I never knew Bill Hicks until after he died.
But whenever I see a list of the top standup comics of all time, I know I can disregard it if I don’t see Bill Hicks listed on it.
Whenever standup comics hang around talking about the great ones, Bill Hicks’ name eventually comes up.
When I was working for John Cleese, we were discussing the same matter. I had heard of him but somehow had never seen any of his performances, and told John that I didn’t think there was ever a full-length Bill Hicks performance on video.
“Oh, but there is! I’ve got it!” he told me, and retrieved the bulky videocassette, then insisted I watch it. And he was right. Like all great comics, he spoke truth to power, with a righteous indignation and anger that was also extremely funny.
Why haven’t most people heard of him? Well, Bill Hicks passed away on February 26, 1994, twenty years ago this week, of pancreatic cancer. He was 32 years old.
During a week when we’re all remembering the loss of another of our great comics with Harold Ramis’ passing, I was reminded of this equally sad anniversary (thank you comicmix.com).
A few months before he died, he performed on David Letterman’s show, but Dave cut it from the show before it aired. Then fifteen years later, he did something unheard of: he apologized for cutting it and aired it, with Bill’s mother Mary as his on-air guest. It remains fresh, undated, and funny. In fact, if Bill Hicks had lived, we might not have to be dealing with Miley Cyrus. But why am I telling you all this? See for yourself…