Bill Maher
How much is Bill Maher , pictured February 27, 2017 at the 89th Academy Awards Vanity Fair party, worth, and what could he lose after a racial slur joke? Reuters

Controversial comedian Bill Maher has come under fire for using a racial slur on Friday night's episode of the HBO program "Real Time with Bill Maher" in an interview with Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

Maher and Sasse were having a conversation about adults who dress up for Halloween, but things somehow escalated from there. Sasse then joked that he would like to have the comedian visit Nebraska to work in the fields. Maher scoffed at the idea and then responded by using the N-word phrase for a house slave.

"Work in the fields?" Maher asked rhetorically. "Senator, I'm a house [N-word.]"

HBO ran the racial epithet uncensored. Some in the audience seemed to groan a bit at Maher's use of the word and he quickly waved it off and said, "it's a joke." The crowd then cheered a bit and the interview continued without any mention of the use of the phrase.

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While Maher showed a small amount of immediate regret with the insensitive joke, Sasse's facial expression seemed to betray some discomfort through an awkward smile.

While the audience may have been lenient on his word choice, Twitter users naturally weren't having it.

Sasse, who appeared on "Real Time" to promote an upcoming book, shares his thoughts about Maher's slur on Twitter early Saturday morning.

"I’m a 1st Amendment absolutist. Comedians get latitude to cross hard lines," he wrote in a tweet. "Free speech comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word. Me just cringing last night wasn’t good enough."

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Some have drawn comparisons to Maher's slur with the recent incident of comedian Kathy Griffin holding a severed and bloody head of President Trump. While the two incidents are quite different in context, conservative media raised red flags. Townhall noted that "after the Kathy Griffin Trump beheading fiasco, you wouldn't think it could get much worse for Hollywood liberals."

Griffin has lost several sponsorships and jobs, including a recently acquired position as co-host for CNN's New Year's Eve show with Anderson Cooper. Some stars have come to Griffin's defense, including Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx.

During an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Carrey noted that "I think it is the job of a comedian to cross the line at all times – because that line is not real."

Foxx, who also spoke out on Griffin's photoshoot, believes it's important not to "kill the comedian."

"Listen, as comedians, sometimes you do go beyond, past the line," Foxx told ET. "I still love Kathy Griffin. She went past the line, she'll pay for it in the way she pays for it, and we'll go out and we'll laugh with her again."

Meanwhile, Kelly Carlin, daughter of famed stand-up comedian George Carlin, rushed to Maher's defense.

Carlin tweeted out a video of her father discussing the N-word in a comedic bit about judging words based on their context. She later pulled the tweet.

Sparking up controversy is familiar territory for Maher. In 2015, ThinkProgress noted that Maher also made insensitive jokes about Muslims. In this web-only segment, Maher placed a photo of Muslim pop singer Zayn Malik alongside Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to ask: "Where were you during the Boston marathon?"