Referring to someone as a "comedic genius" is not something I do lightly. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby are comedic geniuses. George Carlin and Chris Rock come pretty damn close. And then there is Bill Hicks.
Some of you may not know who Bill Hicks was. He never reached the levels of fame and fortune his contemporaries Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld did. There were no hit television series or breakout film performances for Hicks, just a series of comedy albums and a cult following that clued in those who were paying attention that he was different from all the others. But before Hicks could become a household name, sharing with the world his razor-sharp humor and progressive philosophies, he died at the age of 32.
More than 10 years after his untimely death, Bill Hicks remains a vibrant, outspoken comedian with insights that are still funny, provocative and relevant. Recently released on DVD, Bill Hicks Live is a long-overdue testimonial to the talented genius--that's right, genius--of Bill Hicks.
For fans of Hicks and stand-up comedy aficionados, this DVD is a must-have. There are three live performances from 1991, including Hicks' HBO One Night Stand. With a delivery that at times comes across like a preacher delivering a fire-and-brimstone sermon, Hicks expounds on the comedic standards: sex, drugs,rock-'n'-roll. Hardly original material, but Hicks' conviction, insight and timing made him original. And then there was the brutal honesty. Where other comedians talk about their newfound sobriety, Hicks looks back on his drug abuse with fondness, explaining, "I had some great times on drugs." During one routine, Hicks wonders why the only stories you ever hear on the news about drugs are negative, rather than reflecting on the positives. Pretending to be a television news anchor, Hicks says, "Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing life subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather."
In addition to the three live performances, Bill Hicks Live features 1994's It's Just a Ride: The Bill Hicks Documentary. Featuring performance clips and interviews with such people as David Letterman, Jay Leno, Brett Butler, Eddie Izzard and local comic Dwight Slade (a childhood friend of Hicks'), It's Just a Ride serves as a great profile and introduction, helping to place Hicks in the context of the late-1980s and early-'90s comedy scene.