Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bill Hicks’ 12 Principles of Comedy

When we think of trash-talking, transgressive comedians, a few big names spring immediately to mind: George Carlin and Richard Pryor; Joan Rivers and Lenny Bruce. Currently, we have Amy Schumer, and Louis CK and Chris Rock, who—though both prominent family men now—still piss people off from time to time. We've just scratched the surface, of course, but we might even think of Denis Leary, who dominated the 90s with his rapid-fire delivery and unrepentant chain smoking. And if you know Leary, you may know the man whose act he’s been accused of stealing—chain-smoking firebrand comic Bill Hicks.

I won’t get into the merits of those charges (comedy plagiarism is a long and storied subject). What I find interesting is that in one of the key similarities between Leary and Hicks lies one of their greatest differences: a distinctive regionalism—Leary the wise ass New Englander; Hicks the rebellious Southerner. Hicks grew up in Texas, and was very much a Texan, though not your red state, Bush-voter but the kind of Texan who once upon a time elected Democratic governor Ann Richards. (He described his family as “Yuppie Baptists,” who “worried about things like, ‘If you scratch your neighbours Subaru, should you leave a note?’”)...

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