Comedy icon and “Prince of Darkness”, Bill Hicks was known for his casual style, black humour and fiercely eloquent anger. Satirising religion, politics, pop culture, psychology and even other comics he still remains hugely influential today. Aged just 32 when he died, Hicks was the alternative comic became well known on both sides of the Atlantic due to his numerous high profile television appearances. His constant touring and prolific thirst for live performance brought him a passionate following.
Lampooning the attitudes of news anchors, presidents, or right-wing Christian Americans, he was equally at home pontificating on the meaning of life, chain-smoking, the existence of dinosaurs or the value of MC Hammer. Not one for simple gags, Hicks was all about making people think, often raging against consumerism and the mainstream.
Watch Bill Hicks: Relentless
Live stand up performance from the late American comedian Bill Hicks. Recorded at the Centaur Theatre during the annual Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, Canada, Hicks discusses an array of topics including pornography, religion, war and mortality.
Sneaking out to do his first gigs at the age of 13 Hicks then performed hundreds of times a year until his death at the age of 32. A consummate performer, Bill quickly became a fierce voice in counter-culture alternative thought.
Hicks started out in the Comedy Workshop in Houston in 1978, and had a brief spell at the Comedy Store in LA before moving back. He toured constantly, seeking enlightenment and developing his confrontational, psychedelic and philosophical style. With his his searing attacks on authorities and ignorant redneck attitudes, his appearance on Letterman in 1986 gained him plaudits but scared other TV producers off. He continued to tour and perform live, until he was invited on to Rodney Dangerfield’s Young Comedians Special in 1987. He moved to New York and reportedly did 300 gigs a year. Quitting drugs but promoting their legalisation, he extolled the pleasures of a newly developed but serious chain smoking habit.
He worked ceaselessly for the next three years and in 1990 released his first recording Dangerous which is still greatly revered. In 1991 he toured the UK receiving huge accolades and the Critics Award at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1992 he did a series of dates in London’s Dominion theatre, recording it for Channel 4.
Moving to LA in 1993, Hicks wrote prodigiously for newspapers and magazines across the States and UK, toured Australia and continued his impressive performance rate despite weekly chemotherapy following his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. His final Letterman appearance in late 1993 was heavily cut due to concerns of the show’s sponsors. After writing a furious letter to John Lahr of The New Yorker, he then performed his final show in New York in January 1994. Shortly afterwards he retired to his parents house, where he spent his final weeks at peace, singing, reading and trying to convince his dad to take mushrooms. He died on 26th February 1994, aged just 32, convinced that “life’s too goddamn weird for there not to be someone out there… maybe a god”.