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Bill Hicks

Without doubt my favourite stand up comedian of all time, Bill Hicks’s untimely death in 1994 at the ridiculously young age of 32, robbed the world of one of the most incisive wits ever.

His abrasive and mocking style in which he attacked amongst other things popular culture, authority, organised religion and politics, was delivered with a conviction and style that I think is sadly lacking in many of the current comedians of today, who seem to have found success telling tedious stories about growing up in their home town, the funny things their kids do and/or looneys on the bus.

Bill on the other hand was different. I have one set where he opens by thanking the audience for their kind welcome, and says that he hopes he can fill their empty lives with stuff they couldn’t possibly think of themselves, straight to the point, sarcastic and funny…

My take on Bill Hicks is that he not only wanted to entertain, but was also keen to get his audience to open their eyes and question the accepted truth of things: i.e. untaxed drugs are not always bad for you, the Government is not always right, and parents don’t always know what they’re talking about. His big thing was smoking, and how all the cool people in popular culture smoked. He was hardly ever seen on stage without a cigarette in hand, having a go at anyone who objected, the sad irony being of course that it was smoking related cancer that killed him (so he was not always right…)

I first came across his work on an album by Hull’s finest Fila Brazillia. Tucked away on the end of a track called 6ft Wasp on 1995’s excellent Maim that Tune, was a brilliant sketch about marketing, which thanks to YouTube you can watch below…. (or listen to it on the Spotify link above with Fila’s wonderful washes of sound as a backdrop)

The other thing that always strikes me whenever I listen to his stuff now is how relevant it all is. Considering he’s been gone for nearly twenty years, his rants about drugs, war and artistic credibility were amazingly prescient and still ring true to this day. Listen to any of the many YouTube clips in which Hicks talks about the 1990/91 Gulf War, and the echoes to the Iraq war and the current situations in Libya and North Africa are scary…

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