He had a lot to say. He had a lot of nothing to say. We'll miss him. Standing above the crowd, he had a voice that was strong and loud. We'll miss him. Ranting and pointing his finger at everything but his heart. We'll miss him.
Not all martyrs see divinity. But at least you tried.
-from Tool's “Eulogy,” about the late Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks died for your sins, America. From his beginnings as a 15-year-old standup wunderkind in Houston, Tex., Hicks would come to be regarded as a messiah of uncompromising, “alternative” comedy, a warrior-poet of rants. He inspired a generation of admirers and imitators, while constantly committing the cardinal sin of show business: demanding that his audiences think.
He was a beloved misanthrope with razor-sharp wit, a naïve man-child with an overactive critical-thinking gland that forced him to blurt out fiercely funny zingers wrapped in cutting social commentary. For all these good deeds, in 1994 he was rewarded with an untimely death from pancreatic cancer at age 32.
Bill Hicks died for you, America, and for your sins he'll rise again to judge the living and the dead.
In New York, London, Dublin, Houston, Austin and San Diego, loyal fans and admirers are staging tributes to the enduring legacy of Hicks, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of his death with all-star benefits determined to remind audiences why his work still matters. Steven Kendricks is promoting the night's lineup on Feb. 26 at The Comedy Store in La Jolla as like-minded comedians who'll serve up a fitting, rebellious tribute.
Bill Hicks, via a video performance compilation, will close the show.
“It was so inspirational, to first discover him personally,” says Kendricks, also a native Texan and comedian who now lives and works in Southern California. “He showed me I wasn't a freak. Someone else felt the same. He could say anything-all the things we weren't allowed to say because no one wanted to laugh at the cold, hard truth. He said them, and made it work better than anyone else. Everyone just worshipped him, stars and nobodies alike.
“The word messiah is not overused-it should be used more often. Anyone can be a messiah, like anyone can be a Buddha. But no one tries. It's too hard. Bill did, though. He deserved such a word.”
Hicks was never charged with obscenity or arrested for indecency like the original “sick” comic, Lenny Bruce. Nor was Hicks a media lightning rod of politically incorrect controversy, like “angry” or “misogynist” comics Sam Kinision and Andrew “Dice” Clay. But he never sold out or dumbed down his material-which he liked to call, “Noam Chomsky with dick jokes.”
In a catalog that's been augmented by several posthumous audio and video releases, Hicks' work remains a completely original mix of social commentary and scatological absurdity, usually delivered in brilliantly paced improvisations. His three HBO specials were increasingly bold and groundbreaking.
Many of his projects, including comprehensive CDs such as Philosophy or one-show performances like the Flying Saucer Tour, are available through Rykodisc or sacred cow.com. One the best video compilations is Austin's Tribute to Bill Hicks, available free with a donation to the Bill Hicks Foundation for Wildlife Rehabilitation.
Thanks to these collections, we'll always miss Bill Hicks, and be happy he had a lot of nothing to say.
--------------------- Revelations: Hicksology 101 --------------------- The following are some personal favorites, highlights for fans to recall fondly and, for those unfamiliar with Hicks, to consider as fair warnings before attending any such tribute to this lunatic: On quiet audiences: “C'mon folks, I promise I'll do dick jokes later, 'kay? I know what I'm doing, I'm a professional. See the deal is, I do 45 minutes of this ‘angry' political shit, right? And then we pull the big, purple, throbbing parachute and float home together to the feel-good island of stupid dick jokes.”
On audiences that talked back: “I'm not a fucking jukebox, I don't take requests, 'kay? Here's the extent of the interaction tonight, 'kay? It's limited to this: my talking, your laughing, and blowjobs from all the women for me after the show.”
On the infamous Judas Priest trial: “Let's see: two kids, big fans of Judas Priest commit suicide-wow-two less gas station attendants in the world. We didn't lose a cancer cure here, folks. I don't mean to sound cold and indifferent-but that's the way I am, so it's how it comes out. We saved those kids a long, troublesome job search.”
On power and hypocrisy: “Why do we always choose to kill the ones who help us, but we let the little demons live and run amok? Look at it our choices: Kennedy-murdered, King-murdered, Ghandi-murdered, Jesus-murdered... Reagan-wounded.”
On Madison Avenue: “If there's anybody in the audience tonight who works in advertising or marketing, will you do me a favor? Kill yourself. That's all: kill yourself. You think there's a joke coming here, but there isn't-just kill yourself, seriously. Now, I know there's some ad fuck going, ‘Ah, Bill's going for that anti-marketing, anger dollar here. That's very smart-a lot of money in that market these days. He's very smart to do that.' No, I'm not, you fucking evil swine. Please kill yourself.”
On why hell is better than heaven: “If we know for sure that rock 'n' roll is truly the devil's music-at least he fucking jams! And if it's a choice between good tunes and eternal damnation, or eternal heaven and New Kids on the Fucking Block... I'm gonna be surfing on the Lake of Fire, rocking out.”