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Poll: Why is Bill Maher really Emmy's biggest loser?

March 21, 2011 |  7:38 am

"I'm a little sensitive about the Susan Lucci comparison," Bill Maher confesses to the Los Angeles Times about how he's replaced the daytime TV diva as Emmy's biggest loser. "She's on a soap opera, and I do a pretty thoughtful show. I feel like I'm ahead of her just by showing up and doing what I do. But as far as the 26 Emmy nominations, I'm hoping to get it up to 100 before I go. At this point, it would really ruin it if they actually gave it to me one year. I might have to refuse it."

Bill maher hboWhen asked if he thinks he'll ever win an Emmy, Maher responds, "No. I just think I'm too controversial. First of all, it's a very religious country, and a lot of people would never vote for an outspoken atheist. And they just play it safe. I think in Emmy voting, only 10 people get to vote on the actual winner. The nominations come from the academy as a whole. That's your peers, the 4,000 or 5,000 people in the voting academy. So I do take pride in the fact that every year, they put me up in the elite grouping, and I don't take that for granted."

Lucci finally won upon her 19th nomination. Considering many of Maher's 26 losing nominations were for producing and writing, a distinction should be made about Emmy bids for performance, like Lucci's. Currently, the new biggest loser among performances is Angela Lansbury (18).

Last year, the HBO star's series "Real Time with Bill Maher" lost its sixth consecutive bid for best variety series to the unbeatable "Daily Show," which won for a record eighth year while Maher and his writing team lost to the gang over at "The Colbert Report." His variety special "Bill Maher: But I'm Not Wrong" was defeated by Emmy darling "The Kennedy Center Honors," which won the category for the sixth time with its 32nd annual edition. Maher, who wrote all of his material for the stand-up special, was beaten by the pair who penned the pithy prose for last year's Tony Awards hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.

Personally, I don't believe that Maher keeps losing because he's too controversial. It's because his TV work lacks heart. He's too hostile and angry. Emmy voters don't want to wrap their arms around that. Look at Jon Stewart, by comparison. He's a caustic, liberal warrior like Maher -- and he's hugely controversial, too -- but he can't lose the Emmy. In fact, his "Daily Show" has won best variety series eight times in a row, often beating Maher's program. That's a record winning steak among all TV series at the prime-time Emmys.

Stewart does so well at the Emmys because he has a jolly, chummy side that's endearing to TV viewers. Whenever Maher tries to be warm, he's usually frying a guest in a hot seat while scowling with contempt into the TV camera. Granted, Maher's schtick is terrific TV, but it doesn't invite Emmy love.

What do you think? Do you agree with Bill Maher's theory -- or mine? If you have your own theory, click on the "Comments" link and pipe in.

At the Toronto Film Festival back in 2009, I ambushed Maher on the topic of his Emmy losing streak while he was promoting "Religulous" with Larry Charles. See video below.

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Emmy bridesmaid Bill Maher. Credit: HBO