Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks

Date of birth: 16-12-1961
Widely regarded as the template for modern stand-up, Bill Hicks combined a uniquely passionate delivery and a gift for sharp, incisive and above all funny writing to reinvigorate the sometimes moribund art of live stand-up. His uncompromising attitude and the tragedy of his early death have combined to give him an iconic status, a black-clad preacher for a disillusioned generation. If Lenny Bruce was the comic borne of the jazz generation, Hicks can lay claim to being he first rock and roll comic. But behind the image, Hicks was, above all, a hugely talented comedian. He started performing in clubs in Austin, Texas, while still at school – and at 14, far too young to even enter the bars he was playing. He performed a double act with Dwight Slade, ripping off jokes from Woody Allen albums and the like, despite being grounded when his parents found out. Once he graduated, at the age of 18, he moved immediately to Los Angeles to follow his dream. There Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore took a liking to him and he started playing the circuit there. He wasn’t yet distinctive in his material, but he was an accomplished performer. His plans to make it never came to fruition first time around, so he returned to Austin where he fell in with a hard-living bunch of stand-ups who styled themselves the Outlaw Comics, including Sam Kinison and Kevin Booth. He found drugs, he found drink and started to become more experimental in his act – sometimes with disastrous consequences, sometimes amazing ones. He took his inspirations from any faddish spirituality that came along, and was an advocate of taking magic mushrooms to expand the consciousness. But, as a hardcore Elvis fan, he had the showmanship sensibilities of a rock star, a petulant reaction to authority – not least the first Bush government – and a passionate hatred of hypocrisy and mediocrity. It was this that informed his comedy. From here, he became a road comic, gruellingly touring the country, notching up small victories – such as appearances on the Dave Letterman show, or recording a couple of albums – along the way. Eventually he even cleared his drink and drug addictions. His biggest breaks came at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival. In 1990, he picked up a special from HBO and the following year, when he was given a solo show, Britain’s Tiger Aspect production house spotted him, and was so impressed they recorded the entire show. Channel 4 was equally convinced, and allowed it to air as an hour-long special, and when Hicks played the Edinburgh fringe that year, he was the toast of the Festival. In 1993, he was beginning to be noticed in his homeland, too, with Rolling Stone magazine naming him Hot Comic Of The Year. But in the same year this success came, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Determined not to let it beat him, Hicks worked harder than ever. But the thing he was to become most famous for was something he didn’t do. He didn’t appear on Letterman. He taped a routine for the show taking pops at pro-lifers – and a couple of more innocuous references to homosexuality and the Bible. Yet it was dropped from that night’s broadcast. The show blamed the CBS network – though it later emerged that it was Letterman and his team that had taken the decision, muck to Hicks’ well-publicised disgust. He later performed the routine uncut on rival Jay Leno’s more conservative Tonight Show – even though Hicks considered Leno a sell-out – further fuelling the controversy. Nonetheless, he continued to tour until the ravages of his cancer made him too weak to continue. In the end, he returned to his parents’ house in Little Rock, Arkansas where he died on February 26, 1994. He was 32 years old.
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Bill Hicks' Revelations to be released on audio for the first time

Double LP and download

Bill Hicks’s classic Revelations show will be come out as an audio release for the first time ever next month.

His show – the follow-up to his breakthrough special Relentless – was recorded in London’s Dominion Theatre in 1992, as part of a UK tour that took in 15 universities and theatres.

It was taped for Channel 4 and released on DVD and video, but never in the past 25 years has it been commercially available as an audio title.

Now, on November 24, the show will be put out on a double LP vinyl and digital download under the title Revelations: Live in London.

The date is Black Friday – the prime pre-Christmas selling date – on which the organisers of Record Store Day are coordinating the release of 150 vinyl discs in support of independent stores, including , including two 7″ records from Paul McCartney, a double-picture disc of Gorillaz‘s Humanz, and a  40th anniversary double A side of Queen’s We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You.

It is being released by US record label Comedy Dynamics, which previously put out an the Relentless album, recorded at Just For Laughs in Montreal, Rant in E-Minor: Variations and the previously unreleased Arizona Bay Extended.

Hicks died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at the age of 32.

Click here to preorder the MP3 version of Revelations: Live in London for £7.99.

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Published: 20 Oct 2017

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