Friday, July 25, 2008

Bill Hicks

Bill Melvin Hicks (1961 – 1994) was one of the best stand-up comedians of ALL TIME he characterized his own performances as "Chomsky with dick jokes." Hicks tended to balance heady discussion of religion, politics and personal issues.

At an early age he was given permission by one of his teachers to pass the time by telling jokes while she fetched the register to take roll. This subsequently prompted a phone call to Hicks' mother from the teacher who asked for advice on how to prevent Bill from performing jokes, as he was taking up "valuable" teaching time and children in the class were protesting against him being removed from the front of his class to his seat.

In his senior year of high school, the Hicks family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, but after his graduation, in the spring of 1980, Bill moved to Los Angeles, California, and started performing at the Comedy Store in Hollywood, where Andrew Dice Clay, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and Garry Shandling were also performing at the time. He briefly attended Los Angeles Community College, mentioning the unhappy experience on Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1. He appeared in a pilot for the sitcom Bulba, before moving back to Houston in 1982. There, he formed the ACE Production Company (Absolute Creative Entertainment), which would later become Sacred Cow Productions, with Kevin Booth, and worked at local Houston comedy clubs like The Comedy Workshop. Hicks also attended the University of Houston for a short time.

In 1983, Hicks began drinking heavily while using a massive regimen of illicit substances, including LSD, psilocybin, cocaine, MDMA, poppy tea, diazepam, Quaaludes and methamphetamine, which may have influenced his increasingly disjointed and angry, at times even misanthropic ranting style on stage. He continued attacking the American dream, hypocritical beliefs, and traditional attitudes. During his first experience with alcohol, Hicks viciously attacked the audience in a drunken rage. Hicks' success steadily increased (along with his drug use), and in 1984 he made an appearance on the talk show Late Night with David Letterman, which was engineered by Jay Leno. He made an impression on David Letterman and ended up doing eleven more appearances, presenting bowdlerized versions of his stage shows.

In 1986, Hicks found himself broke after spending all his money on various drugs, but his career received another upturn as he appeared on Rodney Dangerfield's Young Comedians Special in 1987. The same year, he moved to New York City, and for the next five years he did about 300 performances a year. His reputation suffered from his drug use, however, and in 1988, he claimed to have quit everything, including alcohol. Hicks recounts his quitting of alcohol in the One Night Stand special and on Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1. On the album Relentless, he jokes that he quit using drugs because "once you've been taken aboard a UFO, it's kind of hard to top that", although in his performances, he continued to extol the virtues of LSD, marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. He fell back to cigarette smoking, a theme that would figure heavily in his performances from then on. In April 1993, while touring in Australia, he started complaining of pains in his side, and on June 16 of that year, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He started receiving weekly chemotherapy, while still touring and also recording his album, Arizona Bay, with Kevin Booth.

Hicks played the final show of his career at Caroline's in New York on January 6, 1994. He moved back to his parents' house in Little Rock, Arkansas shortly thereafter. He called his friends to say goodbye before he stopped speaking on February 14, and died in the presence of his parents at 11:20 p.m. on February 26, 1994. Hicks was buried on the family plot in Leakesville, Mississippi.

Here are five of his best releases Enjoy!

Dangerous (1990)
Relentless (1992)
Arizona Bay(1997)
Rant in E-Minor(1997)
Philosophy Best of (2001)


The X-Rated Grandma said...

Wasn't familar with Bill's work before....


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this,Bill wasn't that well known in the U.K. but I was lucky enough to see a couple of shows done for tv. he was a true star.

KRENG said...

His knowledge needs to be shared.
Wisdom is everybody's property...

Thank you so much for bringing this to me

Eric said...

Hicks was a fucking genius! I'd suggest checking out Doug Stanhope who is next in line in the Lenny Bruce - Bill Hicks tradition of comedy.

Also, you have a great blog. Keep up the resistance!

Footprint said...

Great blog! You've provided me with some gems lately. Unfortunately - the links for all Bill's knowledge no longer work! By the way - he was very well known in the UK - much more than in the US. A legend still sadly missed.