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Maher Elects to Entertain Liberal and Conservative Student Bodies at UC Irvine


It's Bill Maher on the line.

The host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect" had just finished a three-hour satellite radio tour that began at 5:30 a.m. from ABC's offices in Century City, "so if I'm a little punchy, I hope you'll understand."

Although some of Maher's radio interviews were lined up to help boost ratings for his popular late-night show, most were being done to promote the comedian's 15-city "Politically Incorrect on Campus" tour, which began at the University of Pennsylvania two weeks ago and swings into UC Irvine tonight.

Maher's appearance is part of UCI's Election 2000 Series, which also will include a show by the Capitol Steps, a Washington, D.C.-based musical political satire group, on Oct. 26.

Maher said he left his home in Bel-Air at 5 a.m. and since he doesn't usually hit the sack until 4, he didn't bother going to bed at all. "It's what we used to call pulling an all-nighter," noted the onetime Cornell University English major who began doing stand-up in New York in the '80s.

The idea of doing a "Politically Incorrect on Campus" tour is something new for Maher, although, he said, "we've done it ad hoc here and there. We've always enjoyed it so much and it worked so well, we said, 'Let's put the tour together.' And the election year was a perfect opportunity." Besides, he said, "I get itchy if I stay home too much."

The format of Maher's campus show is the same as his TV show, with a few variations.

Instead of the 2 1/2-minute monologue he does on television, he's got 30 minutes to poke fun at the political issues and figures of the day. The panel that later joins him onstage typically includes a university student, a faculty member and a couple of "ringers."

At the University of Pennsylvania, one of the ringers was White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart. For Irvine, Maher's hoping to get comedian Tom Arnold.

"For me, it's so much fun because it's sort of like my version of 'Unplugged,' " Maher said. "I can do a show where I don't have to break for commercials or watch my language. I can sort of go nuts and get out all of my frustrations from the limits of the television show, so kids love it."

Asked whether he finds the current college generation to be politically apathetic, Maher didn't even pause before calling them "monumentally ignorant of politics."

When he'd throw together a version of "Politically Incorrect" during college appearances a few years ago, he said, he'd recruit two liberals and two conservatives from the student audience. But he'd first "interview" his volunteers from the stage by asking, Who's a conservative and who's a liberal.

Oftentimes, he said, "they couldn't even define what made a liberal or a conservative."

"This idea that the kids today are somehow the depository of great knowledge, I always say college today is what high school was in 1970 both academically and in terms of just social maturity.

"I don't think we teach them in the public schools very well anymore, so they get to college and they basically have to make up what they should have learned in high school--and they probably don't do it there either," he said, adding in mock professorial tones: "We don't make a lot of demands on kids these days.

"But the great thing about these shows is I can make fun of them and they go along with it. They have a great sense of humor about it."

Maher said his campus tour monologues are almost all about the presidential election.

"That's really what I want to talk about anyway--Bore and Gush, as I call them."

Maher said he's an equal-opportunity offender--at least this political season. "This year, I'm not a fan of either one of these candidates." And, he said, he doesn't like it that way.

He does remain a fan of President Clinton, however. Although he hasn't defended all of Clinton's policies, Maher said, "I certainly defended him through the impeachment nonsense.

"I still think this election is about Bill Clinton's [sex life]. Every bit of strategy that goes on in both camps has in mind this ghost of Bill Clinton, the sex maniac. That's why Al Gore kissed his wife so hard [at the Democratic National Convention]. That's his way of saying, 'I love my wife, I have sex with my wife.' "And that's why Gore picked Joe Lieberman as his running mate. He got a rabbi because Gandhi wasn't available."


"Politically Incorrect on Campus," Bren Events Center, UC Irvine. 8 tonight. $12. (949) 824-5000.

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