Bill Maher on Marty Walsh, Elizabeth Warren, and Legal Weed in Massachusetts

The HBO host weighs in on local politics ahead of his show in Boston.

Bill Maher

Photo by Janet Van Ham / HBO

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have long found themselves in the crosshairs of Bill Maher and his HBO series Real Time, and Massachusetts lawmakers are no exception. Case in point, the talk show host—who’s performing in Boston and around New England this election season—recently poked fun at Mayor Marty Walsh for his speech at the Democratic National Convention. Suffice to say it wasn’t flattering. We caught up with Maher to chat about his Walsh joke, if he thinks Hillary Clinton made a mistake by not picking Elizabeth Warren for vice president, and why Massachusetts should legalize marijuana.

Since this election season has been so crazy, how are you able to balance your stand-up tour schedule with shooting your HBO show?

It’s never been easy. What you have to do is get your ass up on Saturday morning, which is like my least favorite thing to do. I’m always saying to myself, “Why am I doing this?” It’s the oldest story in the world, The Roar of the Greasepaint, you walk out there on the stage and you hear the people applauding and you go, “This is why I do it.” And it’s so pathetic that people in show business are so easily emotionally bribed by the sound of an audience applauding. There’s a story, I don’t know if it’s apocrvaphyl, but apparently someone once asked Bob Hope why he went out on the road and he said, “Because the gardeners don’t applaud.” So I’m no better than Bob Hope I guess. I don’t know, especially during a campaign season, it’s just too much fun.

You recently joked about Marty Walsh during a ‘New Rules’ segment on Real Time. What did you really think of the mayor’s convention speech?

I thought it was a good speech, but I couldn’t help but make that joke.

Speaking of the mayor, he’s teamed up with Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey against marijuana legalization.

Oh God…

As a pro-pot person, why should Massachusetts make recreational marijuana legal?

Well it’s a good idea for the whole country to do it. Certainly Massachusetts, which is one of the most liberal states in the country, should be way ahead of this. I feel embarrassed for my own state of California. I’ve been trying to shame California about this for a long time because we shouldn’t be behind Colorado and Washington state. California, so often, leads the nation in liberal causes and for us to be lagging behind four states now, I’ve taunted us and said, “I’m going to start calling us west Arizona if we don’t get this right.” It’s on the ballot here in California this fall and it’s looking very good. But, of course, it was looking very good when it was on the ballot in 2010. It wound up losing at the last second because a lot of conservative groups poured money in, and also the election took place right after Halloween. They spread a rumor that there was marijuana in the Halloween candy and it was going to poison your kids.

I’ve tried to tell my pot friends who are so sanguine about it, “Oh it’s just a matter of time, it’s just a rock rolling down a hill,” well, the attorney general of the United States is hardcore against marijuana reform. So it’s not that easy, but definitely Massachusetts, a progressive state with, of course like everywhere, a lot of stoners, should be on the side of ending prohibition. I mean fundamental fairness. We’ve been making these arguments for decades. Just fundamental fairness. How can you say that it’s OK to do prescription drugs and liquor, but not have marijuana, which has never killed anybody?

Do you think Hillary Clinton made a mistake by not choosing Elizabeth Warren as her running mate?

She would’ve been my choice, but look, the Clintons are pretty good at figuring out the electorate. I don’t agree with Hillary on everything, but the most important thing right now is that she win. Donald Trump, as I think everyone who is sane at this point agrees, is like an infection. You don’t fool around with it. So if boring Tim Kaine is what’s going to help Hillary get to the White House, fine. I’m all for that. Yes, I think Elizabeth Warren is terrific and I thought she would be the perfect one because she would bring along all the Bernie Sanders people who feel like, “Oh, if we can’t have Bernie, she’s the next best thing.” She’s practically Bernie Sanders in a dress. I also understand why Hillary, always cautious, thinks, “Let’s not spook the electorate. One woman at a time.” What would happen to the world if there were actually two women at the helm? And maybe she just didn’t want to be overshadowed because Elizabeth Warren, let’s face it, is a lot more charismatic. I mean Hillary campaigns like a hospice nurse, whereas Elizabeth Warren, she’s a great speaker and we love to hear her talk.

You recently made a post on Facebook with the hashtag ‘Bernie2020.’ Do you think Bernie Sanders will run again and will a progressive like him or Warren ever win the White House?

Well I do think that. The lasting legacy of the Bernie Sanders campaign will be the fact that he revealed something about America that we never really knew before, which is that there is a thirst for America to be a much more of a socialist country than it is. It’s already a quasi-socialist country, as are all modern democracies. Medicare, Social Security, the Marines—there’s an awful lot that the government does that the people who say they don’t like socialism, and yet they love the proponent parts of socialism because they’re not terribly educated on the subject. Whenever I’ve had Bernie on, I was always trying to get him to explain socialism to take it off the table as a demonizing weapon from the right. If he had become the candidate, if you can only imagine what the Republicans would’ve been saying about him… Bernie showed America is hungry for kind of a New Deal. Maybe we pay more in taxes, but we get free college, we get real health care, we get all those things that western European democracies have. That’s new in America. So yes.

As far the Facebook post, as someone who recently turned 60 years old, I’m trying to get across to this country that ageism is unacceptable and it’s got to stop. It is the last casual prejudice we have in America. It’s just always assumed that anybody who’s passed 70 is, well, they’re on their last legs. We can’t expect Jerry Brown here in California who did a fantastic job, who’s 76, or Bernie Sanders who’s soon to be 75, we can’t expect them to be running next time. My God, they’d be near 80! But it depends on the person. Some people near 80 are perfectly fine and some people are over when they’re 48. That has to stop. So, I’m partly doing that for myself.

Bill Maher performs at the Wilbur on August 27, and Foxwoods on October 22.

This interview has been edited and condensed.