"I don't mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out."
See, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do, and if you don't think drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight and take all your albums and all your tapes and all your CDs and burn 'em, 'cause you know what? The musicians who made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years? R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-real fuckin' high on drugs.
William Melvin Hicks (December 16, 1961 — February 26, 1994) was an American stand-up comedian
, born in Georgia and raised in Texas from the age of 7. He began his stand-up career in the late 1970s, having grown up a big fan of Woody Allen
and Richard Pryor
, and would often sneak out of the house to perform sets at local clubs. His rebellious, free-thinking attitude was obvious at a young age, to the point that his parents actually brought him to a psychoanalyst at age 17; the analyst actually sided with Bill.
His love of recreational drugs took a toll on his finances, but after years of working the nightclub circuit, he finally got his big break on Rodney Dangerfield
's Young Comedians Special.
From there, he moved to New York City and began performing 300 times a year for the next several years. He developed a habit of chain smoking while on stage, which worked its way into his act almost immediately. In 1989, his first video, Sane Man,
was released. In 1990, his first album, Dangerous,
hit the shelves, and a television special, One Night Stand,
came out that same year. Despite the exposure, Hicks never quite broke through like his contemporaries, such as Sam Kinison
, but he did gain a big following in the UK, where he taped another special, Revelations.
On this special, he debuted his now-iconic "it's just a ride" speech to close the show.
Bill was part of a particularly infamous moment in late night talk show history, with his aborted final appearance on Late Night With David Letterman
in 1993. The material in his five minute set included some cynical material about the pro-life movement, which afterward led to the entire set being pulled from the air. To say Bill was displeased would be a massive understatement,
and he made no secret of his bitter feelings afterward. This came shortly after Bill's diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. Despite this, he continued performing at his usual rate, until he finally went home to be with his parents in Little Rock, Arkansas, in early 1994, where he passed away.
Hicks' caustic style of observational comedy focused mostly on his (very) low opinion of society and the media, with venomous attacks on politicians and shallow pop culture. He also covered his own personal habits and problems, most notably his addiction to cigarettes and psychedelic experiences.
He has a number of high-profile fans, including John Cleese
, Bill Bailey, Richard Jeni, George Carlin
, Warren Ellis
, Garth Ennis
, Henry Rollins
, and the band Tool
. Hicks also made a posthumous appearance in an issue of Preacher
A documentary film about his life, entitled American: The Bill Hicks Story
was released in 2010.
Due to a personal rift
between Hicks and Denis Leary
, fueled by allegations of plagiarising Hicks' material, it's best not to mention Leary around fans of Hicks. We'll just leave it at that
, but The Other Wiki
has more information
for the curious, as does the snarkier Uncyclopedia
Hicks and his comedy provide examples of the following:
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Hicks wasn't shy about discussing his compensating for being single, and on the Dangerous CD, worked this into a way to make hotel housekeeping regret barging into his room while he's...occupied.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: And, damn, was he bitter about that.
Hitler had Eva Braun/Manson had Squeaky Fromme/Ted Bundy got lots of dates/I wonder what I'm doin' wrong
- Anti-Love Song: "Chicks Dig Jerks", quoted in the previous item.
- Atomic F-Bomb/Cluster F-Bomb/Precision F-Strike: Hicks' routines were salty, and covered all the F tropes with gusto, as the quotes on this page demonstrate.
- Author Filibuster: Hicks' personal politics and philosophy informed much of his act.
- Berserk Button: Don't heckle Bill Hicks. Just... don't. NSFW.
- Bile Fascination: From Rant in E-Minor.
Is anyone like me in that they are compelled, drawn against their will, to watch the show COPS
every fucking night? ...I am OBSESSED
with that show. I can't not watch it. I'm like a guy with a sore tooth, I can't stop touching it.
- Black Comedy: "Rush Limbaugh munches scat!" and his jokes about abortion, just for starters. He even joked about his own cancer.
- Brick Joke: Rant in E-Minor has a bit about Gideonsnote at one point, wondering where the hell they come from. Towards the end of the show:
Entire nations have flaked and crusted in the hair around my navel... maybe even Gidea!
- Careful With That Axe: He does this occasionally for effect. For example, from the routine "Gays in the Military":
Anyone... DUMB ENOUGH... to want to be in the military... should be allowed! [...] AREN'T Y'ALL FUCKIN' HIRED KILLERS?! SHUT UP!
- California Collapse: Discussed in the "Arizona Bay" routine.
- Chirping Crickets: One of his best sound effects; his impression of them was eerily accurate.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Especially regarding the Kennedy assassination; Hicks strongly disbelieved the official version.
- Covert Pervert: How he perceived Rush Limbaugh.
- Cultural Cringe: He never missed an opportunity to bash his native America.
- Dead Artists Are Better: Hicks had nothing but ire for modern musicians doing ads or anti-drug campaigns, and lamented the hollowness of their music and personalities.
PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEAAAAAART!!!!!!
