To those of you that follow comedy, there is one comedian that would have held your attention and wowed your imagination in the early 1990’s; for the uninitiated, that comedian was Bill Hicks.
As John Cleese put it “Bill Hicks is the comedian that Lenny Bruce wanted to become”.
For those of you that were unaware, Bill Hicks was perhaps the only artist to be censored in 1990s America. Indeed, he didn’t find fame in the States during his lifetime and it was in the UK, through winning a series of awards at the Edinburgh Festival, that he first began to achieve notoriety and went on to do a UK tour and a residency at the Dominion Theatre London. He spoke with a passion and intelligence rarely witnessed in comedy (or any other art form for that matter) and a following soon grew around him. Those qualities that stopped him becoming well known in the USA, made him well known in the UK.
But just as his star was beginning to rise, it went out. In 1994, after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer he died, aged just 34 years old. This was a tragedy, but one that only enhanced his outsider status and his fan base soon began to grow exponentially. His routines touched on some of the most explosive topics of our times, and still do – death, life after death, evolution, sex, drugs, censorship and soon became the verses for Generation X. If you were at university in the 1990’s, and didn’t know about Bill Hicks, you weren’t at university in the 1990’s!
His work inspired a generation of comedians, indeed those people who cite him as an inspiration reads like a who’s who of modern comedians:
Jay Leno, Ricky Gervais, Jack Dee, Robert Newman, Tommy Tiernan, Dennis Leary, Lois CK, there is barely a comedian working today who would not cite Bill Hicks as an influence.