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Bill Hicks

William Melvin Hicks (December 16, 1961 - February 26, 1994) was an American stand up comedian known for his controversial political topics, such as the Gulf War and the LA riots[?].

Born in Valdosta, Georgia, Bill Hicks was the son of Jim and Mary Hicks, and had two elder siblings, Steve and Lynn. The family lived in Florida, Alabama, and New Jersey before settling in Houston, Texas when Bill was 7. He was drawn to comedy at an early age, emulating Woody Allen, and writing routines with his friend Dwight Slade. His parents took him to a psychoanalyst at age 17, worried about his behaviour, but the psychoanalyst could find little wrong with him.

In 1978, the Comedy Workshop opened in Houston, and Hicks started performing there, working his way up to once every Tuesday night in the autumn of 1978, while still in high school. He was well received, and started developing his improvisational skills, although his act at the time was limited.

In his senior year, 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 Gary Shandling[?] were also performing at the time. He did a short-lived 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 Production Company[?], with Kevin Booth[?].

In 1983, Hicks started drinking heavily and using drugs, leading to a more disjointed and angry ranting style on stage. As had become his trademark, he continued attacking the American dream, hypocritical beliefs, and traditional attitudes. At one show, two Vietnam veterans took exception to his statements, and sought him out after the show, breaking his leg.

Hicks' career was improving even as his drug abuse got worse, and in 1984 he got an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, which was engineered by his friend Jay Leno. He made an impression on David Letterman, and ended up doing eleven more broadcast show appearances, all hugely popular, despite being watered down versions of his stage shows.

In 1986, Hicks found himself broke after spending all his money on various substances, but his career got 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 did about 300 performances a year. His reputation suffered from his drug abuse, however, and in 1988, he quit drugs and alcohol, falling back to cigarette smoking as his only vice, a theme that would figure heavily in his performances from then on. The same year as 1989, he released his first video, Sane Man, to critical acclaim.

In 1990, he released his first album, Dangerous, did an HBO special, One Night Stand, and performed at Montreal's Just for laughs[?] festival, and as part of a group of American stand-up comedians performing in London's West End in November. He was a huge hit in the UK and Ireland, and continued touring there in 1991. That year, he also returned to the Just for laughs festival, and recorded his second album, Relentless.

Hicks made a brief detour into musical recording with the Marblehead Johnson album in 1992, the same year he met Colleen McGarr, who was to become his girlfriend and fiancee. In November of that year, he recorded the Revelations video for Channel 4 in England. He was voted "Hot Standup Comic" by Rolling Stone Magazine, and moved to Los Angeles again in early 1993. Later that year, while touring in Australia, he started complaining of pains in his side, and in the middle of June, he learned he had pancreatic cancer.

He started receiving weekly chemotherapy, while still touring, and also recording his angriest album, Arizona Bay, with Kevin Booth. On October 1st, he was to appear on the Letterman Show for the 12th time, but the segment got axed, because the act might offend the show's sponsors. At the time, Hicks was doing a routine about pro-life organizations, where he encouraged them to lock arms and block cemeteries instead of medical clinics, but a commercial for a pro-life organization was scheduled to appear during that night's show.

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

The Arizona Bay album, as well as the album considered his best, Rant In E-Minor, were released posthumously in 1997 by his friend Kevin Booth.

Bill Hicks' influence has been far reaching. The British band One Minute Silence named two of their songs, "It's Just A Ride" and "If I Can Change" after some of Bill's work; the former was taken from a video monologue in which Hicks asserted the life is "just a ride," accompanied by video images of a rollercoaster ride. British band Radiohead's seminal 1995 album The Bends was dedicated to Hicks. The American band Tool called him "another dead hero" in the inlay of their album Aenema, accompanied by a drawing of the man himself and a dedication. The songs Aenima and Third Eye are based on his philosophy, the latter containing samples of his comedy. They also thanked him on their album Undertow, which lead to Tool's singer Maynard becoming friends with him.

see also other comedians


  • "Your denial is beneath you, and thanks to the use of hallucinogenic drugs, I see through you." - Bill Hicks
  • (To an audience member) "How much do you smoke, sir? A pack a day? Why don't you just put on a dress and swish around ... I go through two lighters a day." - Bill Hicks

External links http://www.billhicks.com

Further reading

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