Talk show host Bill Maher will be presented with PEN center USA’s First Amendment Award at the organization’s 26th Literary Awards this month. The award has previously been given to journalists Chris Hedges, Robert Scheer and Charles Bowden; Glenn Greenwald and documentarian Laura Poitras; Hugh Hefner; and former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who went to prison after leaking information about interrogation practices.
Maher is host of “Real Time” on HBO, a program that engages in a lively discussion of current events. His guests often include a mix of politicians, comedians, public intellectuals and performers, and have included Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cornel West, Margaret Cho, Gavin Newsom, Michael Moore, Kathy Griffin, Al Gore, Jay Leno, Cory Booker, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Judd Apatow, John Waters, Mark Ruffalo, Grover Norquist and Colin Powell. On it, and on his previous show, “Politically Incorrect,” Maher, who is also a writer and producer on “Real Time,” pushes boundaries, sometimes landing in hot water.
In addition to his television career, Maher has published five bestselling books: “True Story,” “Does Anybody Have a Problem with That?” “When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden,” “New Rules: Polite Musings From a Timid Observer,” and most recently, “The New New Rules.”
PEN Center USA also announced Monday that the winner of its screenplay award is Jeff Nichols for “Loving.” The film, which Nichols also directed, is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple whose battle for their 1958 marriage went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Other recipients of PEN Center USA’s 2016 literary awards include Isabel Allende, who will be presented with a lifetime achievement award, Iranian American journalist Jason Rezaian, recipient of the Freedom to Write Award, and writers John Logan, Sandra Cisneros, Jill Leovy and Gene Luen Yang.
The 26th Literary Awards Festival, a black-tie celebration, will be held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Sept. 28. David Cross and Amber Tamblyn, actors and writers both, will serve as co-hosts.