Who was Bill Hicks?
Bill Hicks is considered by many to be the greatest comedian of the last 30 years – ironic given his anonymity in his native America. He was described by many names – philosopher, social satirist, even preacher, but he was ultimately a comic who believed that he could save his audience by confronting them with the truth.
His short career was a rollercoaster – from sneaking out aged 15 to start performing against the wishes of his parents, through early experiments with drink and drugs to expand his consciousness, falling in with the Texas Outlaw Comics who helped him nurture and grow his comedy, but also helped him grow a massive alcohol and drug problem, which on several occasions looked like it might end his life.
Finally succeeding in his long battle to get clean opened up new audiences for him in Canada, and then to the UK, where things exploded with sell-out tours, mesmerising audiences as he skewered organised religion, the US media and his government’s hypocrisies.
Though considered ‘criminally unpatriotic’ at home, it looked like he was finally about to achieve wider recognition when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His last chance at getting his message out to the American people was taken from him when his 12th and final performance on the Letterman show was famously censored in its entirety, his material considered too ‘dangerous’ for mainstream audiences. He died 4 months later. Bill was 32 years old.
15 years after his death, Bill’s popularity continues to grow. Regularly appearing on best of lists, and with tributes held yearly around the world, his CD sales increase each year as more and more people discover the words of the outlaw comic who tried to save the world. He still might…
“Bill HIcks – blowtorch, excavator, truthsayer, and brain specialist. He will correct your vision. Others will drive on the road he built.” Tom Waits
“Bill was right up there with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. He was easily the best comic of my generation.” Brett Butler
“An inspired and inspiring truth teller, dangerous and brave and scary, all at once.” Richard Pryor
“He was hilarious, brilliant, brave and right about everything.” Henry Rollins
“The past, present and future of stand-up comedy.” Sean Hughes
“To me and countless others, he remains an inspiration.” Bill Bailey
“Hicks summation of life gains greater spirituality as time goes on.” Independent on Sunday