Bill Maher Can’t Get Canceled For Some Reason

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

bill maher

For some, he’s the politically incorrect gift that keeps on giving; for others, he’s a comedian and commentator who just can’t be canceled–whether by a broadcasting company or the court of public opinion. Regardless of how you feel, the fact remains that Bill Maher’s HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, has been renewed through 2026.

HBO’s decision underscores two things: one, Maher is a figure seemingly impervious to controversy’s career-ending implications, and two, his check-signers at HBO consider him worth keeping around. Why is HBO so keen on Maher?

The New Rules

bill maher

Perhaps because the comedian’s “New Rule” segments regularly go viral (on YouTube, it should be said; maybe the internet has given his career the longevity it might not otherwise have). Indeed, for many, his no-holds-barred, politically independent skewering of both the left and the right counts as a sight for sore eyes in our increasingly polarized, partisan world. 

He Almost Crossed The Picket Line

bill maher

For others, however, Bill Maher is someone whose lack of cancellation is a head-scratcher. 

Indeed, controversies have attended the comedian’s career. Last year, for example, Maher made headlines during the writer’s strike by initially deciding to bring Real Time back on air without its writing staff. Maher would later postpone this decision in response to the robust backlash, eventually reversing it altogether after the strike concluded.

Ultimately, the incident emphasized Maher’s ability to navigate contentious waters—a career-defining characteristic for the comedian. 

The Controversy Feeds Him

bill maher

Maybe Bill Maher’s controversy ultimately adds to his appeal (he wouldn’t be the first public figure to benefit from the maxim “no publicity is bad publicity”). His tenure on HBO, perhaps the most respected streaming platform, evidences his excellent relationship with the network through its length alone: 700 episodes since the show’s inception way back in 2003. 

And the show not only survived but thrived. After all, Maher’s contract technically expires at the end of this year; HBO renewed it early, signaling confidence in the comedian’s continued relevance and appeal. His equal-opportunity roasting will probably be especially fruitful in the upcoming Presidential election, something HBO is doubtlessly eager to capitalize on. 

Encouraging Dialogue

For his part, Bill Maher has referred to his yet-again-extended show as a “dream job;” Nina Rosenstein, EVP of HBO Programming, Late Night & Specials, heaped praise on the comedian, deeming him “a uniquely powerful voice in politics and culture.” The exec also lauded Maher’s knack of encouraging dialogue across differing viewpoints. 

It could be  Real Time’s endless lifespan boils down to the fact that, on the show, guests and debaters can respectfully disagree, that divergent perspectives are the norm rather than the exception. This approach is increasingly rare in our polarized media landscape–it could ultimately explain Bill Maher’s persistence. 

Something must explain it–because Maher’s been nothing if not persistent.

Maher Has Been Controversial For Decades

In 2017, some will recall, the comedian used a racial slur while live on the air. Although he swiftly and directly apologized for it, it made waves. 

Who can forget the incident on his previous show, Politically Incorrect, when Maher described the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the terrorists themselves, as “not cowardly”? This, mind you, was only six days after the attacks. 

Either way, Real-Time remains a consistent space for discussion and dissent. Clearly, the show and Bill Maher himself owe their ongoing tenure to something.

Source: Deadline