IF YOU GO
What: Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher's 90-minute stand-up comedy show
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday April 29
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers
Cost: $42 balcony seats; all other tickets sold out
Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com
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Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher promises audiences one thing if they attend his April 29 stand-up show at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.
"They can expect to laugh their ass off," Maher chortled. "This is stand-up comedy. We're not fooling around here!"
He promises ninety minutes to two hours of topical humor and "everything that's been going on in this country that deserves to be laughed at."
While he's often perceived as a liberal, Maher says he's not a Democrat.
"The Democrats are no prize, no prize at all." Maher insists. "But for crying out loud, if you vote for a Republican these days, its like saying 'gee I'm not that happy with our babysitter, tonight let's just leave the kids on the road!'"
The comedian says that red states - and conservative areas like Southwest Florida - are his "favorite places to play."
"Three weeks ago I was in Huntsville, Ala.," Maher says, describing the scene. "Three thousand screaming, fanatical liberals, mostly atheists, in Huntsville, Alabama."
"What people don't really understand about this country," Maher declares, passionate about the topic, "is even the most conservative areas have a lot of progressive people who live among them. They just don't make their voices heard."
Maher still gets a bit of a thrill from going to ultra-conservative enclaves like Huntsville or Tulsa, Okla., and getting a standing ovation before he ever says a word.
"If you told me that that was going to happen ten years ago, I would have said 'you're crazy.'"
Most of his stand-up show deals with national politics - and he wants critics (and ticket-buyers) to know that he's "not partisan at all."
"I happen to side mostly with the Democrats because they're mostly more sane," Maher said. "But I'm not a Democrat and I criticize them all the time and I criticize Obama all the time."
Maher has been getting up in front of crowds since 1979 and still performs at least 50 stand-up dates a year in Las Vegas and around the country. He refreshes the show all the time.
"I work on this constantly," Maher said. "People will never come out there and see me do all the material from my last stand-up special. I always got new shit for them!"
He says stand-up comedy is the opposite of music.
"When you go see the Eagles, you want them to play the hits you've heard a thousand times and the ones you heard in 1975." Maher points out. "When you see me, you don't want me to do the act I did two years ago."
The comedian gets "every kind" of audiences.
"I look in the audience and there's young and there's old and there's everything in between. There's even conservatives," Maher says, laughing.
The comedian describes how he can pick out the not-so-liberal ticket-buyers that come to his show.
"I can tell because in the beginning they're very often just sitting there with their arms folded and staring at me probably because their wife dragged them to the show, which they don't like to begin with that their wife likes me and dragged them to something," he said. "but by the end I usually get them laughing because some of the stuff, you know, they just have to admit, Republicans are funny."
As the conversation drifts toward politics, Maher dismisses talk of need for a centrist party and trains his fire on the GOP.
"I have to laugh when I hear Republicans talk about President Obama," Maher said. "Because they're not talking about the real President Obama. They're talking about some fictional President Obama that they made up in their head. Somebody who's coming for their guns ... for their Bible ... someone who's gonna get the government between you and your doctor."
Maher pauses, then finally comes up with an off the cuff description of how Republicans view the president.
"This is this fictional President Barack X who lives there on Planet Bat [expletive]," Maher said. "It's just a completely unrealistic version of who the real president is. They might as well say he's a pineapple who lives under the sea."
Bill Maher performs at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 29 at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers. Tickets are $42, $52, $62 and $72. Call 239-481-4849 or online at bbmannpah.com.