Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher
August 16, 2001

Guests on this program were:

Whitley Strieber
Kevin Nealon
Marion Ross
Michael Shermer

[ Applause ]

Bill: How you doing? Thank you very much.Welcome. Let's meet our panel. He is the publisher of "Skeptic Magazine," or so he says, and the author of The Borderlines... – where is that book? – ...of Science – where is that book? Right here! Where Sense Meets Nonsense. Michael Shermer, ladies and gentlemen! Doctor.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: How are you, Doc? Good to have you back. And that's yours, too.

[ Applause ]

Bill: A best-selling author who's had a close encounter of the third kind. His latest book is The Last Vampire. I've been wanting to meet this guy for a long time. Whitley Strieber! Whitley?

[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: Hey. How are ya? Nice to see you.

[ Applause ]

Bill: He is a nine-year veteran of "Saturday Night Live" and the host of "The Conspiracy Zone" this December on TNN. Perfect! Kevin Nealon is right over here.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: How perfect. And a good plug for you.

[ Applause ]

Bill: And the first lady of ABC – hey, that's my job. No. She is Drew's mom on "The Drew Carey Show." But she'll always be the one and only Mrs. C to me. Marion Ross, ladies and gentlemen!

[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: If only I was the first lady of ABC.

[ Laughter and applause ]

Bill: Okay, well, good. So you have a show about what?

Kevin: It's called "The Conspiracy Zone."

Bill: Conspiracy – perfect!

Kevin: It's perfect for this –

Bill: For this show. Because – and I've been wanting to meet Whitley for a long time. Because I read your book – not this one, Communion...

Whitley: Mm-hmm.

Bill: ...A long time ago. And I don't remember much about it, except that it scared me.

[ Light laughter ]

Whitley: Scared me, too.

Bill: Scared you.

Whitley: Yes, indeed..

Bill: Yes, I know you've been probed by aliens.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: Probed in more ways than one.

Bill: I thought maybe it was just David Bowie.

Whitley: No.

Bill: But you say aliens.

[ Light laughter ]

Bill: And you are from the Skeptic Society, which I have my doubts exists.

Michael: It's on Earth.

[ Light laughter ]

Michael: It's here. It's on this plane. We're not from Vega.

Bill: Right.

Michael: You know, the first time I saw Whitley on "The Tonight Show," Johnny asked him, "What do you do for a living?" This is after the Communion book. And he said, "I write science fiction and fantasy." And I thought, "Of course."

Whitley: Yeah, it came back to bite me.

Michael: Yeah. Well --

Whitley: It was like my own stories had sort of come awake in the middle of the night, and I thought, obviously, they had, and it was some sort of a nightmare. But I was all beat up the next day. And it disturbed me so much, I finally went to the doctor.

Michael: Maybe you had a rough night with --

Whitley: No, no.

[ Laughter ]

Kevin: Do you drink at all?

Whitley: Not that rough a night. And, no, I don't – yeah, of course I drink, but not that much.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: So – it would take a lot of – But it was a weird experience. I could never find out what happened –

Kevin: Were the aliens drinking at all or –

Whitley: They weren't drunk.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: No, they weren't drinking.

Bill: Now, wait a second. You did write science fiction before this happened?

Whitley: Sure. That was why it was so – it seemed so improbable to me. I mean, in Communion, if you read it, you'll find that the book ends with a group of questions about what it was. Because one thing I did know and did discover was it's not really an explained phenomena. It's not a hypnopompic trance. It's not a sleep state. It's not some kind of brain state. It is --

Michael: How do you know?

Whitley: Because I was tested for all of these things. And they're just not – you can't be tested for hypnotropic trances, obviously. But for –

[ Light laughter ]

Kevin: I have been tested for that.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: It's a funny word.

Kevin: Yeah, well, you get a colonoscopy first...

Bill: Yeah.

Kevin: ...and then they put you through that. I wanna believe in UFOs. I wanna believe that there's life on other planets, but I just –

Marion: I have been in movies with Shirley MacLaine, so...

