Politically incorrecter than thou
by Ann Hutton
January 21, 2010 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Maher says things that we don't necessarily want to hear, and we laugh. Is it because his comic delivery is superb, or because his observations provoke that nervous response in us - that mirth that serves to cover disgust and revulsion? In either case he gets the job done, and this Friday, January 22 he'll be at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston to work the upstate crowds into a gleeful frenzy. With mentors like George Carlin and the great Steve Allen, Maher has built his career on social commentary that often defies simplistic left/right categorization - always pushing against the boundaries of appropriateness, always landing on the side of reason that points to the absurdities of this American life. His "unflinching honesty" makes us flinch.

Maher's two successful forays into television, Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central (ABC, 1993-2002) and his current Real Time on HBO (featuring such regular visitors as John Edwards, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, Arianna Huffington, Alec Baldwin and Michael Moore), have garnered him 21 Emmy nominations. As a stand-up comedian since 1979, he performs at least 50 dates a year in Las Vegas and in sold-out theaters all across the country. Two of his eight stand-up specials for HBO, 2007's The Decider and 2005's I'm Swiss, have also been nominated for Emmy Awards. In addition, he has written four bestsellers: True Story, Does Anybody Have a Problem with That? Politically Incorrect's Greatest Hits, When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden, and a fifth book, New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer. Maher's Religulous, a film called "an uproarious and unprecedented swipe at organized religion," directed by Larry Charles of Borat fame, has gone on to become the seventh-highest-grossing documentary ever made.

Mercilessly skewering American pop culture and those of us who willingly put up with it is not Bill Maher's only job. This graduate of Cornell University serves on the board of directors of both People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Reason Project, a non-profit think tank "with the purpose of eroding the influence of dogmatism, superstition and bigotry in the world." And most recently he has made a veritable public service announcement on the Huffington Post to promote, a concept that urges citizens to withdraw their funds from mega-banks "too big to fail" and support their local community banks or credit unions instead. According to Maher, "This is not a conservative idea or a liberal idea. It's not left or right. It's populism at its best."

Tickets for "An Evening with Bill Maher" on Friday, January 22 at 8 p.m. are available at $85 for the Golden Circle, $55 general admission and $50 for Bardavon members. Purchase your tickets in person at the UPAC box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; or through TicketMaster at (800) 745-3000. Additional information is available at or

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