Bill Maher is already Emmy's biggest loser with 22 nominations and zero wins (Susan Lucci won on nom No. 19). Last week, he got a chance to add to that losing record with four more Emmy Awards nominations for writing and producing both "Real Time With Bill Maher" -- making its sixth consecutive bid for outstanding variety, music or comedy series -- and the variety special "Bill Maher: But I'm Not Wrong."
More than likely, Maher will continue his staggering losing streak this year. "Real Time" is up against "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (which has won the last seven races in a row) as well as the record-breaking "Saturday Night Live" (which last won in 1993), four-time nominee "The Colbert Report" and sentimental favorite "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien".
Bill Maher's Emmy snubs date back to a 1995 bid for "Politically Incorrect" as outstanding variety, music or comedy series. ("The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" won that year for the only time.) Maher's show brought him a total of 11 nominations -- producing (eight), writing (two) and hosting (one).
His current HBO series had earned him nine nods before these latest ones -- producing (five), writing (three) and hosting (one). In addition, Maher had losing producing bids for his 2006 special "Bill Maher: I'm Swiss" -- that one lost to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, no less -- and in 2008 for "Bill Maher: The Decider," which was beaten by "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project." This year's special is up against, among other entries, the 32nd edition of the Kennedy Center Honors. That annual kudocast has won this race five times, including last year.
As Maher's losses are mostly for producing and writing, Angela Lansbury's record of 18 losses as a performer remains safe for some time. In September 2008, Bill Maher told Gold Derby that he was cool with being the biggest loser of TV's top award. We had met up at the Toronto Film Festival to discuss his documentary "Religulous."
At the time of that interview, Maher had racked up 19 defeats at the Emmys. During our discussion of this topic with "Religulous" director Larry Charles (a two-time Emmy winner for "Seinfeld"), Maher couldn't help but show he was a tad miffed. Maher mentions that his Emmy losing streak might not matter if he wins an Oscar for "Religulous" as best documentary but -- uh oh -- he was snubbed by the motion picture academy.
Below is the portion of our chat where I ambushed Maher to get his view of his Emmy fate. In the past, whenever I had submitted a formal request to interview him on the subject, it had been ignored. So I decided to seize this opportunity while being granted time with him to discuss "Religulous." Normally, it's Maher who puts people in the hot spot. Oh, what fun it was to do so to him!
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Photo: Bill Maher publicity still. Credit: HBO