Bill Maher: ‘I Failed in My Quest to Get America to Not Elect A Crazy Person President’

The TV host on failure, burnout and his relationship with his phone.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Bill Maher: Pee - doesn’t everybody? After that, I drink a very big glass of water with lemon and cayenne pepper, the skin brushing from bottom of feet to top of head ending over the heart – really gets the blood flowing.

TG: What gives you energy?
BM: Pot. Er, I mean the inspiration of my millions of fans. And pot. No really, some people get sleepy on it, but it’s an upper for me (and millions of others), that’s why they call it “getting high.”

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
BM: “Stop That Ball,” the first book I read all the way through, and established I could read a book all the way through! Also, “Ten Essential Herbs” by Lalitha Thomas, so I could fix myself at home without pharmaceuticals!

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
BM: Fuck no. Not even in the same room. Not even turned on at all hours of the day, and never at night. And my life got better when I learned to say to people who want a picture, “Sorry, I don’t do that — handshake? Eye contact? I’m trying to bring back human contact.” Most actually appreciate that.

TG: How do you deal with email?
BM: Badly. It piles up so quickly, and it seems like most of it is Someone who wants Some Thing — like what I’m doing right now! I check it when I get up, and try to answer the important stuff some time in the evening, and get to the backlog on the weekend. It’s never a joy; it’s always, “Eh, I guess I’ll answer the e-mails now so I can get back to sitting in this comfy chair and read and not having it hanging over my head.”

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day. What do you do with it?
BM: If it’s light out, probably shoot baskets on my court. Yeah, my court, bitches!

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
BM: Well for sure at the end of the season last year with the election and all the worries that brought with it. But now that Trump’s president and America has been made great again, I’m completely relaxed!!

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed, and how did you overcome it?
BM: I failed in my quest to get America to not elect a crazy person president, and I still have not overcome it.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
BM: “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” — G B Shaw. I love it — such a high minded way to stick it to my critics!

For more than twenty years, Bill Maher has set the boundaries of where funny, political talk can go on American television. First on “Politically Incorrect” (Comedy Central, ABC, 1993–2002), and for the last fourteen years on HBO’s “Real Time,” Maher’s combination of unflinching honesty and big laughs have garnered him 38 Emmy nominations. Maher won his first Emmy in 2014 as executive producer for the HBO series, “VICE.” In October of 2008, this same combination was on display in Maher’s uproarious and unprecedented swipe at organized religion, “Religulous,” directed by Larry Charles (“Borat”). The documentary has gone on to become the 8th Highest Grossing Documentary ever. Maher has written five bestsellers: “True Story,” “Does Anybody Have a Problem with That? Politically Incorrect’s Greatest Hits,” “When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden,” “New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer,and most recently, “The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody But Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass.”