Bill Maher got an early holiday gift this week: a much-sought-after sit-down with President Barack Obama.
There were no bombshells or funny business during the conversation taped Tuesday at the White House and aired on HBO's "Real Time" Friday night.
Obama spoke with pride of his achievements during his two terms as chief executive, saying "every single issue we've made progress on" will be on the ballot next Tuesday in the form of the opposing candidates. He implored voters to choose Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Republican challenger Donald Trump, and not stay "sitting on the sidelines."
He voiced concern for what he called the "Balkanization" of the news media.
"If you don't have some common baseline of facts ... it's very hard to figure out how we move democracy forward," he said, adding, "If I watched Fox News, I wouldn't vote for me either."
Maher raised a pet issue — legalization of marijuana — noting that "you and I could both have had our lives ruined not by smoking it, but by getting arrested for it." Obama acknowledged a need for "a more serious conversation about how we're treating marijuana and our drug laws in general."
For months, Maher had waged an on-air campaign to persuade Obama to appear on "Real Time" before leaving office. After all, Obama (to whose 2012 re-election campaign Maher famously contributed $1 million) had appeared on such niche programs as Marc Maron's podcast, Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" and the Zach Galifianakis-hosted talk-show spoof "Between Two Ferns." Surely it was Maher's turn!
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Maher's audience agreed with him, to judge from the more than 320,000 signatures collected on an online petition he launched in February to win the president over.
Chatting with Obama, he expressed gratitude for the chance to travel to the White House to tape the "Real Time" interview for what is otherwise a live, Los Angeles-based program.
Obama said even though he hadn't been on Maher's show, "I watched it all the time."