[ Cheers and applause ]

Whitley: Does that mean – Does that prove that UFOs are real?

Marion: I have never kissed an alien of any kind or met one.

Whitley: How do you know?

Marion: No. But do you know that – I think we used to have this ability to connect with spirits around us. Because, in the old days, people would wake up in the middle of the night, and they'd say, "Grandpa died!" And they'd go, and they'd find they were right.

Michael: Or they'd say, "Ghosts came into my room," or they say "spirits."

Marion: Now, we have – You know, we have e-mail. We have the fax. We don't need this.

Michael: By the way, here is – here is what you're seeing.

[ brings out prop: small bright-green alien head ]

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: Yeah.

Michael: Here's our little – Is this the iconography of the UFO, the modern –

Kevin: Scared the hell out of me with that thing.

[ Laughter ]

Kevin: Now I'm a believer. That's all I needed.

Whitley: You ought to try the real experience.

[ Talking over each other ]

Michael: But if you think about this –

Bill: That's always the guy.

Whitley: Not always. No, no. It's a much more ... experience.

[ Talking over each other ]

Michael: Think about this – 400 years ago, people woke up in the middle of the night, and they had encounters with demons, incubi and succubi.

Whitley: It's clear that this has –

Michael: 200 years ago, it was spirits and ghosts.

Whitley: – been happening forever.

Michael: Now it's these guys. Why? Because we live in an alien-haunted world.

Whitley: It's what we expect when we see the unknown right now. Sure.

Michael: But how do you know it's not what I –

Bill: You know what? I don't know it's not aliens.

[ Talking over each other ]

Whitley: I'm not sure.

Michael: The incubi is a male. The incubi is a male demon, and the succubi is the female demon.

Whitley: Are you sure you got that right? It could be important.

[ Talking over each other ]

Bill: Why – why does the guy – why does the guy always look like that? There's a little –

Michael: Because the artist of Whitley's book –

Bill: The short guy with the big eyes.

Whitley: You know where that started? It started on the cover of –

Bill: That's what you think he's – the guy who probed you –

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: Now, what is this about the probe? We've got to get past that! There was also a needle in the side of my head.

Bill: Get past that?

Whitley: Yeah. I got past it somehow.

Kevin: I think I'm on the wrong show, Bill.

[ Laughter ]

Bill: What do you mean get past – Yeah, make it like I made this up. You're the one who made this up. I mean, saying this, not made this up.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: I didn't make it up. No, no.

Bill: But, I mean, the probing is a big part of it, is it not? Why did they have you expect to probe you?

Whitley: One of the people – I mean, one of the things that –

Bill: What are you, Gary Condit?
[ Audience ohs ]

Michael: Nobody really --

Bill: Hey, I'm saying he was probed a lot. That's all I'm saying.

[ Laughter ]

Bill: I'm saying they were both probed. What?

Whitley: People say they've had implants put into their bodies. Now, you laugh, but do you know they've been --people --they've been taken out. They've been found. And they're being studied now. But the studies haven't been published yet.

Marion: He needs a life...he needs a life.

[ Laughter ]

[ Talking over each other ]

Whitley: No, no. This is the truth. This is the truth. I know --

Bill: And I'm not saying that it didn't happen, really. I mean, I'm very open-minded about this. I'm not like Mr. Shermer here.

Whitley: Okay, I am saying something happened, but I don't -- I'm ending up here trying to defend the hypothesis that it was aliens that I can't defend, because I don't know if that's true or not.

Michael: Here's the difference between Whitley and I. 90% to 95% of all these things are fully explained. The other 5% we can't explain, he's willing to construct a world view or at least write books about that other 5%.

Whitley: You're willing to dismiss them, and I'm not.

Michael: I'm willing to just say, "I don't know what it is," and we just leave it at that.

Whitley: Yeah, but I won't leave it at that.

Michael: But why not? It's okay to say, "I don't know."

Whitley: It's too weird. It's too scary and it's too disturbing.

