The Late Bill Hicks

William Melvin "Bill" Hicks

I remember the first time I ever saw Bill Hicks do a routine, and it was on television sometime in the early 1990's, on the David Letterman show.  I was watching television late night with my younger brother, and we both laughed quite a lot for having never seen anything like it before.  Oh sure, Bill Hicks was a lot like George Carlin, but as I was a teenager then, I thought of George Carlin as a very old man - and so in my mind I wasn't to where I could appreciate George just yet.  Bill Hicks, however, I could relate to him.

Time went on and the comedy routines of Bill Hicks became more and more intense.  He'd touch more and more often on the issues that truly divided the people of his nation of birth, the United States of America.  He'd do all he could to expose some nuggets of truth; the truth that hardly anyone was really thinking about things from more than one angle, and there are always angles outside of our own personal boxes that ought to be considered. 

The comedy of Bill Hicks was often dark. What could be taken from it in the way of positivity was only the realization of deception, and the breaking of those invisible chains; this is what William Melvin "Bill" Hicks had to offer us.  Bill definitely believed that we the people of the United States of America were being oppressed, and kept as apathetic and ignorant as was possible.

The Early Life And Career Of Bill Hicks

Born on December 16, 1961 in Valdosta, Georgia as the youngest of three children bore by Jim and Mary Hicks; Bill would begin performing comedy at Sunday school for his fellow children. The family had moved around the Southern United States for a while, finally settling in Houston, Texas.  Bill's parents had worried about his behavior, and had him taken to a psychoanalyst who told Bill, "it's them, not you."

Bill had loved animals and intended to become a veterinarian, but after realizing there was a real chance that he could become a paid comedian, he decided to forego college for stand up.  His first appearance on stage in a nightclub was done at the tender and impressionable age of sixteen at a Houston club known as the Comedy Workshop.  From the small Houston club and the young first performance, Bill would become a part of a group calling itself the Texas Outlaw Comics. Bill would quit drinking very early in life, but he'd never manage to quit smoking cigarettes for good, and cigarette smoking and the inner battle he fought to quit would lead to one of his hallmark early routines.

"I'm a heavy smoker, I go through two lighters per day,"  Bill Hicks.

Bill Hicks "non smokers"

Bill Hicks - Outlaw Comic

What is it that defined Bill Hicks or any other comic as an "outlaw comic?" It wasn't that Bill was running around breaking laws.  He wasn't a guy that spent time in jails.  What made Bill Hicks an "outlaw comic" was his message, and his message was clear; Bill Hicks believed that most the things people hold sacred, things like government, religion, and law, were often just illogical, pathetic, and even harmful things.  Bill Hicks was anti-establishment, and in all the right ways.  Bill thought that learning to separate illusion from reality could change the world for the better, and how could that be wrong?

Hypocrisy was always a major target of Bill Hicks, the hypocrisy of the first Iraq war, the hypocrisy of the war on drugs, and the strange beliefs of fundamentalist Christians were forever targets of his routines.  America is a land that was and is filled with hypocrisy, and Bill made a nice career for himself revealing it for what it was for his fans.  While he could come across as brutal in his delivery, the knowledge mixed with the laughs was forever treasured.

George Orwell had once said that in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth would become a revolutionary act[1].  That truth telling was the thing that made the comedy of Bill Hicks "outlaw" comedy.  How very shallow most all else would look in the wake of a Hicks routine!

In the late 1980's Bill Hicks would be completely broke financially, and this from rampant substance use.  As time went on ,he'd make a point time and again about how he no longer used drugs at all, but he never stopped extolling the virtues of psychedelics in regards to expanding human consciousness.

Bill Hicks On Not Drinking, and Not Using Drugs

Bill Hicks - The Touring Comedian

Already a touring comedian and contributor to experimental films, in 1987 the career of Bill Hicks got a kick from legend Rodney Dangerfield, and he'd appear on Dangerfield's Young Comedian Special. Following this, and for the next five years, Bill Hicks would be performing somewhere on stage around three hundred evenings per year.  In 1988, he signed on with his first professional business manager, a man named Jack Mondrus, and the following year he'd release his first video of his stand up, titled Sane Man.

Bill Hicks' career would continue to look up, and in 1990 he'd release his first comedy album, titled Dangerous. He was becoming a big comedy hit in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but would take a break to express himself musically with Marble Head Johnson, but then would develop his show closing, and life ending philosophical routine he'd called, It's Just A Ride.  While the comedy of Bill Hicks showed him extremely critical of fundamentalist Christianity, his life philosophy would continue to show him as one who hated injustice vehemently, and even more so the deceptions behind many injustices.  The J.F.K. assassination, and the very obvious lies involved in all of it, would be something he'd not let Americans forget about.

Bill Hicks On The J.F.K. Assassination

Bill Hicks, A Rising Star, And An Early Death

In 1993 Rolling Stone Magazine would would declare Bill Hicks a "hot standup comic," and it is true Bill was seen more and more on television, and even being promoted by alt/metal band Tool, who had Bill open for them on several Lollapalooza shows.  Despite the increasing levels of recognition and numbers of fans, the year 1993 was the year Bill Hicks became a very sick man, and in June, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He'd receive chemotherapy while on tour, and just continue doing shows as if nothing was wrong with him.  He'd joke about how each performance might be his last, but he'd not revealed to any but close friends and family that he was ill.

The last show Bill Hicks would ever perform would be in New York and on January the 6th of 1994 at a place called Caroline's.  What was noticeable to anyone who knew of him already was how much weight he'd lost.  Shortly before losing the ability to speak on February 14, 1994, Bill would phone friends and family to tell them he loved them.  He'd die on February 26, 1994.  He'd state,"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth, and wherever truth, love, and laughter abide, I am there in spirit."

The Late Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks.

The Legacy Of Bill Hicks

What is the legacy of Bill Hicks?  Bill Hicks was a full tilt believer in everything he did.  He knew he had the ability to be very funny.  He knew he had the ability to be a comedian, but Bill chose to be a specific kind of comedian, and to address specific sorts of things in his routines, and he did this not for money, but because the things he spoke about where things that mattered desperately to him.

It's beyond obvious his counter culture nonconformist dark comedy surely angered many people.  Bill Hicks could have chosen to be a more mainstream kind of entertainer.  Instead of mainstream, Bill Hicks chose a path where he continually challenged his audience, and very likely - upset huge numbers of persons who'd come to see him.  Today, the rants, the social criticism, and the philosophical musings of Bill Hicks are often sampled by musicians, and other artists.  The raw, edgy, honest observations Bill had to offer us all about consumerism, "the American dream," and how most of our world is wrapped in falsehoods are things that can't be forgotten once truly ingested.  Thanks for reading.