There is no way I can write about Bill Hicks without gushing like a 13-year old girl at a Zac Efron convention. Since my introduction to him around 5 years ago not a day goes by when I don’t think about his words of wisdom, his philosophy, his ‘jokes’. I’ve even got a case against him that he’ll be the cause of my death by lung cancer. Every time I get close to giving the bastards up I remember his joke about Jim Fix and spark another.
It was 15 years ago to the day that he passed away with his parents at his bedside. He was 33. In the intervening years no stand up (or for that matter any cultural commentator) has come close to having the impact he had on me. Such is the hole that hasn’t been filled I often find me and my friends asking questions like ‘How would he have dealt with 8 years of Bush?’ and ‘Would he love Barack as much as his beloved JFK?’ This searching for something more from Bill even inspired a book entitled ‘What Would Bill Hicks Say?’
But nobody can really answer that. Fifteen years is a long time. Who knows, he may have been hocking Diet Coke to the masses inbetween guest slots on Jay Leno. Somehow I doubt it. Below is a dose of his most famous Just A Ride speech, for any newcomers (although please find a full length set like DVD ‘Sane Man’ or Audio CD ‘Rant in E-Minor’ as snippets don’t do the man justice). Further reading can be found with the brilliant Cynthia True biography ‘American Scream’ and almost all his written work is compiled in ‘Love All The People: Letters, Lyrics and Routines’.
Before I move on to some gumph about stand up comics in film (that’s just filler really, this is my only real outlet for talking about Bill and I am taking full advantage), I’ll leave you with my favourite Bill Hicks quote. Something that, I think, defines the man.
“I left in love, laughter and truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit” Bill Hicks R.I.P.
Without Lenny there would be no Bill. Bill said things few people wanted to hear, Lenny said things he wasn’t even legally allowed to say. In Bob Fosse’s remarkable biopic Dustin Hoffman plays the man made ‘infamous’ by his heroin addiction and his addiction to the word cocksucker, but keeps the reason why he was ‘famous’. Because he was damn funny. The clip below shows not just how stupid censorship can be (See Also David Letterman Vs Bill Hicks here) but just how clever Lenny was at getting round it.
Man On The Moon (2001)
More injustice as another comedian who couldn’t find an audience half as big as Dane Cook can. But with Andy Kaufman laughter wasn’t his raison d’etre, he just wanted a reaction. So in one set he could dress up as Elvis or lip-sync to The Mighty Mouse theme, the next day could see him reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ in its entirity to a roomful of bored college students. Oh and the film is much better than you remember. Unless you remember it as being really great. Then it’s as good as you remember.
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Nobody could ask for a bigger audience than Jerry Seinfeld but this introspective documentary shows just how fickle the stand up comedy game can be. Even if your the biggest star on American TV you can still stink up a place. More interesting though is the dual story of Orny Adams a much more obscure and relatively unknown comic trying to get ahead. The best thing about ‘Comedian’ is still the trailer.
I know I’ve left off King Of Comedy, Punchline and Down To Earth for all those about to comment but really this was just so I could talk about Bill. Oh and he was right about Hitler. Ha.