- Deadpan Snarker
- Deep South: One of his favorite targets, due to rampant ignorance and religious belief clashing with his principles.
- Draco in Leather Pants: This was his view on how some people might treat Satan.
: What a great butt! Bill
: He's Satan! Female Impression
: You don't know him like I do. Bill
: He's the Prince of Darkness! Female Impression
: I can change him
- Driven to Suicide: Invoked in the bit about Jay Leno realizing how far his career has fallen while interviewing Joey Lawrence and shooting himself on-stage.
- Drugs Are Bad: Inverted, bigtime.
- Hicks routinely did material on the benefits of using marijuana and hallucinogens, going so far as a "families should trip together" bit and likening the effects of mushrooms to a religious experience.
Shit, man, not only do I think pot should be legalized... I think it should be mandatory.
I took what Terence McKenna refers to as a heroic dose... [audience laughs] Five dried grams... [audience ooohs] Yeah, my third eye was squeegeed quite cleanly.
- He also had a problem with the Moral Guardians involved with drugs:
Why is the drug czar in this country—well, let's go back; Why do we have a "drug czar" in this country, A. B, why is he a cop? Why do they put drug users in jail? They're sick, they're not criminals. Sick people don't get better in prison.
- Famous Last Words: Invoked; Bill had a verse he'd written released after his death, which ends with this:
"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit."
- Fan Disillusionment: A theory Hicks "claimed" explained Judas Priest's apparent desire to kill off their fans.
- Fan Disservice: There's a segment on the Revelations show in which Hicks indulges in his 'Goatboy' persona for about ten minutes... during which, the audience is very, very noticeably squicked out.
- Fridge Logic: Invoked as part of his comedy. When recalling the story about Judas Priest apparently putting subliminal messages in their music telling people to kill themselves, he then asked, "WHAT performer wants his fuckin' audience dead?! I don't see the long-term gain here!" Funnily enough, Judas Priest themselves raised the same question, and ironically didn't even write the song in question (it was a cover of "Better By You, Better Than Me", by Spooky Tooth).
- Gilligan Cut: Used at the end of some of his bits that are particularly critical of rednecks and Christians.
A few guys cornered me outside after my last show. They said "We're Christians, and we take offense at your show." I said, "Forgive me." Later, as I was hangin' from the tree...
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Invoked on more than one occasion, especially when he was talking about how bad Basic Instinct was and how shocked he was that the test audiences didn't like the lesbian scenes that were eventually cut from the film.
If I had been in that test audience, the only one protesting would've been Michael Douglas
demanding that his part be put back in!
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Hicks had a very dim view of nonsmokers and their behavior(s) around smokers, although he also poked fun at his own smoking.
- Higher Understanding Through Drugs: One of his central themes was the use of hallucinogens to open the third eye and expand consciousness.
- History Repeats: A lot of Hicks's political material from 1988 through 1991 is still depressingly relevant today. Thanks to George W. Bush's Presidency, many of the names have not actually changed, and thanks to the Iraq War, many of the same problems reappeared in the 2000s.
- Iconic Song Request: A heckler repeatedly shouting "Freebird" triggered one of his most infamous rants (see Kill All Humans below).
- I Was Young and Needed the Money: He claimed this was the only possible excuse you can have to do commercials (apart from Willie Nelson, who got a pass for his $24 million tax bill).
- In one routine, Bill openly brags about all the great technology designed to save people with cancer, whilst declaring that people dying from nothing were screwed.
- He also cited the irony of pro-lifers killing doctors who performed abortions.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hard as it is to believe, Hicks really did hold out hope for humanity and felt it could accomplish great things if people stopped living in fear of their own full potential.
- Kill All Humans: Hicks exploded in the aforementioned "Freebird" heckler incident.
had the right idea, he was just an underachiever! Kill 'em all, Adolf, all of 'em! Jew, Mexican, American, white, kill 'em all! Start over, the experiment didn't work!"
- Man Child: Calls himself out in one routine where he notes that the only thing he seems to rent from video stores is video games and hardcore lesbian pornography.
What am I, thirteen emotionally? I mean, I'm looking at this receipt I got from them, and it's like, Clam Lappers
and Sonic the Hedgehog
. That was one weekend. That was Easter
weekend. Something's going on with me, man. That's a pretty scary way to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, with Clam Lappers
- Misanthrope Supreme: "I'm tired of this back-slapping, aren't-humanity-neat bullshit. We're a virus with shoes, okay? That's all we are."
- Mood Whiplash: Hicks liked to immediately follow up his vitriolic rants about musicians doing advertising and/or speaking out against drugs (which inevitably involved calling them "suckers of Satan's cock", along with a roar/inhale sound effect that's hard to describe) with the dark-but-lighthearted "Beelzebozo, the Clown from Hell" bit, a parody of clowns working at birthday parties.
PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEEEEAAAAAARRRT!!!
* I am available for children's parties, by the way.
- Murder Simulators: "WHAT performer wants his audience dead?!?"
- My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: Brought up when Hicks was talking about his parents.
