TONITE: Bill Hicks Died For Your Sins


JOSH GOLDBLOOM: Bill Hicks is the greatest comedian you may have never heard of. He did his first professional gig when he was 15. By 19 he was represented by the William Morris Agency. He toured 300 nights a year, every year. And, by 1994, Hicks was dead, aged 32. If you have no idea who Bill Hicks is, I implore you to seek out his work. Go to YouTube and watch every bit of his stand-up you can find. With a razor-sharp mind and a butcher’s knack for finding the soft underbelly of American society, stand-up comic Bill Hicks sliced through pop culture with a white-hot intensity rarely seen. And then he died. He deserves a place in history, among the greats. And this film, to say the least, is a fitting memorial. Prior to his death, Bill Hicks wrote “I left in love, in laughter, and in truth, and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.”

THE NEW YORKER: On October 1st [1993], the comedian Bill Hicks, after doing his twelfth gig on the David Letterman show, became the first BillHicksPic2.jpgcomedy act to be censored at CBS’s Ed Sullivan Theatre, where Letterman is now in residence, and where Elvis Presley was famously censored in 1956. Presley was not allowed to be shown from the waist down. Hicks was not allowed to be shown at all. It’s not what’s in Hicks’ pants but what’s in his head that scared the CBS panjandrums. It’s not what’s in Hicks’ pants but what’s in his head that scared the CBS panjandrums. Hicks, a tall thirty-one-year-old Texan with a pudgy face aged beyond its years from hard living on the road, is no motormouth vulgarian but an exhilarating comic thinker in a renegade class all his own. Until the ban, which, according to Hicks, earned him “more attention than my other eleven appearances on Letterman times one hundred,” Hicks’ caustic observations and mischievous cultural connections had found a wide audience in England, where he is something of a cult figure. I caught up with Hicks backstage on a rainy Sunday last November at the Dominion Theatre, in London, where a record-breaking crowd of two thousand Brits was packed so tightly that they were standing three deep at the back of the dress circle to hear Hicks deliver some acid home truths about the U.S.A., which to him stands for United States of Advertising. Hicks thinks against society and insists on the importance of this intellectual freedom as a way to inspire others to think for themselves. “To me, the comic is the guy who says ‘Wait a minute’ as the consensus forms,” Hicks told me as we climbed the stairs to his dressing room. “He’s the antithesis of the mob mentality. The comic is a flame—like Shiva the Destroyer, toppling idols no matter what they are. He keeps cutting everything back to the moment.” Even then, the talk about courting comic danger had Hicks worrying about his prospects in America. “Comedy in the States has been totally gutted,” he told me when we’d settled into the dressing room. “It’s commercialized. BillHicksPic2.jpgThey don’t have people on TV who have points of view, because that defies the status quo, and we can’t have that in the totalitarian mind-control government that runs the fuckin’ airwaves. I can’t get a shot there.” MORE

RELATED: This handwritten letter from the comedian Bill Hicks in response to my 1993 New Yorker piece about him is one of my cherished objects. […] I didn’t know at the time Hicks wrote me that he was dying of pancreatic cancer—he told nobody—and had only a few months to live. But those last months were lived with the sure knowledge that the message in a bottle of his comedy had been received by the culture that up to then had resisted him. Hicks is now the subject of a documentary titled “American.” It honors the gorgeous fuss Hicks made in the world: his emerging standup skills, his struggles, and his cauterizing, even messianic mission to attack America’s unrelenting refusal to think. Hicks was the real Dionysian deal. He called himself Goat Boy; here the Goat Boy rises again, and we can see why he was glorious.MORE

RELATED: Bill Hicks’ censored Letterman segment did finally air — 16 years later, in 2009. You can watch it HERE.

BILL HICKS: You never see a positive drug story on the news. They always have the same LSD story. You’ve all seen it: “Today a young man on acid … BillHicksPic2.jpgthought he could fly … jumped out of a building … what a tragedy!” What a dick. He’s an idiot. If he thought he could fly, why didn’t he take off from the ground first? Check it out? You don’t see geese lined up to catch elevators to fly south; they fly from the fucking ground. He’s an idiot. He’s dead. Good! We lost a moron? Fucking celebrate. There’s one less moron in the world. Wouldn’t you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? Perhaps? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Just for once? “Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration – that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There’s no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we’re the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.” MORE

Tuesday, April 12, 9:15 PM
The Trocadero

$10 (purchase tickets at the Troc box office)

Wednesday, April 13, 4:00 PM
The Painted Bride

$10(purchase tickets HERE)

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