Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Like Chomsky With Dick Jokes

Bill Hicks, the last American comic/social critic conceivably possessed by genius, died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at the age of 32. I was a late convert; when an indie publicist sent me his then new CD Relentless in 1991, I had never even heard of the guy. But then I listened to it for the first time and it was barely two minutes in before I had one of those genuine Oh My God moments. Like the first time I read Catch-22, or heard The Replacements Let It Be. Here was somebody telling me the unvarnished truth, in other words, and I was an instant fan for life.

Okay, obviously Hicks was funnier than Paul Westerberg, but now that I think of it, it's not that ridiculous a comparison. In any case, I'm sure you take my larger point.



Hicks' reputation has actually continued to grow in the years since his death, mostly (I suspect) because his work not only holds up but still seems kind of prescient. Although it may be a generational thing, too; he's St. Lenny (Bruce) for the Gen-Xers, except Hicks had the good fortune not to live long enough to sell out or get hounded to death by the powers-that-be he skewered so hilariously. Actually, as horrible as this is to say, I've always considered it a bit of a blessing that Hicks died before a second President Bush lied us into war with a country that hadn't attacked us; I think it (not to mention what's happened to America in the years since) would have absolutely broken the guy's heart.

Anyway, I bring all this up because the good folks at Ryko were kind enough to send me the latest Hicks compilation in time for the holidays, and I can't recommend it highly enough, especially if you've always wondered what the fuss was about. The Essential Collection (pictured above, obviously) is a 2 CD/2 DVD set with a nice mix of previously released stuff and recent exhumations from the vaults, i.e. choices bits from his albums along with heretofore unheard standup performances and a bonus (downloadable) disc of his original song demos (like "She's a Woman")...



...which, while often charming, mostly prove that as a musician Hicks was a great comedian. Also included is Hicks' early cult short Ninja Bachelor Party, some interesting interview footage, and liner notes by (among others) Henry Rollins.

This is probably the point where I should mention that the main reason you need to check this stuff out is because Hicks was absolutely drop-dead, laugh out loud hilarious. In case you hadn't already guessed. But let the man speak for himself, from one of my favorite bits on the set.
"By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalization for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do something...rid the world of your evil fuckin' presence."
You can order Bill Hicks: The Essential Collection over at Amazon here.

18 comments:

Gummo said...

I was turned on to Bill by Mrs. Gummo, who got to know him personally shortly before his death. A brilliant, funny, angry man, you can listen to him now, almost 20 years after his prime, and he makes more sense, and makes you laugh louder, than anyone out there working today.

[adjusts tinfoil hat] And I absolutely convinced that Bush Sr. had Bill killed. 32 year olds just don't die of pancreatic cancer. Even back in 1991, Bush had the entire Bush clan pegged as "suckers of Satan's cock" and I'm sure George Sr. had some of his old CIA buddies take him out....

steve simels said...

Normally, I would assume you're kidding.


I'm almost afraid to ask, however.

Gummo said...

Nope, it's my one true tinfoil hat belief. Bush was grooming his kids for the presidency and couldn't have some upstart funnyman calling him and his wife and his kids "suckers of Satan's cock" and worse.

How hard could it be to for an agent to get some radioactive dust into someone's food....

Gummo said...

Oh dear, I seem to have killed your thread.

I was just kidding, folks! It's safe to come back!!

Elroy said...

I always liked his routine about Anita Bryant being unfriendly to gays, yet ironically she was from the state that looks like the USA's penis.

Is it OK to type 'penis' in a blog comment? :)

steve simels said...

Yes.
:-)

Anonymous said...

I don't know, I don't get it. What I hear are banal liberal homilies spiced with repetitious "fuck you"s, fire-and-brimstone preaching with a twist of venom. Just because someone shares a belief of mine does not make that belief a universal truth. But then I'm an atheist cocksucker who thinks life sucks. That few friends share my beliefs I happen to think a good thing.

Ms. Rosa said...

Lucky girl that I am, I got to see him live AND sit in on an interview of him. The man had such amazing aim, that's what made him so great to me - the surgical precision of his "jokes".

Thanks for the info, Steve. I know what I want in my Christmas stocking!

steve simels said...

I saw him at Carolines just three months before he died. Nobody in the audience, myself included, had a clue that he was sick.

His opening joke was my favorite ever: "I'm getting my own talk show. [this was the era when every celebrity had one, or so it seemed]
It's going to be called Let's Hunt Down and Kill Billy Ray Cyrus."

steves said...

The guy was a fookin' genius! True, some of his routines were a bit overwrought (so were some of Lenny's), but he had the best and dealiest aim of any social satirist out there. And I disagree--I think he would have smoked W and Dick like a couple of fat hogs over a Texas BBQ pit. Even better...just imagine what he would have said about Palin and her teabagging cohorts.

MBowen said...

Hey, Bill.

I'm an accountant for a small radio advertising firm. And guess what? I'm alive! And what's even better? You're dead! That's right, you ratpuke, you've been dead so long that had you get to have a pathetic boxset made for you. How can you tell it's pathetic? Well, aside from the fact that it has your middle-brow bleatings all over it, it has liner notes from that steroid-addled pussy-hater Henry Rollins. Yeah, that Henry Rollins - the same useless girlyman who has spent his entire career twiddling his nipples like Julia Sweeney's "It's Pat" character without the testosterone.

Y'know, there are some people so fucking stupid out there who thought that your smoking cigarettes was, like, dude, so totally fucking non-PC that it made a useless pansy like you some kind of badass or something. But you know as well as I do that the reason you loved putting those Carolina cylinders in your mouth so goddam much is because it reminded you of sucking Jesse Helms' cock.

You know what sucks about me being alive and you being dead, besides nothing? The idea that you were such a pathetic emotionally stunted piece of crap that you never managed to reproduce. Because if some woolly-headed perpetual sophomore had actually managed to extract a sperm sample from your perpetually flaccid loins and impregnate herself, then I would have had the joy of feeding said offspring into a woodchipper with an exit valve that led directly into your eternally flapping mouth. After that, of course, I'd like to kill you, but without an electron microscope there'd be no way to kill you by hitting you in the brain, the heart, or the guts.

But hey, it's just fine that you're dead as you are. I'm still alive, and if this latest promotion for LG Electronics gives me enough time, and I happen to be anywhere nearby, I'll stop by and shit on your grave. Because you're dead. And I'm not, asshole.

steve simels said...

Wow.

That's....interesting.

dave™© said...

"Because you're dead. And I'm not, asshole." See, the difference is, everyone wishes you WERE, you cocksucking motherfucker. And when I say "everyone," I'm including the mother you're fucking...

Gummo said...

Thanks, MBowen, for showing just how powerful a reaction Bill's work can elicit, even 16 years after his death.

Being that scared of a dead man sure makes you one giant pussy.

Sal Nunziato said...

How about some Dwight Twilley?

NYMary said...

Wow, that was... unexpected.

I watched Hicks a lot during the early days of grad school: he was on Comedy Central and HBO pretty often. I was a little surprised at the way his star took off after his death, but I completely understand the respect he's accorded.

Maybe Thers needs this for Christmas.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Well, somebody's a little touch today. Perhaps it's the guilt talking.

steve simels said...

For what it's worth, I believe we have two different Mbowens who comment here. And I think the good one is going to be a little irked at the above.