Bill Maher is bringing ‘Real Time’ back to HBO — without striking writers

Bill Maher speaks at a podium.
(Casey Curry / Invision / Associated Press)
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Bill Maher announced Wednesday evening that his HBO show “Real Time With Bill Maher” will be returning to the air, without “writers or writing,” joining several struck daytime talk shows resuming production as Hollywood’s strikes continue with no end in sight. Maher is the first late-night host to make the move.

Maher said he supported the striking writers but that the stoppage had become too hard on nonstriking production staff who have been out of work since May. Maher’s move echoes the previous 2007-08 writers’ strike, when he restored his show mid-stoppage (along with hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien) without writers or writing, and will likely face picketing by the Writers Guild of America.

“Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing,” Maher wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work. The writers have important issues that I sympathize with, and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people with issues, problems, and concerns.


The Writers Guild of America, East, picketed “The Drew Barrymore Show” after the host said that production would resume during the Hollywood strikes.

Sept. 11, 2023

“Despite some assistance from me, much of the staff is struggling mightily. We all were hopeful this would come to an end after Labor Day, but that day has come and gone, and there still seems to be nothing happening. I love my writers, I am one of them, but I’m not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much.

“I will honor the spirit of the strike by not doing a monologue, desk piece, New Rules or editorial, the written pieces that I am so proud of on Real Time. And I’ll say it upfront to the audience: the show I will be doing without my writers will not be as good as our normal show, full stop. But the heart of the show is an off-the-cuff panel discussion that aims to cut through the bull— and predictable partisanship, and that will continue. The show will not disappoint.”

Viewership data from streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ has become a major sticking point in the writers’ and actors’ strikes.

Sept. 14, 2023

A representative for HBO said Maher’s show will return Sept. 22, with upcoming guests to be determined.

A spokesperson for the Writers Guild of America East called Maher’s decision “disappointing.”

“If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than ‘the spirit of the strike,’” the spokesperson said. “Bill Maher is obligated as a WGA member to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services. It is difficult to imagine how ‘Real Time’ can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place. WGA will be picketing this show.”

The recent plans by talk shows to go back on air were led by “The Drew Barrymore Show,” which drew heavy condemnation and picketing from striking writers. That show also committed to not trying to replace struck writing work.


The 2023 writers’ strike is over after the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached a deal.

Oct. 19, 2023

Maher’s somewhat contrite statement Wednesday contrasted from more critical comments he’s recently made about the Writers Guild of America’s “kooky” demands, as he described them.

“What I find objectionable about the philosophy of the strike [is] it seems to be, they have really morphed a long way from 2007’s strike, where they kind of believe that you’re owed a living as a writer, and you’re not,” Maher said on his “Club Random” podcast with guest Jim Gaffigan. “This is show business. This is the make-or-miss league.”

Maher added: “They struck at just the wrong time; they have no leverage. Has anyone who is watching TV recently noticed a difference? Has it affected the person down the pipeline? I don’t think so. I haven’t noticed a difference. At some point, I guess that will happen. What day is that when Netflix runs out of what they have in the warehouse?”