The comedian Bill Maher, who often talks politics, believes in healthy living. He follows a regimen that involves basketball and getting yelled at by a trainer. The 58-year-old will need to keep his energy up as he does back-to-back shows on Sept. 12, headlining a comedy special at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., immediately after his live “Real Time” show on HBO.
Tell me about young Bill Maher. Was he an active kid?
Like a lot of kids growing up in the suburbs, we had a makeshift baseball diamond in the backyard. There was the occasional ball that went through the window. I loved playing Little League. I may still have my old uniforms. One year the sponsor was the septic tank company. You didn’t want that one because the company logo was on the shirts.
When I got a little older, my father put the old peach basket up in the driveway and I started shooting hoops. That stayed for life, but I was never a guy who could conform to the team thing. The basketball coach wanted too many hours, and I came home exhausted, so I quit after a few days.
So basketball stuck but baseball didn’t?
With baseball, you need a big setup and a lot of people and a field; it’s a little much to try to organize all that. Basketball, all you need is a basket on a tree. Now I have a little better setup than that. On the weekends I try to get the guys over and we play ball, but I go out there and shoot hoops for at least 20 minutes every day.
Are you active beyond playing basketball?
I have a trainer I see twice a week for formal weightlifting training, which I think is really important. I had a trainer for a while back in the ‘90s and then I stopped because, I thought, I can count to 10 on my own. But what happens is that the human body is complex and you don’t really know what you’re doing, and you wind up injuring yourself.
The other great reason to go to a trainer is that mentally it is so different. When I did it at home I was never into it. It was always a chore. When you go to the trainer, you realize you’re paying for this and want to get your money’s worth. I also have a stationary bike at home for days that I don’t go to the trainer. I like to sweat every day.
How are things on the dietary side?
I got my diet in order 10 or 12 years ago. Before that I tried to eat well but don’t think I knew what I was doing. I always make a giant glass of fresh vegetables [juiced] every day. I haven’t had fast food in 15 years. If I’m out to dinner and someone gets dessert, I might have one bite because it satisfies that desire. In general, sugar is the enemy. When I was in my 30s and 40s, I drank a lot more. Not like a drunk, but like an Irishman. Now I have about seven drinks a week. I save my sugar allowance for liquor.
[Maher is an outspoken supporter of marijuana legalization.] Does the pot smoking cause munchie attacks?
There is no doubt about it: If you smoke, you’re going to get a munchie attack. But I try to keep nothing in the house that I could tear into. I combat it by not having bad food around. I definitely eat more when I smoke pot. But I don’t smoke that much. I’m not saying pot is health food. I’m not Snoop Dogg.
Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of sixpackabs.com.