Bill Maher doesn’t feel like a loser. And the truth is, it’s a bit odd to be labeling a guy that way who has earned 22 Emmy Award nominations — 11 for his seminal strange-bedfellows talk show “Politically Incorrect,” nine for his HBO late-night series “Real Time With Bill Maher” and a pair for stand-up comedy specials.
It’s just that Maher has never won. Three years ago, he surpassed 18-time nominee Angela Lansbury as having earned the most nominations without taking home a single Emmy trophy, an ongoing legacy of defeat dating to 1995.
FOR THE RECORD:
Bill Maher: In Thursday’s Envelope section on the Emmy Awards, a headline on a question-and-answer session with comedian and talk show host Bill Maher implied that he has been nominated again this year. The Emmy nominations will not be announced until July 8. —
Larry Charles, himself a two-time Emmy victor for “Seinfeld” in the early 1990s and director of the 2008 Maher docu-comedy " Religulous,” notes of Maher’s record-setting winless run, “It’s just an astounding thing, really. The fact Bill does the kind of thought-provoking show no one else is doing anymore and consistently gets nominated year after year is, to me, of greater significance than the arbitrary outcome of who wins.”
Maher, however, seems to take his string of losses in better humor.
To what do you attribute the fact that you are the all-time Emmy Awards “non-winner,” if you will, with precisely zero wins to show for nearly two dozen nominations?
You know, that’s an awfully good question. I mean, you’d think I’d have won one just by clerical error. Or it should be like when you get your card punched at Subway. For every 10 nominations, you get one Emmy free. I should have two by now.
So, you believe you’ve been penalized for not eating enough submarine sandwiches?
Honestly, my take is that you cannot speak the truth about as many things as I do without incurring the wrath of some people who vow every year not to vote for me. I’m sure that happened after I said what I said about 9/11. [While Maher did not side with the terrorists, he did say that flying a plane into a building is not “cowardly” as some called it.] I guarantee there have been those who pledge, “I’ll never vote for him because he’s an atheist and says all those things about God.” Others probably declare, “I’ll never vote for him because he doesn’t think we should get a flu vaccination.”
Yet, would you agree with the idea that if there were a God, you’d certainly have won an Emmy by now?
(Laughing) I can’t really say.
But does it seriously bother you that you’ve never won?
Hey, I’m the same as everybody, so at first I wanted a little trophy if they were giving out trophies. Of course, it’s thrilling when you’re first nominated. But you eventually do get cured of that. And I can’t put too much stock in any of it because in my category I think it’s like 10 people in the TV academy who do the voting and make the decision. From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s not exactly a broad consensus.
And, of course, as is often said, it’s just an honor to be nominated. Or something like that. Right?
Well I certainly don’t feel I’m being actively snubbed anymore. It really is the nomination that comes from within the industry, and I’ve been nominated for my shows every year they’ve been eligible since 1995. That’s like 14 straight times. Each time I’m nominated, “Real Time” is beating out dozens and dozens of other shows for that recognition. I see that as an annual victory.
It’s also true that you’re in some pretty good company among those never to have won an Emmy: Jackie Gleason, Bob Newhart, Andy Griffith and Jason Alexander, for starters.
And Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar [other than honorary]. One could make the argument that it’s sort of a badge of honor to keep padding my losing record. The good news is, I’ve stopped caring if I win or not, and there’s something very liberating in that.