“I loved when Bush came out and said, ‘We are losing the war against drugs.’ You know what that implies? There’s a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it.”
“We live in a world where John Lennon was murdered, yet Barry Manilow continues to put out fucking albums. Goddamnit! If you’re gonna kill somebody, have some fucking taste. I’ll drive you to Kenny Rogers‘ house.”
“People say to me, ‘Bill, quit bringing up Kennedy, man. Let it go. It was a long time ago. Just forget about it.’ All right, then don’t bring up Jesus to me.”
“How much do you smoke, sir? Two packs a day, is that right? Pussy. I go through two lighters a day. That’s right, two lighters! You’re a health nut compared to me. You’re like the Jack LaLanne of smokers compared to me.”
“I deal only in facts, that’s why I’m a cocky fuckin’ bastard.”
There was only one Bill Hicks. No one else was like him (though Denis Leary managed to rip off most of his act) and no one could touch him. Not only was he one of the funniest bastards to ever stalk the planet, he was also one of the most unabashedly truthful. Half his act was—-as he put it—-dick jokes” and the rest of the time he simply lectured audiences on his forward-thinking worldview. Never ordinary standup, it was somewhere in between a rant and a sermon.
Over the years, there have been a number of posthumous releases from Hicks, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1994. Bill Hicks: The Essential Collection collects together his best bits and adds a slew of new material and alternative versions of his most famous works over two CDs. The set also features a pair of DVDs that have early performances, bootlegs, interviews, and a small budget indie comedy Hicks starred in, Ninja Bachelor Party. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a download card to access Hicks’ music album, Lo-Fi Troubadour. Call it a bonanza of Bill.
Across all these formats, one can listen to and see Hicks’ act and persona evolve from his earliest days on the stage up until the final performances before his untimely passing. It’s an impressive career and his philosophical comedy is still stunningly relevant today. Nothing seems immaterial or half-baked in the cold light of time; in fact, it just seems to ring truer than ever. Whether he’s discussing the first Iraq war, the first Bush, or the first wave of boy bands (NKOTB, he’s talking to you!), this wisdom is transferable to the second generation of all those topics (Operation Iraqi Freedom, Dubya, or *NSYNC). Usually a joke falls flat as soon as it loses the context of the decade it was first uttered in, but Hicks manages to make the intellect of his comedy run so deep that he still sounds like a prescient insider. It’s a rare skill and its sorely missed in the world of douchebags like Dane Cook.
If you’ve never heard of Bill Hicks, stop reading this post and go pick up The Essential Collection. If you’re already a convert, you probably stopped reading this post a long time ago.