Michael: Yeah, but weird things happen to people in their beds at night.

Whitley: And I got 500,000 letters from other people who had strange experiences from all over the world.

Michael: Who had weird experiences in bed at night, at 3:00 in the morning.

Whitley: No, no!

Michael: Yeah.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: Most of them have these experiences in a completely different context. The great majority of them are multiple witness experiences.

Bill: See, that's what made me interested in this.

Whitley: It's totally different from what you guys think.

Bill: Every --

Whitley: And I can't – I don't have time to get into it, but it is. There's a lot of evidence.

Kevin: Bill, what he's saying now, I believe him.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: There is a lot of evidence that something weird is really, really happening.

Bill: And, you know, what made me not a believer so much, but not a disbeliever, is that some of the details in it were so weird you couldn't make it up.

Michael: Yes, he could. He writes science fiction fantasy. This is what he does for a living. He makes stuff up.

Whitley: You should read some of these letters. The details in them are 1,000 times stranger than what I put in my book.

Marion: But why some people get visited and others don't?

Michael: I wanna be visited. I don't wanna be probed, but I'd like to be visited.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: First of all, we're again falling into the trap of assuming it is either aliens or it's nothing. It's actually an unknown experience. We don't know what it is.

Michael: How about unknown up there?

Whitley: Maybe so. But there should be scientific study of it; there has not been any.

Kevin: You know what's interesting? You know what's interesting, Bill? People, for years, talked about being abducted by aliens, and nobody really – they kind of thought people were crazy, you know? But as soon as they started with the word "probed," everyone went, "What?"

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: No comedian --

Kevin: "Tell me more. They took you on, and there was probing?"
[ Laughter ]

Whitley: No comedian can...

[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: Okay, now – That is a good point.

Whitley: You know, if I hadn't put that in my books, this whole culture would be different.

Bill: But I'm confused, because now you're saying you don't know what the experience was.

Whitley: I don't.

Bill: I came away from your book pretty sure that it was, in your view, aliens.

Whitley: But what about all the questions I asked about it all through the book?

Bill: But if it wasn't that, what was it?

Whitley: Well, that's – that's for science to tell us.

Bill: Right.

Whitley: And my problem with the science --

Michael: We've got an answer for you.

Whitley: You don't have an answer. No.

Kevin: When was the last time you were – you were --

Whitley: But on the basis of having had dinner with six people whose explanations you describe in your own book as irrational? I don't think so. I'm sorry.

Michael: Well, they were weird.

Bill: You guys are a lot closer than you think.

Whitley: You used to be a Fundamentalist Christian. Now you're a Fundamentalist science...scientist.

Michael: Well – Let's think about --

Bill: See? We've all got a skeleton in our probing area.

[ Laughter ]

Bill: But you --

Michael: Let's think about the big picture. What are we talking about here? Somehow, intelligent aliens have traversed interstellar space, those enormous distances --

Whitley: You're getting back to aliens again. Who knows whether or not that's what it is?

Michael: – all this technology to get here, and what do they do? They do the probes. They leave, they leave graffiti in Farmer Bob's field in Puckabrush, Kansas, big circles --

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: And yet, what you don't say is --

Michael: And imagine – imagine, after spending all that time and money to accomplish this great exploratory feat, they go back to planet Vega with this graffiti and a few probes and some genitals from cows. Imagine the Senate hearing. "So let me get this straight, Senator Zork. We spent $5 zillion Zalotis on this mission to Earth, and you brought back cow genitals?" "That's it? That's what we're getting for our money?"

Whitley: There was a great scientist named Paul Hill --

Michael: Zork. Senator Zork. Yeah, of Vega.

Whitley: – who was in NASA for 30 years --

Bill: You don't know what they're doing with it up there.

Whitley: Who – Well, let me finish this. He was with NASA for 30 years. He was one of the leading aeronautical engineers of this era. He built a thing called a flying platform based on control – methods of control that he found by observing UFOs. According to his own book about this – 30 years with NASA -- NASA would not allow him to publish that book after his retirement. It was found – the manuscript – by his daughter. He had left instructions in his will to publish it. And that, to me, is impressive. You don't know about it, but you should know. If you're going to talk about this stuff, you should know these things.

