Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bill Hicks, The Angry Shepherd (12/16/61-2/26/94)

Photo courtesy of cashislindsey

Another comedian once said "Sometimes you just need someone to come up and just grab you and shake the bullshit out of you" in regards to the late Bill Hicks. I'm not sure anyone has done it better.

It's 15 years since Hicks died of pancreatic cancer and his material is still every bit as relevant today. His rants about Iraq were spot-on, including the one about the CIA having a fool-proof plan to get rid of Saddam Hussein. They just couldn't figure out a way to fly him to Dallas.

Hicks insisted on getting in your face and staying there, fancying himself as some sort of dark preacher. I'd love to hear Hicks' thoughts on spectacles like American Idol considering his rants on fevered egos and mediocre hacks.

It's amazing how when I put my iPod on shuffle, his bits seamlessly flow into the musical mix. Radiohead, among countless others influenced by Hicks, dedicated The Bends to him.

Even Jay Leno, who Hicks absolutely destroyed in a bit on Rant In E-Minor, still speaks fondly of him. And David Letterman finally made pennance by recently apologizing to Hicks' mother and playing a bit that had been censored in 1993 in 1, 2, 3 parts.

His discography starts with Dangerous and Relentless, but my personal favorite is Arizona Bay, including my favorite bit, Hooligans. Rant In E-Minor comes after Hicks knew he had been diagnosed with cancer and takes his final swipes at the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Jesse Helms and others. Flying Saucer Tour, Vol. 1 is a show he did Pittsburgh where he battles a lukewarm audience, half trying to coax them into laughter, half castigating them.

Then there's the issue of plagarist Denis Leary, who still wears the scarlet letter in the comic community for ripping off Hicks. When asked why he quit smoking, Hicks said "I just wanted to see if Denis would, too", adding later "I have a scoop for you. I stole his act. I camouflaged it with punchlines, and to really throw people off, I did it before he did."

Any fans of stand-up comedy should get familiar with Hicks. His death has left a massive void.


Matt said...

Not that he necessarily fills Hicks' shoes, but Patton Oswalt is doing some incredible stuff with his material.

Great article on a great comedian.

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