HBO's Bill Maher Pulls in Largest Audience in Eight Years Amid Presidential Conventions

"Real Time" attracts nearly 2 million viewers, the most since November 2004 -- days after the presidential election that returned George W. Bush to office.
Janet Van Ham/HBO

Bill Maher’s biting political comedy is as timely as ever. With Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- and Clint Eastwood and his empty chair -- presiding over a Hurricane Isaac-truncated Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., and first lady Michelle Obama pumping up the party faithful for Tuesday’s opener of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Maher attracted his largest audience in almost eight years last week.

The Aug. 31 edition of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher pulled in 1.4 million viewers for its first run at 10 p.m., the series’ biggest tune-in since Nov. 5, 2004, three days after polls closed on the election between incumbent President George W. Bush and challenger John Kerry

Friday's show featured a testy exchange between Maher and Dinesh D'Souza, a fierce critic of President Barack Obama and one of the filmmakers behind the anti-Obama box-office hit 2016: Obama's America. Longtime watchers of Maher will recall that it was a conversation with D'Souza on Maher's ABC show Politically Incorrect that produced Maher's controversial comments about the Sept. 11 hijackers that likely hastened the canceling of that program. Maher's other guests on last week's episode included author Walter Kirn, actor Jason Alexander and CNN's Soledad O'Brien

The replay of Real Time added another 562,000 viewers for a combined 1.9 million over two plays. For the season, Real Time is averaging 4 million viewers per episode (over linear TV, HBO On Demand, HBO Go and DVR).