Bill: You should, but not now. I have to take a commercial.

[ Applause ]

Bill: [monologue, taped earlier] President Bush was back in Texas today after his frustrating day in New Mexico. Did you hear this yesterday? He tried to get a bunch of school kids to say where he's from, meaning Texas, 'cause he's a Washington outsider. But the kids kept saying, "Washington, D.C." And even worse, during math class, he asked what was nine minus five.
And one kid said, "A stolen election."

[ Laughter ]

Bill: [monologue, taped earlier] Well, a gay group in South Dakota – not many there – filed a lawsuit because the state will not let them take part in the "Adopt a Highway" program. The state says it would be unsafe to have a road that was gay, because women who just got dumped would show up to cry on its shoulder.

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right, let's move to another part of phenomena. I moved into a new house in January. I have a ghost.

Whitley: In a new house? He moved in in January, also?

Bill: No, it's new to me. But, I mean, it's a room with a very flat roof. There's no attic or anything. And when I sit in that room, I hear – it's like I have an upstairs neighbor.

Michael: Is it an old house?

Bill: It's like 25 years old.

Kevin: How old is the ghost?
[ Laughter ]

Michael: It's a perfectly good question.

Kevin: We need the information here, Bill.

Bill: I don't know.

Michael: You hear the creaks and noises at night?

Bill: I'm mostly sittin' there at night.

[ Laughter ]

Kein: You two guys are nutty. You and that guy.

Whitley: [mock protest] Wait a minute!

Michael: The ghost doesn't do probes.

Marion: Does he cry?

Bill: I mean, I don't know what else that sound is. I mean, it goes right across the room.

Whitley: Like somebody walking across --

Bill: It doesn't scare me. But I can't imagine what else it is.

Whitley: What if you saw it? Would it scare you then?

Bill: A squirrel? No, it's not a squirrel.

[ Light laughter ]

Kevin: A ghost of a squirrel?
[ Laughter ]

Whitley: You're going to be good. I have to say, your show -- his show is going to be good.

[ Applause ]

Kevin: I gotta tell you, Bill. My grandparents have a house in Maine. Kittery, Main. It's over 300 years old.

Bill: Wow.

Kevin: And it's supposedly haunted. It was a stagecoach stop at one time. And in the saloon, at one point, a barmaid got between a knife fight, and she got stabbed, and they threw her body down one of the wells in the closet, you know, the water closet. And it's since been boarded up. And every full moon, she's supposed to rise and come out, room seven.

Whitley: She's been in the toilet all this time?

Kevin: And my mother would wait in front of that door for her to come up at full moon midnight. And she never came up. Moral of the story: chicks, never on time.

[ Laughter ]

[ Applause ]

Kevin: No, that's true. That is true.

Marion: I'm just going to the bathroom to check my makeup. I'll be out in a minute.

Kevin: I was only kidding about the "chicks."

Michael: Why do we have to explain everything? It's okay to just say, "I don't know."

Bill: I agree.

Whitley: I can't stand it if there's not an explanation. I want to know!

Michael: That's the difference between you and me.

Bill: No.

Michael: You're willing to concoct explanations --

Whitley: I am not willing to concoct explanations --

Bill: Religion is concocting explanations.

Whitley: I'm willing to ask the right questions.

Michael: Right, and this whole alien thing is kind of a secular religion. It's like these aliens are gods --

Bill: But we're not saying it's definite. We're saying it could be.

Whitley: It could be.

Bill: And a ghost could be, too. I think it's even more arrogant to say that with just the human brain and five senses that we have it all covered.

Marion: Yeah.

[ Applause ]

Bill: We know everything. 'Cause, man, you know, with five senses, woo. What could be escaping us humans?

Marion: There is something around us all the time – invisible things that we can't – we don't have the right equipment.

