapes final episode of 'Politically Incorrect'". USA Today online, retrieved on 2007-10-09.
  10. ^ Maher, Bill. (2006-09-10.) "When can we finally be funny again?" The Los Angeles Times Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2016-06-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Boston Legal: Schadenfreude" (PDF). Boston Legal. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  13. ^ "Awards for "Politically Incorrect"". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-06-20.

External links[edit]