Friday, March 7, 2014

Another goddamned appreciation of the late, lamented Bill Hicks - By Stuart Lee

That lonesome preacher's boy poured bilious scorn over his targets back in the day. What would he have made of today's legion of hagiographers?

Illustration by David Foldvari.
Twenty years after the tragic injustice of his goddamned death, isn't it time we canonised Bill Hicks as the best goddamned stand-up comedian contemporary broadsheet newspaper critics have ever heard of? If only for belatedly providing dozens of desperate hacks and pro-celebrity columnists working in the last days of dying print media with the opportunity to crap out 1,000 words-plus of cliched lazy banality, often in curious and inexplicable mid-Atlantic idioms, in every British newspaper costing more than £1.20.

The garbled hagiographies of the last week are doubtless what Bill P Hicks would have wanted, whoever he was, I expect. I don't know. I was on a bill with him in Edinburgh some time in the early 90s, but when he started going on and on about how he hated anti-smoking legislation I mistakenly thought he was just another Denis Leary clone and went off to the bar. But not knowing anything is no bar to writing a Bill Hicks's death anniversary column, it seems. So here goes:

Hicks came. Hicks saw. Hicks poured scornful, bilious, bileful scorn. Dude! Goddamned pancreatic cancer claimed that lonesome preacher's boy child to its cancerous bosom at the dagnabbit tragic early age of 33. And broadsheet newspaper critics shan't see his like again – not in the main big four venues with the private media hospitality bars at the Edinburgh fringe, not from a press seat in the audience of a television stand-up showcase full of acts represented by the management arm of the production company that made it, not anywhere – in their lifetimes.

Bill Hicks: his short and sensational life

Bill Hicks died 20 years ago today. In this obituary, published in the Guardian in 1994, John Lahr reflects on the US comedian's brand of intellectual anarchy

The Guardian obituary of Bill Hicks as it appeared on 9 March 1994
Bill Hicks, one of the most daring American stand-up comedians of his generation, liked to ask for the non-smokers in the audience to identify themselves, then puff away at them while inspecting his cigarette pack. "What's cool is that every pack has a Surgeon General's Warning, isn't that great? Mine says Warning - Smoking May Cause Foetal Injury Or Premature Birth. Found my brand! Just don't get the ones that say Lung Cancer – Shop around. Gimme a carton of Low Birth Weight!"

Last October, Hicks became the first performer since Elvis Presley to be banned from CBS's Ed Sullivan Theatre where the David Letterman Show is in residence and where Hicks had made his 11th appearance. In an outraged 32-page letter Hicks wrote to me, he quoted Noam Chomsky:

"'The responsibility of the intellectual is to tell the truth and expose lies.' While I do not consider myself an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination, his quote, coincidentally is the same way my parents taught me how to live. So in honour of them, I'll continue doing what I'm doing, the best way I can. Then I'll see you all in heaven, were we can really share a great laugh together."

Read the full article - The Guardian