Bill: Don't you just sense that there's stuff you don't really know, but you kinda get a little – We've all had those experiences where it's like, "Ooh, I kinda bled into that other area for a minute, but I'm not really a pro."

Whitley: Yeah.

Michael: The problem here is determining which of our explanations are just fantasy concoctions and which are real, because some of the explanations do turn out to be good. Quantum mechanics explains this weird thing. Okay, fine, turns out to be true. How can we tell the difference between the bad patterns we think are there and the real patterns? And the answer is science.

Bill: Okay.

Marion: Science.

Bill: Science.

Whitley: Yeah. But science has got to do it, do the work.

[ Talking over each other ]

Michael: Science is the best thing we have for understanding reality.

Whitley: But it has to recognize the strange things and actually go after them. Like the UFO question. Science could solve it. Or the question of ghosts. Science could solve it. The instruments are there. They just don't try --

Bill: I disagree. That's what I'm saying. We can't solve it.

Whitley: I don't agree with you. I think we can.

Bill: Really? You think we got it all right now? We're the man?
[ Laughter ]

Whitley: No, I think that the UFO question – I'm not so sure about ghosts. Maybe that's true. But the UFO question can be solved by science. If science were to address it.

Bill: Whoa, what do you mean that they could? We can't make the Star Wars thing work.

[ Light laughter ]

Bill: But we can find out if there's extraterrestrial life like that?

Whitley: Not extraterrestrial life. Flying saucers. We can find out what those things are. They're not nothing. There's too much evidence, and too many professionals, like Dr. Hill dare I mention his name again, have seen them. Something is there.

Bill: All right, I gotta take another break, or else I won't see you tomorrow.

[ Applause ]

Announcer: Join us tomorrow when our guests will be Shannon Elizabeth from "American Pie 2," Shannon Elizabeth, football legend Terry Bradshaw, comedian Rick Harris and from the Family Research Council, Genevieve Wood.

[ Applause ]

Bill [monologue, taped earlier]: The Iraqi National Theater – I'm a big fan --has begun rehearsals for a Broadway-style musical based on a book by Saddam Hussein. It's called "Kiss me, Kuwait" and Iraqi critics have already given it two thumbs still attached.

[ Applause ]

Bill: Okay. Now, we were talking about UFOs. I've said a number of times on this show that we – I don't know what's real or not, but I do know that we're afraid of the wrong things. I always say people are afraid of UFOs – they should be afraid of SUVs.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: Yeah.

Bill: That's what's going to actually kill us. In the 14th century, you know, they were afraid of goblins and Jews, and it was really the --

[ Light laughter ]

Bill: And they should have been afraid of germs. They got a nasty case of the Black Death.
And we think we're better. We're not. We still think global warming, or at least Bush does, needs more "study."

Whitley: Right.

Bill: When, really, that's what's gonna kill us and not stuff that's, you know, really airy and not there.

Whitley: Well, it's a lot more serious. I mean, it was 105 in Newark last week?

Bill: Well, it is summer.

[ Laughter ]

Whitley: In Newark – 105 is hot in Newark, New Jersey. Or they had four – they broke four temperature records on Baffin Island in July.

Bill: Yes, there's no question, I don't think, anymore that the temperature – you're a big environmentalist, Kevin.

Kevin: Yeah. Huge.

[ Laughter ]

Kevin: I actually – I have an electric car, which --

Bill: You do?

Kevin: I do have an electric car. It's wonderful. It's great. It's in the shop now having a gas engine put in it.

[ Laughter ]

Kevin: It looks nice.

Bill: That would defeat the whole purpose!

Kevin: No, no. It's the --

Michael: It's the support of the company that built it, yeah.

Kevin: No, I think there is a real problem with global warming. A lot of gases, greenhouse gases.

Bill: Yeah.

Kevin: Let's level the greenhouses in this country.

[ Laughter ]

Kevin: There's methane – this is true. There's actually methane -- a lot of the methane gas come from cow dung.

Whitley: Cow dung.

Marion: Oh, I'm sorry...pfwpt.

