It’s something that has been in my life forever. My father was a newsman, so we always talked about politics at home. And I don’t ever put that forefront [on Real Time]. I feel like I do an entertainment show. What I see the show as is a catch-up show for people who are mostly too busy. They have jobs, they have kids all during the week, they didn’t get to see the paper as much as they’d want to. Well, Friday night they can watch for an hour and be entertained and feel caught up for the week. That, I feel like, is my mission statement.
HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM THE TYPE OF SHOW YOU’LL DO IN NEWPORT? The TV show is a hybrid of comedy and serious [topics]. Most of the show is a panel; I can’t control that or what people are going to say.
Stand-up is very different. I control it. It’s just me and the audience and it’s just about getting laughs. I’m not of the school of the “humorist” or the Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce comic who didn’t take getting laughs seriously. I think that’s job one: people pay money to see you, you gotta make them really laugh. And the topics I talk about would be familiar to the Real Time audience. That’s what I’m interested in and I think that’s what they’re interested in. They’re a politically savvy audience. So they’re not going to see something that’s unfamiliar, but I think what’s different about it and what they like about it is that it’s much more intense and pure and raw.
People think you have total freedom on HBO. You have a lot of freedom, but you don’t have total freedom. There are bigger and smaller circles of what you can say. I have to go . . . in about half an hour to do the David Letterman show. Now, there’s a broadcast show on broadcast TV, so I’m more restricted in what I can say. On Real Time I have more freedom. But I still don’t have as much freedom on HBO as I have in front of the stand-up audience.
IS STAND-UP THE ULTIMATE FREEDOM? Well, the ultimate freedom would probably be my hotel room with my friends. There are things I would say to my friends that I wouldn’t even say in a stand-up show. But [with] stand-up, that audience is such a great audience. They are the real deal and they want me to push the limits and I want to do it for them.
YOU HAD A SPAT RECENTLY WITH SARAH PALIN WHEN WORD LEAKED THAT YOU ALLEGEDLY CALLED HER SON “RETARDED” DURING A LAS VEGAS STAND-UP SHOW. WHAT’S YOUR SIDE OF THAT STORY? Well, first of all, it’s all rumor. This is based on some right-winger who came to a show in Vegas and tweeted something. Like I said, there are things I say in my standup show that I don’t say on HBO.