Born and raised in the New York area, William Maher knew from early on that he wanted to be a comedian. He graduated from Pascack Hills High School in New Jersey, went to Cornell University, and then went straight to the comedy club circuit in New York. His father was a news editor for NBC, so Bill Maher had a thirst for current events from his father. This political knowledge aided Maher's comedy act by lending intelligent and witty banter about current politics to a show, setting Maher apart from some of his goofy competition.
Maher toured clubs throughout the 80s without gaining much critical success or renown despite his cutting-edge material. He was not afraid to pounce on taboo subjects from the media like AIDS. In 1983 his career picked up as he began appearing in movies and sitcoms. He began with the film D.C. Cab with Gary Busey and moved on to play a sleazy lawyer in the television sitcom Sara starring Geena Davis. He also appeared in Club Med, Rags to Riches, and Out of Time. His first starring role was in the little known film Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. The name probably didn't help the film's ratings.
Maher finally found his niche in the late 80s on cable television. He co-hosted CBS late-night stand up series Midnight Hour and later appeared on The A-List on Comedy Central and One Night Stand on HBO. He was even enlisted as a special correspondent for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Maher's big break came in 1992 when he pitched the idea for a comedy show to up-and-coming network Comedy Central. He described the show as 'The McLaughlin Group on Acid'.
Politically Incorrect was soon broadcast into homes across the US. Politically Incorrect was an instant hit. Its offbeat discussion of current events paired with Maher's quick wit soon earned the show awards as the Best Talk-Show Series on cable. Maher also earned the Best Entertainment Host award from the Cable ACE. ABC soon picked up the talk show and put it on late-night. By 1997 the show was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards.
During the success of Politically Incorrect, Bill Maher continued his stand-up career with comedy specials like HBO's Stuff That Struck Me Funny and Bill Maher: Be More Cynical. Maher might have been a little too cynical about the September 11th attacks. He made comments about the government's actions regarding the attack, which outraged show sponsors. ABC soon cancelled Politically Incorrect for Maher's politically incorrect comments. Six days after the final episode was aired, Bill Maher received the President's Award from the Los Angeles Press Club for championing free speech.
Maher wasn't deterred by the cancellation of his hit show. He continued voicing his opinions, now in print. He wrote numerous books, including Does Anybody Have a Problem With That? The Best of Politically Incorrect, True Story: A Novel, and When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism. He also went back to his roots of live comedy with a one-man show on Broadway. Next on his to-do list was a live comedy series on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher. Maher continues to spark controversy with his risky comedy bits and out-spoken ways. One of Maher's biggest assets is not being afraid to spark thought in his audience, even if it is politically incorrect.