[ Talking over each other ]

Kevin: I think that the farmers have to take more responsibility. When a cow farts, that's, "No!"
[ Laughter ]

Michael: Just say no to cow farts?

Kevin: That's right.

Michael: The most skeptical environmental scientists say that global warming is real.
It's human-caused. The debate is whether it's 1 1/2 degrees or 5 degrees over the next 100 years. The question is is how much money do we spend to stop that, that we could be spending doing other things?

Bill: Like, what would be more important?

Michael: Oh, like --

Marion: What, do you know that the snows of Kilimanjaro -- from the Hemingway book – 80% of that snow is already gone? And then in ten more years --

Whitley: The glacier on Mt. Rainier is melting, too.

Marion: There you are.

Michael: Well, let's prioritize.

Kevin: How much snow do they need up there?
[ Laughter ]

Marion: Well, the book will be ruined.

Bill: Yeah.

Kevin: Chlorofluorocarbons, nitric oxide, nitrogen oxide, fossil fuels --

Bill: Yes.

Kevin: I have nothing to say. I just wanted to say those.

[ Laughter ]

Michael: And you said them so nicely.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Marion: But it's our fault, isn't it? We're using up all this air-conditioning, we Americans. What, are we causing this?

Bill: Of course. And you know what Bush said during the campaign? Why should America take the lead in cleaning up the world's air?

Kevin: First of all, who all is an American here?

Bill: Yeah. Maybe because we cause most of the problem? And his flack, Ari Fleischer, when they asked him, "Should Americans scale back their standards of living to help protect the environment?" He said, "That's a big no." Now that's not a more egregious lie, than, "That woman did not have sex--"?

[paraphrasing President Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewsinki"]

[ Laughter ]

Bill: But we're afraid of the wrong things. We get upset at the wrong things.

Michael: But, Bill, okay, so on that – Let's say we have a priority of how many dollars we wanna spend for life years saved. Smoking kills more people than global warming.

Whitley: Now.

Bill: That's them.

Michael: Starvation...

Bill: That's their personal thing.

Michael: Do we wanna save the planet 100 years from now or next year?
[ Talking over each other ]

Marion: It's not 100 years from now.

Whitley: No, it's not. Not if...

Marion: Ten years from now.

Michael: I think it's not quite that fast.

[ Talking over each other ]

Kevin: It's more like 12.

[ Laughter ]

Bill: Well, I have to take a commercial now. That I know.

[ Applause ]

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right, there are your books. Maybe it was just this [holds up alien head prop] up your ass...I kid.

[ Laughter ]

Note: According to Whitley Strieber, the panel also discussed the ethics of cloning in some depth, but this did not make the final cut of the program.
Gareth Davies, who attended Whitley's LA booksigning later that day, reported that “Whitley began the event by greeting the assembled crowd and explaining that he had come straight from taping the talk show Politically Incorrect, where a fascinating discussion about the ethics of cloning had broken out. Whitley spoke for a few moments about this hotly discussed topic, and stated that he felt that we should pursue cloning to its full potential. As promised Whitley appeared on Politically Incorrect later that night, but no mention was made of cloning? It seems that the show is heavily edited before broadcast, and only a few selected highlights are aired.”

Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher
Executive Producers
Bill Maher
Nancy Geller
Kevin Hamburger
Marilyn Wilson

Supervising Producer
Sheila Griffiths

Created By
Bill Maher

Directed By
Hal Grant

Writing Supervised By
Billy Martin

Kevin Bleyer
Brian Jacobsmeyer
Bill Kelley
Bill Maher
Ned Rice
Danny Vermont
Eric Weinberg

Coordinating Producer
Claudia Cagan

Carole Chouinard

Associate Director
Bob Staley

Stage Manager
Patrick Whitney

John Cramer

Produced by:
Dean E. Johnsen

Executive in Charge of Production
John Fisher

Executive Producers
Brad Grey
Bernie Brillstein
Marc Gurvitz Go Network
©2000 Follow Up Productions, Inc.