Early life and education
Maher, who paid $25,000 to buy his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as a PR gimmick, as all stars do, was born in New York City, the son of Julie (née Berman), a nurse, and William Maher, Sr., a network news editor and radio announcer. He was raised in his Irish American father's Catholic religion, remaining unaware that his mother was Jewish until his early teenage years. He subsequently self-identified himself as ethnically half-Jewish. Maher's family stopped attending church services when Maher was thirteen, due to his father's disagreement with the Catholic Church's position on birth control.[dead link]
Maher was raised in River Vale, New Jersey, and graduated from Pascack Hills High School in Montvale. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Cornell University in 1978.
Maher began his career as a stand-up comedian and actor, and he continues to act and tour occasionally. He was host of the New York City comedy club Catch a Rising Star in 1979. Thanks to Steve Allen, he began appearing on Johnny Carson's and David Letterman's shows in 1982. He made limited television appearances, including two separate appearances on Murder, She Wrote — notably, as Maher likes to point out, as two different characters. He has also appeared in several films, usually in a comic role. His feature film debut was in D.C. Cab (1983), and he has also appeared in Ratboy (1986), Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1988), and Pizza Man (1991), among others.