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Bill Maher set to stir up controversial humor in Columbus stand-up

Courtesy of Janet Van Ham

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From his brutal political criticisms to his severe distaste for religion, Bill Maher might be off-putting to some. But for the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” who has received more than 20 Emmy nominations, it’s all in good humor.

Maher, who is also minority owner of the New York Mets, is scheduled to perform 8 p.m. Saturday at Palace Theatre.

“It’s just something about making people laugh that even to this day in my life has never gotten old,” Maher said.

Growing up in New Jersey, Maher said he always knew he wanted to be a comedian, but hesitated to come forth with it.

“I always wanted to be a comedian as far back as I can remember. And I never said anything because I was just too shy and worried that people would make fun of me about having such a lofty ambition,” he said.

Maher credited his father, a radio newsman, for his pursuit of comedy and specifically for focusing on political humor.

“When it comes to looking for comedy material, there’s no better place than politics with the possible exception of religion. Those are the two areas that are just so ridiculous,” Maher said. “People are always doing such ridiculous things that you never have to worry about lacking in material.”

Maher said he never struggles to come up with new material because he feeds off the news, but it was a struggle at first to get his 2008 comedic documentary film “Religulous” produced.

Maher said it took about a decade for him to track down a suitable director and studio “brave” enough to produce the movie. Larry Charles, who also directed “Borat” and “The Dictator,” directed the film and LionsGate Entertainment produced it.

Now the seventh highest grossing documentary ever made, Maher said of “Religulous,” “The motivation was simple and obvious: I find religion stupid and dangerous.” The film centers on Maher traveling throughout the nation interviewing random people and those in religious careers about religion, at times challenging their beliefs.

“I think I was the only one who was going to make that movie,” Maher said. “Among Western nations, we’re pretty much the only one that’s still very religious and it retards our growth in so many ways and hurts our nation, so I felt it was an important message.”

He also said the stand-up he has prepared for Columbus will deal with similar subject matter in politics and religion, but his aim won’t be toward getting a message across as he often does on camera.

Although some Ohio State students aren’t familiar with Maher, a few said they might be interested in attending the show given their enjoyment of comedy.

Courtney Kessler, a 2012 OSU alumna in zoology, said she has never heard of Maher, but from watching political humor on shows such as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report,” she said she will probably look into what Maher has to offer.

Megan Lyon, a fourth-year in hospitality management, said heavy religious or political humor isn’t her favorite and she turns to comedians such as Ellen DeGeneres and Louis C.K. for laughs. “They just mess with people,” she said. “I do watch more (comedy on) TV, but I’m not opposed to going to stand-up. I like that too.”

Maher said his goal is to just make people laugh when he does stand-up, which is something he never gets tired of.  

“The audience can expect to laugh very hard for a long time,” he said. “That’s what they’re paying for and that’s what they’re going to get.”

Tickets are priced from $50 to $80 and are available at ticketmaster.com.

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