I never got along with my dad. Kids used to come up to me and say, "My dad can beat up your dad." I'd say "Yeah? When?”
- No Sell: Many of his contemporaries were in awe of his ability to completely ignore and outright revel in some of his early crowds' indifference to his style of comedy (before he gained his loyal following). Joe Rogan is fond of telling a story about a time at The Comedy Store where the crowd was not at all into him, and he blithely went into a five-minute long gag of The Devil shitting out Geraldo Rivera that was mostly grunts and strains. Half the crowd walked out, meanwhile his fellow comedians in the back were dying.
- Overly Long Gag:
- Lampshaded: "Okay Bill, stop with the Goatboy thing, we get it alright. It's kinda amusing but... okay."
- "The man that brings me my scarves and my water, Mr. Charlie Hodge." This gets repeated in some form or fashion at least a dozen times in the "Elvis" bit.
- Porn Stash: Hicks joked about having one that was sizable, including his mother finding it after he dies, dying herself from horror, and chasing Bill through heaven hitting him with a switch.
- Public Service Announcement: Hicks wasn't impressed by the government's anti-drugs message...and that they didn't mention that drugs hadn't managed to kill Keith Richards.
- Refuge in Audacity: Most of Hicks' material lives and breathes this trope.
If you work in advertising or marketing... kill yourself.
No, seriously. This is not a joke. You're thinking, there's gonna be a joke coming — there's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage. Kill yourself.
- To be fair he does follow up an extended series of lines like that with the killer joke (that he's been setting up from the start): "I know what all the marketing people here are thinking, (marketer impression) you know what Bill's doing? He's going after the anti-marketing dollar, that's a good market. He's very smart. He's very smart." Hicks was a genius at setting up punchlines with long, seemingly meandering set ups.
- Running Gag:
- Many of his rants and monologues about people he found morally detestable involved calling them "suckers of Satan's cock", often with accompanying sound effects.
- He often bursts out in manic laughter after saying something hideously dark. On Waco:
Anyway, the major news said that the Branch Davidians started the fire. Now I'm not mistaken, correct me if I go off the story here, and that all they did was shoot in Tear gas - yet I've seen with my own eyes (...) footage of a Bradley tank shooting fire into the compound which...isn't that odd that no major news source has picked up on that? How do you think that's newsworthy? Because that basically means that the government; from the FBI, the ATF, up to Janet Reno and including Clinton are...ummm...LIARS AND MURDERERS! HA!HA!HA!HA!HA!
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Bill was good at imitating gunshots and similar sound effects, sometimes bordering on Voice Changeling.
- Sex for Product: Taken to its Logical Extreme.
Here is the commercial they want to do... Here's the woman's face. Beautiful. Camera pulls back, naked breasts. Camera pulls back, she's totally naked, legs apart, two fingers right here...and it just says, "Drink Coke". Now I don't understand the connection, but Coke is on my shopping list this week! (later, he bends over at the camera) Sniiiiiiiiiiiiiickers!
- Sexier Alter Ego: Randy Pan the Goatboy (Bill's sex-crazed alter ego who happens to be half goat) who can seduce anyone with a pulse, and goes for Anything That Moves.
- Smug Straight Edge: How he saw non-smokers as a smoker.
The worst kind of non-smokers are the ones that come up to you and cough. That's pretty fucking cruel isn't it? Do you go up to cripples and dance too?
- Take That: Bill wouldn't exist without it. He called his routine "comedy of hate", and one track on Rant in E-Minor is called "You're Wrong Night" for a reason.
- Take That, Audience!: Hicks would frequently shoot barbs at his crowds, some joking, some not so much.
*to someone near the stage* How many packs a day do you smoke? *barely audible answer* A pack and a half?! You little puss! Why don't you put on a dress and swish around for us? *sing-song* Pack-and-a-haaaaalf, I smoke a pack-and-a-haaaaalf... Makes me ill. I go through two lighters a day.
How you doin' folks? Gotta bear with me folks, I'm very tired of [...] traveling, and, ah, very tired of doing comedy, and, ah, very tired of staring out at your vacant faces looking back at me, wanting me to fill your empty lives with humor you couldn't possibly think of yourselves. Good evening.
- Tempting Fate: Again, his little routine declaring people dying from nothing were screwed, whereas people like him who smoked had "all sortsa neat gadgets lined up".
- There Is a God!: In his album Arizona Bay, Bill responds to California sliding into the Pacific Ocean this way.
There is a God, he loves us all so much...
- Transparent Closet: His perception of Rush Limbaugh.
- With Due Respect: Hicks on Ronald Reagan:
Why don't you answer a question like a man, you fucking lying, B-actor, dickweed, Mr. President-sir, with all due respect.
"Here is my final thought. (Oh, thank God.) About drugs. About alcohol. About pornography, whatever that is. What business is it of yours what I do, read, buy, see, or take into my body as long as I do not harm another human being on this planet? And for those of you out there having a little Moral Dilemma in your head about how to answer that question, I'll answer it for ya: None of your fucking business."