Religiously incorrect press conference at TIFF

Press conferences rarely get funnier than the one held on Sunday at the Sutton Hotel to promote the scathing anti-faith documentary Religulous.
September 8, 2008

Press conferences rarely get funnier than the one held on Sunday at the Sutton Hotel to promote the scathing anti-faith documentary Religulous.

The film’s creative duo, director Larry Charles (Borat, Seinfeld, Entourage) and star Bill Maher (Politically Incorrect, Real Time), the self-styled ‘Woodward and Bernstein of religion,’ showed off their comedy chops, out-doing each other with one-liners about Catholicism, sex, American politics and any other topic that came their way.

Visually, the two make an odd couple with the clean-shaven Maher, sporting a New York Yankees t-shirt with ‘fuck the Red Sox’ written in Hebrew, providing a startling contrast to the bearded Charles, wearing dark glasses, purple shoes and a dark fedora.

Religulous takes on — in no particular order — Jews, Jews for Jesus, Muslims, Catholics, religious theme parks, various Protestant sects, Hassidic thinkers, stoners and espousers of the Rapture.

As Charles put it, ‘we’re out to destroy the whole religious system.’

Speaking about why Religulous has been made as a feature film, Maher emphasized that religion is ‘the last taboo — the one most needing debunking…It deserves a broader canvas than a PBS or CNN doc.’

When asked whether the two are worried about physical attacks from religious fanatics, Charles was quick to point that ‘getting murdered would make a great DVD extra.’

Not to be outdone, Maher, who was raised a Catholic, confessed that he ‘was not sexually abused as a kid and it makes me angry. I was a cute kid.’

Though Maher, who calls himself a ‘rationalist because atheists are too dogmatic,’ wanted the film to have ‘as wide a canvas as possible,’ to the point of staging scenes with Charles in Jerusalem and Rome. It’s clear that the politically incorrect pundit holds his greatest scorn for his fellow Americans.

Queried by a Canadian journalist about why Americans obsess over the religious beliefs of their political leaders while federal leaders in Ottawa suffer no such scrutiny, Maher replied, ‘That’s because we’re dumber than you.’

Charles quickly added, ‘you can’t be a politician in the U.S. without holding religion on your sleeve.’

Maher pointed out the Republican presidential candidate John McCain has actually claimed that he wants to ‘defeat evil’ if elected to office. ‘Would that be in the first term or would it take all eight years?’ speculated Maher, who went on to claim that McCain means by evil, ‘The [real] Devil, the dude in a red suit with a pitch fork.’

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.